Stanford Professor John Cioffi offers some thoughts. WI-Fi’s extraordinary progress needs smart policy to thrive. Wi-Fi physical-layer technology is improving remarkably. Peak speeds are a gigabit or more. Several chipmakers (Qualcomm, Broadcom, Quantenna, MediaTek, Marvell, and others) advertise 1.3 gigabit (peak-speed) .ac chips, while reports of tests cite raw peak speeds as high as 10 Gbps. While these heroic physical-layer speed demonstrations attract attention, the reality of the situation suggests smart policy will be necessary for even small fractions of these peak speeds to be enjoyed in use by consumers of internet data.
These high peak Wi-Fi speeds often use much of the existing unlicensed Wi-Fi 5 GHz spectrum to achieve the high advertised speeds (along with several spatial paths of that spectrum). However Wi-Fi uses a “collision protocol.” Collisions are attempts by more than one user/device/thing to use Wi-Fi on any of the access points at the same time. In this case, both “things” must wait a random period of time before attempting to transmit the same data again, leading to significant speed loss and delay in delivery of data. The more devices active, the more rapidly the performance decays. It is not unusual for the latest Wi-Fi systems advertised at Gbps speeds to actually provide only a few Mbps to devices in real use.
Wi-Fi speeds can be expected to drop very significantly in neighborhoods and buildings where several Wi-Fi access points are in use with typical numbers of Wi-Fi-capable devices connected.