WiFi Speeds Set to Increase in a Few Years
Thanks to a new specification utilizing the 60GHz band of the wireless spectrum, you can look forward to streaming HD video seamlessly from one device to another, or transferring massive files in the blink of an eye, though it will take a few years for the technology to be common in the marketplace.
WiFi is set to see a dramatic speed increase in the next few years, with faster routers and new devices capable of taking advantage of the incredible speeds offered by the newest specifications. Known as 802.11ac and 802.11ad, these specifications will allow for far faster data transfer speeds than is currently possible. 802.11ac operates along the 5GHz spectrum and is designed for whole-home coverage, but the largest speed increase will come from the 802.11ad devices. Operating in the 60Ghz frequency, this specification allows for transfer speeds of up to 7Gbps, orders of magnitude greater than the 802.11n specification, the current fastest implementation of wireless technology.
The WiFi Alliance, the international organization responsible for certifying and approving new standards and devices, expects that 802.11ac product certification will begin in early 2013, but 802.11ad won’t begin until late next year, possibly longer. The certification process for the latter may not even include routers or modems. Many of the uses for 802.11ad are shorter-range than current wireless networks are set up for, with data being transferred within the same room rather than across a building; the signal is limited by the wavelength, since signals at 60GHz are much more easily blocked than signals with lower frequencies.
The first devices to utilize 802.11ad are expected to be small devices like ultrabooks, smartphones, and televisions; imagine sending an HD video straight from your phone or laptop to your TV with no lag or compression, or a thin, light laptop that communicates with a docking station, which contains all the networking and expansion ports for the laptop, at speeds nearing USB3.0 wirelessly. These types of devices are the first kind expected to utilize 802.11ad.
Research has already been happening in Singapore, as well as the United States, as far back as 2009 with the goal of producing chips that communicate on the 60GHz band in small, efficient packages. A prototype was revealed last year with signal speeds of 2 Gbps, less than half of the first confirmed device’s 4.6Gbps and almost a quarter of the maximum speed of the specification, but the developers claim that the slower speed allows their chip to use less than 15% of the power required for a device operating at maximum speed, making it perfect for use in hardware like tablets and smartphones, where efficiency and power consumption are the top concerns for any technology.
While it may be another year or two before these devices hit the market, and even longer before they become as ubiquitous as WiFi has, the future of wireless communication between devices is looking very promising.
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