5G Wifi: Will You Use It?
WiFi at home, Wifi on your phone, Wifi on your tablet, Wifi at Starbucks, here a wi, there a wi, everywhere a wifi – or so the song goes. This year, the next generation of Wifi, known as 11ac or 5G WiFi (5G = Fifth Generation), is going to hit the market. Never mind that the relevant standards body (i.e., the Wifi Alliance) is two years away from actually defining a standard, companies like Broadcom that make chips for Wifi , are already in 11ac production.
The current and latest real Wifi standard is 802.11n. 11ac (full name is 802.11ac) will offer much wider bandwidth, longer range, more reliability and better battery life. The icing on the cake is that 11ac won’t cost much more than 11n! Maybe even the same price.
Broadcom, the first big company to announce 11ac product, is making 11ac chips in at least three bandwidths: 433 Mbps, 867 Mbps and 1.3 Gbps. The chart above, from 5Gwifi.org, shows what the average user can expect performance-wise from 11ac. Even, the low-end implementation is three times faster than 11n.
One of the more interesting 11ac efforts comes from a small company you probably don’t know, called Redpine Signals of San Jose, CA. It’s implementation focuses on low-power devices, and so is suitable for smartphones and tablets. While it isn’t clear that phones really benefit from 11ac, tablets certainly will, especially if used for viewing HD movies. Redpine calls its technology Quali-Fi.
11ac will likely have it’s biggest impact in the home. Wifi deadspots will be a thing of the past and families will be able to stream multiple movies over the same network. Pretty cool! The caveat here is that the broadband Internet connection may limit the technology’s usability. If the Internet connection provides only a few megabits per second, 11ac won’t offer much, if any advantage.
If you are an early adopter, you will be able to buy an 11ac router this year. In fact, In-Stat forecasts that 1 million ac routers will be sold this year, growing to 350 million by 2015. Eventually, all home routers will support 11ac. However, it’s not clear which products will be the first to incorporate 11ac WiFi since none of the consumer electronics and phone companies have announced product yet.
Nevertheless, if you have a fast Internet connection, you can look forward to much enhanced Wifi in your home, your office and even Starbucks!