Super-fast Wi-Fi coming: 802.11ac-2013

Super-fast Wi-Fi coming: 802.11ac-2013

Summary: How would you like to have 7 Gbps of Wi-Fi data flying through your office? You will soon.

TOPICS: Networking, Mobility

It took a while, but 802.11ac Wi-Fi, with its theoretical maximum of 1.3 Gigabit per second (Gbps) devices,  finally started showing up in the summer of 2013. That's fast, but faster is on its way. 802.11ac-2013 will break existing Wi-Fi speed-records with a screaming 7 Gbps of data in the 5GHz range.

802.11ac BeamCasting
802.11ac's improved beamcasting will increase both this Wi-Fi technology's range and throughput. (Image courtesy of Netgear.)

Of course, none of these standards actually deliver as fast in the field as they do on the testbench. For example, current shipping 802.11ac devices actually top out at 400 to 800 Megabits per second (Mbps).

I expect devices using the next generation 802.11ac to crack the 1Gbps in the real world and perhaps reach speeds as high as 2.5Gbps. At that speed, wired businesses, which typically use 1Gbps Ethernet, will face situations where Wi-Fi will be able to replace conventional desktop networks in some offices.

802.11ac can beat the pants off earlier technologies, such as 802.11n, by using larger channels for data throughput in the 5GHz spectrum These broader channels use 80 MHz-wide channels, instead of 802.11n's 40Mhz channels to deliver data faster.

According to the IEEE, 802.11ac 2013 "adds channel bandwidths of 80 MHz and 160 MHz with both contiguous and non-contiguous 160 MHz channels for flexible channel assignment." Channels that broad don't leave a lot of room in the available 5GHz bandwidth for multiple access points (AP) so setting up a business 802.11ac-2013 network is going to require a lot of work to avoid virtual wireless traffic jams.

The IEEE also claims that by adding higher order modulation in the form of 256 quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM), the data rate will increase by 33 percent. "A further doubling of the data rate is achieved by increasing the maximum number of spatial streams to eight.

Finally, and the most radical change, the new IEEE 802.11ac "introduces a revolutionary new technology to support multiple concurrent down-link transmissions, referred to as 'multi-user multiple-input, multiple-output' (MU MIMO). By using smart antenna technology, MU MIMO enables more efficient spectrum use, higher system capacity and reduced latency by supporting up to four simultaneous user transmissions. This is particularly useful for client devices with a limited number of antennas, such as smartphones and tablets."

"As wireless networks become more widely deployed, users are able to transition applications from fixed links to the convenience, freedom and versatility of wireless links," said Bruce Kraemer, chair of the IEEE 802.11 working group in a statement.

He continued, “These transitions create an evolutionary demand to enhance the capacity of wireless networks in order to support the increasing number of users, as well as new classes of applications with higher bandwidth requirements. Moreover, as WLAN usage of shared spectrum grows, the wireless access mechanisms need to be improved to achieve higher multi-user throughput. IEEE 802.11ac is intended to meet these evolving needs for higher data rates and to help enable new generations of data-intensive wireless applications."

That all sounds good, but the big question is: When will companies actually start shipping 802.11ac-2013 gear? No one is saying yet. I expect the usual suspects -- Cisco, Linksys, D-Link, and Juniper -- will start shipping early adopter gear by the 3rd quarter of 2014 and mass production runs will appear in time for the 2014 holiday season.

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Topics: Networking, Mobility

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  • Man oh man!!

    That's super fast!!!
  • 2014??

    ummm, 802.11ac has been around prior to Summer of 2013. Was that date a typo?
    • must be a new revision

      but unless you have a constant high density situation I don't see the roi in buying all new ap's and clients devices with ac.
    • Now read it properly!

      Dumb questions can be avoided by bothering to read the article.
  • I see slow adoption

    With all the other bottlenecks in network traffic, there's really no driver to upgrade the wireless speeds.

    Probably initial adoption will be in small workgroups sharing massive files (graphic artists and the like). In most circumstances, pokey old 100mbit is sufficient to keep up with the back end servers and then some.

    Some companies will adopt earlier than others, but the driver to move from adequate, 100mbit wired, or 300mbit wireless, or 600mbit wireless is really not there.

    Neat technology, but I suspect this will be the "Skipped Generation" as the other parts of network architecture need time to catch up and costs are very high for adoption.

    Neat but no real immediate need.
    • Tablets and/or smartphones

      When the big players (ie Apple and Samsung) add 802.11ac 2013 to their phones and tablets I think we'll see a big push. No doubt Apple will upgrade Apple TV around the same time.
      • but why?

        Existing tech is "Good Enough" for today's needs, and into the near future. I don't see the need to upgrade from my N router today because it streams everything in HD without problems. Speed isn't a problem.

        Capacity is the problem and the new speeds don't address capacity. The real capacity issue is internet speed, which in my case is a paltry 28mbit. Add to that the bottle neck at the vendor such as YouTube, and suddenly your WiFi speed doesn't make any difference. You can speed it up all you want and nothing changes.

        It's only effective if you are doing massive data transfers internally without using anything outside your firewall. In that case, AC makes sense. That's a fairly uncommon need.

        No, the indicators are fairly slow adoption as the home user really doesn't need it. Businesses may have limited needs and the likes of Apple and Samsung won't push people to upgrade. Just not needed for phones and tablets.
    • WiFi

      Cyan is a company that seems to be ahead of the curve in bandwidth technology, but whether it will be adapted by most carriers, is, well, becoming long journey. Anyone want to give at&t, Verizon, or T-Mobile a call to see if they will sign-up? Until they do, who is going to deliver the need for speed?
      • This has nothing to do with mobile carriers

        this is a wifi solution, not a successor to 4G.
  • I wonder

    Could this mean, instead of spending large amounts of money to put wires in the walls that computers will be able to work over wireless. I never thought that would be the case, and still there are some concerns over stability and reliability (IMO). But I think these new standards could offer a viable alternative.
  • Wi-Fi, the next generation

    Is this Star Wars or reality...I just bought a Netgear "smart WiFi router Dual Band, dual core 800MHz, 450Mbps, and my provider said that until they can deliver a faster broadband service it's useless. True?
    • sort of true

      It depends on how you use it. If streaming data from the internet, whatever speed your provider caps you at is top end and it won't go any faster.

      If transfers are between computers on your own network, not going to the internet, the routers will be blazingly fast.

      Of course, your laptops, tablets, and desktops on wireless are probably limited to N speeds of 150, or 300 mbps, so they are also a bottleneck unless you upgrade them to the 450 capabilities.

      A single bottleneck slows the whole thing down. Hence slow adoption for AC
  • Yay

    Yay for more concentrated WiFi radiation