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The Future of Wireless Networking is 802.11ac

Mar 29 2012, 1:11pm CDT | by , in News | Technology News

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The Future of Wireless Networking is 802.11ac
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802.11ac will provide much higher bandwidth and less dead zones than 802.11n

When it comes to wireless networking, the fastest speeds we can get right now come from 802.11n Wi-Fi chipsets and devices. With more and more people streaming HD video around the home using wireless networks and streaming HD video from the Internet; some people are finding the limits of the 802.11n standard.

To meet the demand for more bandwidth using wireless networks the IEEE, which is the body that sets the regulations wireless communications among other things, is hard at work hammering out the 802.11ac standard. 802.11ac is the standard that will replace 802.11n as the fastest of the wireless communication standards. The tech will bring water channel bandwidths offering 80 MHz and 160 MHz channels versus the 40 MHz maximum channel bandwidths and 802.11n.

Many current Wi-Fi hotspots support MIMO, or multiple input multiple output. That means there are multiple antennas in the device that can handle multiple data streams at one time enabling faster networking. The current 802.11n standard supports only four MIMO special streams where as 802.11ac will support up to eight spatial streams. The new technology also has several other new features to improve the performance of wireless networks.

With all that technology combined, the 802.11ac specification will have multistation wireless data throughput of at least 1 Gbps, and single station throughput of at least 500 Mbps. We are still a ways out from the specification being published in its entirety and ready for products come to market. The final specification is expected to be finalized later this year and it is expected to receive working group approval in late 2013 with products common on the market by 2015.

Netgear has a dedicated page just for the 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard and promises three times the speed of 802.11n. With the better MIMO technology in the new standard, homes will get more coverage with less dead zones and media streaming will be more reliable. What that means for consumers is in a large multistory home, dead zones will be less common in users will be less likely to have to seek other than wireless means for data transmission video streaming around the home.

Despite the fact that were still a few years from the finalization of the standard, products have been announced supporting 802.11ac as it is now. The catch is if specifications change between now and the final approval, anything supporting 802.11ac today may not support the final specifications in the future. This happened with some early 802.11n devices when that specification was young.

On March 29, MediaTek announced a new Wi-Fi plus Bluetooth combo chip that featured 802.11ac support along with Bluetooth 4.0 + HS support. The chip is designed for mobile consumer platforms such as smart phones and other devices. The chip is a single die and supports voice, data, and video at up to 433 Mbps.

When this particular chip was announced, it was the world's first and only 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.0+HS chip. The chip supports dual band 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz configurations with 80 MHz channel bandwidths. The chip is also able to support Wi-Fi Display, Wi-Fi Direct, and TDLS.

"With this advanced combo chip supporting dual band 11ac and dual mode Bluetooth Low Energy, we have further extended our technology leadership in the industry," said SR Tsai, General Manager of MediaTek's Wireless Connectivity & Networking Business Unit. "The demand of high quality digital-content streaming and sharing has increased rapidly. At the same time, peer-to-peer data communication is shifting from wired to wireless connections. Therefore, mobile devices are relying heavily on high quality wireless connections, but the current Wi-Fi technology standard is overwhelmed by all the bandwidth needs. With the latest 802.11ac, the MediaTek MT7650 overcomes these challenges and allows consumers to stream and transfer heavy contents between mobile and home consumer devices much faster and much more reliable with ultra low power consumptions."

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