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802.11ac Gains Traction

By:Christine Fettinger

Quick Definition: What is 802.11ac?

IEEE 802.11ac is the latest in the line of broadly accepted options for the wireless computer networking standard of 802.11. The current medium of 802.11n includes backward compatability with all prior versions, including 802.11g, .11b, and .11a. The new 802.11ac will also support all backward compatabilities while greatly increasing throughput and improving range.

802.11ac Gains Traction

Whether or not a billion devices will carry 802.11ac by 2015 remains to be seen (see prior study). The medium is, however, quickly gaining speed in adoption rates.Netgear’s announcement back in April was the first 802.11ac router, since then compeditors such as Buffalo Airstation, ASUS, Belkin, and D-Link have also announced plans to support the new medium. It is estimated currently that 8% of the router market now supports the new wireless medium.

Typically the consumer facing router market comes first. Businesses are more cautious with regards to adopting new wireless mediums and routers tend to integrate new protocols first so they can support any range of devices. Regardsless, Asus has now integrated 802.11ac for a desktop and laptop PC, a strong indication of growing market penetration.

The routers are currently still slightly more expensive (one device looked at compares $199 to $159 for the difference of .11n to .11ac). But when looked at from a perspective of a longer lifecycle in use (verses buying outdated equiptment), it should be a no-brainer for most BOYD enviroments.

The technology supports 3 to 6 times the throughput of 802.11n devices and leverages several fundamental changes in features. These include 80 MHz channel bandwidths, additional spatial streams, support for contiguous 80+80 (160 MHZ) channel bandwidths, and MCS 8/9 (256-QAM). Very importantly, the new medium also does a better job covering wider areas than its .11n predecessor.

The general theme is that the technology offers faster speeds, longer reach, and at some point in the near futurer should cost the same as .11n does currently. A compelling offer that should lead to garanteed traction for the medium. Barring a competing technology emerging in the immediate future, it does in fact seem reasonable that it may well hit the projections mentioned above of 1 Billion devices by 2015.