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New 802.11ac Wave 2 Standard to Boost Home WiFi Network Speeds

Friday, July 1st, 2016 (10:46 am) - Score 1,255
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The quality and performance of home WiFi wireless networks has improved dramatically over the past few years and now a new update to the current standard (802.11ac), which adds wider channel bandwidth, an extra spatial stream and MU-MIMO technology, should boost it yet again.

The fastest broadband routers on the market can already use a combination of multiple antennas, faster CPUs and 802.11ac in order to deliver WiFi speeds of several Gigabits per second. But the new ‘Wave 2‘ update, which on some routers could be applied via a simple firmware update (depends how recent the internal chipsets are), should take performance even further.

At present a number of router chipsets are already certified to support the new update, including the Broadcom BCM94709R4366AC, Marvell Avastar 88W8964, MediaTek MT7615 AP Reference Design and MT6632 STA Reference Design, Qualcomm IPQ8065 802.11ac 4-stream Dual-band / Dual-concurrent Router and the Quantenna QSR1000 4×4 802.11ac Wave 2 family.

Key Feature Improvements of 802.11ac Wave 2

* MU-MIMO:
Multiple-Input and Multiple-Output technology has been around for awhile, although it’s often only a single-user approach (i.e. a single multi-antenna transmitter can be used to communicate with a single multi-antenna receiver). But networks with MU-MIMO are capable of multitasking by sending data to multiple devices at once rather than one-at-a-time, improving overall network efficiency and throughput. Mind you such routers will need a good processor and are likely to be more power hungry.

* 160 MHz channels:
Wi-Fi CERTIFIED ac increases the maximum channel bandwidth from 80 MHz channels to 160 MHz channels, which could potentially double transmission speeds

* Four spatial streams:
The MIMO setup requires a router to use multiple antennae, both as receiving and transmitting stations. In this way the router can transmit signals simultaneously from different antennae and each signal must be transmitted via a spatial stream within the given spectral channel, which helps to avoid collisions that would damage performance.

A “spatial stream” is thus the space between a spectral channel. Device speeds are often proportional to the number of spatial streams, thus the new standard now includes support for 4 spatial streams (up from 3 before) and that means better performance.

* Extended 5 GHz channel support:
The new update includes device support for a greater number of available channels in the 5GHz spectrum band. Support for additional channels makes more efficient use of available spectrum, which in turn reduces interference and congestion by minimizing the number of networks operating on overlapping channels.

All of this is good news for performance, although the ever increasing variations on the same standard will no doubt represent another headache for consumers. Mind you we’re already starting to see plenty of beasts like the Netgear AC5300 Nighthawk X8 that support MU-MIMO, which can deliver top theoretical speeds of up to 5300Mbps but only if you don’t mind the near £400 price tag! In the real-world those speeds will also be hindered by walls (maybe 500-600Mbps is more realistic) and the capabilities of your connected device(s).

Never the less it’s developments like this that will help to make future home broadband upgrades, such as via pure fibre optic FTTP/H (300Mbps to 5Gbps) or hybrid-fibre G.fast (300-500Mbps) and DOCSIS3.1 technologies, much more useful. Previously WiFi has often been the key performance bottleneck, but that may now become less of a problem.

The only other way to get the best performance out of your connection is to run a wired Ethernet cable around your home, but for most people that’s simply not practical or attractive. Many more Wave 2 certified devices are expected to arrive on the market over the next few weeks.

Leave a Comment
2 Responses
  1. Avatar Ignition

    This makes the case to get 2.5Gb and 5Gb Ethernet more widespread even more urgent. APs using these technologies will require them, or multiple GigE ports and port channels.

  2. Avatar dragoneast

    And what about developments in content production to require all this extra speed, and developments in human brain technology to absorb all the extra data? There appears to be a dearth of progress reports on those? Or has data now become an end in itself without a purpose?

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