In five years, all you\u2019re going to find is Wi-Fi 6, or what most wireless experts are still calling 802.11ax. But five years is a long time. If you\u2019re considering an early move toward the most cutting-edge Wi-Fi technology on the market, there are some hurdles that you\u2019ll have to overcome.\nThe first is the preliminary state of the technology. Every access point (AP) on the market that\u2019s being sold as 11ax or Wi-Fi 6 is pre-standard gear, given that that the Wi-Fi Alliance hasn\u2019t yet finalized the standard. That poses potential interoperability issues down the line, according to analysts. And of course, there are no Wi-Fi 6-ready smartphones, laptops or other client devices available yet.\n\nWhy upgrade to 802.11ax?\nIt\u2019s important to understand why you\u2019re updating, as well, noted Gartner senior principal analyst Bill Menezes. The main reason to upgrade now is futureproofing, given the lack of Wi-Fi 6-capable client devices on the market.\n\u201cYou\u2019re really just putting it in there because you got a great price on it, or you\u2019ve decided, \u2018Well, I may not have the money in five years to upgrade,\u2019\u201d he said.\nIt\u2019s worth noting, however, that there are particular use cases that could benefit from Wi-Fi 6-ready hardware more than others. The one that comes up more than any other \u2013 unsurprisingly, given the technology\u2019s focus on efficiently connecting to large numbers of client devices via a single AP \u2013 is the hospitality and entertainment sector. Sports stadiums, convention halls and other large event venues are likely to benefit from Wi-Fi 6\u2019s ability to handle lots of connections per endpoint.\nBeyond that, however, there\u2019s little consensus among experts about early adoption of 802.11ax among particular verticals. Some analysts posit a use case for IoT \u2013 particularly industrial IoT \u2013 using that high connections-per-AP ability to connect sensors together, but others note that Wi-Fi is unlikely to be the preferred connectivity medium for the actual sensors. That\u2019s not to say that edge gateway devices won\u2019t use Wi-Fi to connect back to clouds or data centers, but the gateways themselves are more likely to use slightly more specialized technology \u2013 usually some form of low-power WAN \u2013 to communicate with the sensors directly.\nCompatibility could be an issue for early adopters\nAnother potential hurdle is the difference between pre-standard hardware and standard-ready hardware. Certain gear being sold as Wi-Fi 6 now might not be guaranteed to fully comply with the final 802.11ax standard, which the Wi-Fi Alliance is expected to finalize near the end of 2019.\nForrester principal analyst Andre Kindness \u2013 who argued that it\u2019s probably too early for most businesses to consider a Wi-Fi 6 upgrade absent exceptional circumstances \u2013 said that this compatibility issue is an avoidable headache. If you invest in pre-standard hardware, should first talk to your reseller or vendor to make sure it\u2019s not going to be a problem down the road. Multiple analysts urged potential buyers not to take \u201cdon\u2019t worry about it\u201d for an answer.\nKindness said, that not all pre-standard gear is going to be backward-compatible.\u201c[Vendors] want to be the first to market, in general," he said. "If you\u2019re spending your R&D money, what are you going to spend it on, creating new products or enhancing the older ones?\u201d\nBenefits of 802.11ax\nFor all that, however, there\u2019s still an outside case to be made for hopping on the Wi-Fi 6 bandwagon now instead of later, particularly for the aforementioned high-density deployment use cases.\nFarpoint Group principal and Network World contributor Craig Mathias highlighted that the technical upsides of 802.11ax are eventually going to make the standard pretty well ubiquitous. It isn\u2019t really about higher throughput, according to Mathias. Sure, the theoretical maximum speeds are higher than the current top standard 802.11ac wave 2, but that technology is already more than fast enough to handle the majority of uses to which it is generally put.\nInstead, the idea is to provide better responsiveness and lower latency, particularly when a given access point has to handle a higher volume of devices \u2013 a crucial consideration in an age when any given person might need to connect half a dozen client devices to the Internet.\n\u201cWhat we try to do is, obviously, make sure that everybody\u2019s got the capacity they need, and 802.11ax is the best vehicle so far for doing that,\u201d he said. \u201cAgain, it\u2019s not really available, not really standardized, no real clients, but it is clearly the future, no matter what.\u201d\nDeployment, management\nNor does the new technology present unusual concerns from a deployment perspective, and standard best practices for Wi-Fi implementation should work well for most companies: a site survey, an alpha deployment, followed by a beta test and a limited live deployment should identify any potential sticking points.\nWhat\u2019s more, the day-to-day management of 802.11ax could wind up being simpler than current-gen Wi-Fi, according to Mathias, though that\u2019s more a function of what individual vendors do with the technology, rather than with the standard itself.\n\u201cThe trend now is more robust management consoles, but particularly analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning, so you\u2019ll see those applied to a much greater degree,\u201d he said.\nPart of the reason for that is that the new low-level technologies in the new standard are incredibly complicated. These include bi-directional MU-MIMO and BSS coloring. They\u2019re so complicated, in fact, that they\u2019re going to be problematic for network operators to configure on the fly, so AI\/ML management techniques are going to become increasingly necessary, according to Mathias.