Gigabit speed 802.11ac standard should launch by end of 2012

wifi abgn logo Gigabit speed 802.11ac standard should launch by end of 2012

Wireless networking has become a ubiquitous technology these days that few of us would want to live without, but the 802.11 Wi-Fi standard isn't without flaws. Most of the problems tend to be related to either range or speed and the latter is looking set to get a big boost by the end of 2012 when the 802.11ac standard is expected to launch with a draft moniker tacked onto its name, much like the 802.11n draft standard that we lived with for so long.

Wireless networking has become a ubiquitous technology these days that few of us would want to live without, but the 802.11 Wi-Fi standard isn't without flaws. Most of the problems tend to be related to either range or speed and the latter is looking set to get a big boost by the end of 2012 when the 802.11ac standard is expected to launch with a draft moniker tacked onto its name, much like the 802.11n draft standard that we lived with for so long.

The 802.11ac standard will bring with it Gigabit speeds, but unlike the current 802.11b/g/n standards it will not operate on the 2.4GHz band. Instead, 802.11ac will be using a frequency close to 6GHz (802.11a and some 802.11n solution operates at 5GHz today) which means that there might be yet another round of complaints from various countries around the world that are already using that frequency range for other transmissions.

The 0.1 draft standard of 802.11ac is expected to be approved by the end of February according to the IEEEE 802.11 task group that are working on ratifying the standard, but we won't see any retail devices until the end of 2012 by which time we should see interoperable devices in the market. According to some research done by In-Stat and quoted by CNET we can expect no less than a billion 802.11ac devices by 2015, although we'd take this with a pinch of salt as the 802.11n has as yet to replace the aging 802.11g standard in most places outside the home.

One of the major advantages 802.11ac should bring with it is sufficient bandwidth for streaming HD video around the home, something the 2.4GHz 802.11n standard isn't quite up to task to do. There are of course 5GHz implementations of the 802.11n standard that does a great job of streaming even multiple 1080p HD streams such as the solutions from Quantenna, but these are still fairly rare. By having a single universal standard, we should see a quicker uptake of this technology which in turn should mean more devices that will use it.

On the downside, the USB Wi-Fi dongle might be dead, at least unless the hardware makers adopts the USB 3.0 interface which is yet another standard that has as yet to gain universal approval. Although this is really only going to be an issue on older devices, but as the 802.11ac standard is expected to be built into both notebooks and other mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones, it's really just a matter of time before it'll gain enough traction in the market. Initially it's likely that hardware will carry a price premium over 802.11n solutions, but this is all par for the course when moving to something faster and better in the IT industry.

Source: CNET, IEEE 802.11 task group

 

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