New Wi-Fi standard means better vehicle support, improved cell handoff

The ubiquitous Wi-Fi standard officially improved on Monday, with the IEEE publishing its fourth revision to 802.11. The updates include faster throughput, improved cellular hand-offs, and better communication between vehicles in addition to other improvements.

Once considered a secondary connection compared to wired Ethernet, Wi-Fi is becoming a dominant wireless protocol — 9 of 10 iPads sold are Wi-Fi models — with an increasing number of uses as consumers add more connected devices to their lifestyle.

In a press release, the IEEE standards body explains that 802.11 – 2012 pulls together various approved amendments to the Wi-Fi standard:

“IEEE 802.11-2012 consolidates 10 amendments to the base standard that were approved since IEEE 802.11’s last full revision, in 2007. IEEE 802.11n™, for example, defined MAC and PHY modifications to enable much higher throughputs, with a maximum of 600Mb/s; other amendments that have been incorporated into IEEE 802.11-2012 addressed direct-link setup, “fast roam,” radio resource measurement, operation in the 3650-3700MHz band, vehicular environments, mesh networking, security, broadcast/multicast and unicast data delivery, interworking with external networks and network management.”

Even though all of these features were already approved by the IEEE, having one marketable standard could help with consumer education and purchase decisions. Instead of simply saying a car has Wi-Fi, for example, knowing it supports 802.11 – 2012 means it would work with other vehicles using the same standard. The ugly flip side would be if different vehicles used Wi-Fi in different ways; sure, they’d all be wireless, but they might not speak the same language.

Although all of the Wi-Fi functions are welcome, a more efficient cellular handoff to Wi-Fi may be the best part of the 802.11 – 2012 standard. Carriers in the U.S. continue to look to Wi-Fi for offloading data traffic from congested networks and some have even turned to Wi-Fi calling to supplement coverage footprints.