Feb 03, 2012

How much better is 802.11ac WiFi, and when will we see it in consumer products?

I understand that 802.11ac Wi-Fi will be faster than 802.11n. Will it offer any other advantages, like increased range or new security standards that will be noticeable to users even when they aren't streaming Netflix to their Androids at the office. One of our interns likes to stream Sgt. Frog while she "works", so that would be great for her, but hopefully there will be other benefits for the rest of us (Although I have to admit that she was right: Sgt. Frog is, in fact, hilarious.). Also, when can we expect to see 802.11ac used in consumer products like laptops and tablets, where faster WiFi would really be a benefit?

Here's a helpful article about 802.11ac that gives some background about it and explains why it's better than 802.11n.

802.11ac: what you need to know

"If you thought Wi-Fi couldn't get much faster than 802.11n, think again.

802.11ac, dubbed 5G Wi-Fi, promises ridiculously fast wireless connections, better range, improved reliability, improved power consumption and a free horse. (OK, we're lying about the horse.)

802.11ac is the latest evolution of Wi-Fi, and it should be particularly good for gaming and HD video streaming.

So how does it work, does it live up to the hype, and how long will you have to wait before you can get your hands on it? Let's find out."
802.11ac uses MIMO (multiple antennas for both reception and broadcast that enable greater data throughput without the need to use more bandwidth or power for transmission) to send up to eight spatial streams vs. 802.11n's max of four. Once chip manufacturers support the additional streams, it will provide improved signal reliability and greater transfer speed.

802.11n bonds two ability to bond two channels together to gain bandwidth, while 801.11ac increases that to 8 channels. This is more of a positive for home use than enterprise use, since more individual users require more channels to prevent a reduction of the network's efficiency.

I think the roll out of 802.11ac will take a while. It takes time for chip manufacturers to support new standards, and even longer to fully utilize the changes.
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