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7Gbps Capable Home WiFi Standard 802.11ac-2013 on the Way by 2015

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014 (8:28 am) - Score 1,662

The latest generation of Gigabit (1.3Gbps) capable WiFi wireless home networking standard (WLAN), better known as 802.11ac, has only just begun to hit store shelves in its final form and now the next iteration (IEEE 802.11ac-2013) has been approved that will push your local network speeds up to 7Gbps (Gigabits per second).

The first 802.11ac standard built on 802.11n before it by offering better modulation, wider channels (80MHz) and multi-user MIMO technologies. Similarly 802.11ac-2013 will aim to make even better use of the 5GHz frequency band by adding channel bandwidths of 160MHz with both contiguous and non-contiguous 160MHz channels for flexible channel assignment.

The usual array of better modulation (256 Quadrature Amplitude Modulation), improved beamforming (helps your wifi signal to more directly target another client device) and an increase in the maximum number of spatial streams to 8 will also help to boost the new standards performance.

On top of all that 802.11ac-2013 will also use Smart Antenna and Multi-User Multiple-Input, Multiple-Output (MU MIMO) technology to make yet more efficient use of its radio spectrum, which should in turn deliver better capacity and reduced latency by supporting up to four simultaneous user transmissions. In other words, it allows multiple transmitters to send separate signals and multiple receivers to receive separate signals simultaneously, all while in the same band.

Bruce Kraemer, Chair of the IEEE 802.11 Working Group, said:

As wireless networks become more widely deployed, users are able to transition applications from fixed links to the convenience, freedom and versatility of wireless links. These transitions create an evolutionary demand to enhance the capacity of wireless networks in order to support the increasing number of users, as well as new classes of applications with higher bandwidth requirements.

Moreover, as WLAN usage of shared spectrum grows, the wireless access mechanisms need to be improved to achieve higher multi-user throughput. IEEE 802.11ac is intended to meet these evolving needs for higher data rates and to help enable new generations of data-intensive wireless applications.”

As ever the usual consumer rule of wifi performance applies, which says that you should only ever expect half or less than half of the advertised speeds from the first draft hardware (possibly due to hit later this year and during 2015). Never the less a slice of 7Gbps could still equate to more than a single Gigabit, which would easily be enough to cope with the top speeds that some fibre optic ISPs like Hyperoptic and B4RN are able to deliver using the latest 1Gbps (1000Mbps) FTTH/P services.

It’s worth remembering that the IEEE Standards Association (IEEE) are also working on an update to 802.11ad (WiGig), which aims to compliment wifi by providing short-range wireless networking speeds of up to 7Gbps (Gigabits per second) or potentially 25Gbps in the future via the unlicensed 60GHz radio spectrum band (typically 57-66GHz).

This would be more secure and help to improve machine-to-machine connections (e.g. wireless flash drives for storage) but so far it’s the 802.11ac and now 802.11ac-2013 standard that has gained most of the commercial interest.

But whatever happens you’ll probably have to wait a few years for the ISPs to catch up because the big providers tend to prefer shipping budget model kit with their packages, which are usually a little further behind the curve.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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11 Responses
  1. FibreFred says:

    I wonder what that means in terms of real world speeds. As we know you never get the headline wireless speed, but even if you get half of 7Gbps its not to be sniffed at 🙂

  2. Mark Jackson says:

    Just using my own experience and thinking all the way back to 802.11g for a baseline, I can make a simple estimate of predicted vs real and apply that assumption to 802.11ac.

    The figure I get is to expect 63% less than the advertised rate, so that’s 4.41 – 7 = 2.59Gbps. Works fine for me :). But that assumes mature hardware with optimal performance because I rarely bother with draft specs.

    1. FibreFred says:

      Yep I agree with that, just over half and your not far off.

  3. Nic Elliott says:

    Am I the only person who thinks that this is just getting even more confusing for the consumer?

    I’m not one to advocate for prefixes like Super- Ultra- Uber- in front of things (Superfast meaning nothing concrete for example), but there must be a better way of naming WiFi standards.

    A consumer shouldn’t have to look or ask for “802.11ac-2013”. It’s a bit silly.

    Techies invent these things which is fine, but someone else needs to come up with some better names for people and easier to understand progression.

    How, when looking at it, does someone know that “ac” is better than “g” or “n”? It’s not even alphabetical!

    At least with USB or Bluetooth they just add major version numbers most of the time so you know USB 3 is better than USB 2.

    If this last revision does have 2013 on the end that I suppose that is at least something date driven!

    1. Ignitionnet says:

      The standards body uses a new letter suffix to identify each new technical paper related to the 802.11 project, so the logical follow-ons to 802.11z were 802.11aa, 802.11ab, and now 802.11ac.

      Up to marketing people to convert it into something friendlier to customers, makes perfect sense as far as the IEEE go.

    2. Nic Elliott says:

      Ah, enter the marketing people – responsible for words like Superfast and Infinity 🙂

      Would be nice if there was a happy middle ground.

    3. gx says:

      Consumer? You are following cutting edge tech in a period of amazing tech innovation and growth. Every aspect of computing and IT is becoming more complex. This is no where near as confusing as discussing CPU technology.

      If your a geek which i guess you are then embrace your geekdom and acknowlege the complexity. Learn about the differences if can, it makes for a beter geek. Consumers on the other hand like their technology dumb and simple. They wont need to know IEEE specs. They only need to hear “version 10 if the ipad is MAD FAST, All the other stuff is slow now, so buy that”

  4. Mark Jackson says:

    I’d of just gone with WiFi1 for 802.11a, WiFi2 for 802.11b and so forth :).

    1. Nic Elliott says:

      Exactly – 802.11 is still bad but at least version letters make sense! 🙂

  5. Matthew Williams says:

    Yeah this is just getting confusing and the companies aren’t exactly helping. I had a friend only two weeks ago wanting to buy a new router and was like is there A massive difference between AC1400 and AC1900 and needing new adapters what should I get he had no clue. It is good that technology is moving forward but for a lot of people it is just getting confusing and most don’t know what to get.

    1. gx says:

      But thats what you are there for. You are “the geek friend that understands this stuff”. Every aspect of society is like this. If i need electrical advice i ask an electrician. If i am interested in buying a nice bike, I ask a cyclist his opinion. Because t the noob its all new and confusing. What’s the problem here.

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