In the past we had 802.11A, B, G and most recently 802.11N. These Wi-Fi standards have evolved over the years and almost 5 years since the current N standard, there’s a new draft spec available. 802.11AC will bring some amazing speed increases which means moving large files around the home will become a simple task.
Wi-Fi will only ever be as fast as your internet connection, minus the losses of converting and transferring data through the air. You may be thinking that the bottle-neck to internet speeds on mobile devices isn’t Wi-Fi, but the ADSL2+ connection coming into your home, you’d be right. The problem is, Australia (along with other parts of the world) are marching towards a fibre future with the NBN. This will delivering speeds of 100Mbps today, but potentially gigabit speeds in the future, this means at some point we will hit the limitations of 802.11N and need to prepare for it.
Naturally an update to the Wi-Fi spec, then needs to be supported by hardware devices. Just as we seen with N, there is hardware being released under the draft specification. This hardware is firmware upgradable which enables it to cope with minor changes as it goes through ratification with the standards body.
Sure 802.11AC may be faster, but by how much? Theoretical speeds of 1.3Gbps, up from 802.11N’s theoretical max of 600Mb/s. Depending on configuration and environment, we could see a 2-3x speed improvement. In real world tasks, we’re unlikely to approach these speeds with single transfers, but imagine a home with 10 connected devices all streaming or transferring files, this new standard would avoid congestion.
Its going to be a couple of years before your smart phone and laptop supports the AC standard, but on May 14, 2012, Buffalo Technology released the world’s first 802.11ac product – the Buffalo WZR-D1800H 802.11ac router and client bridge adapter. This means you could actually make use of AC speeds today as a replacement for Ethernet over power solutions to move media around your home wirelessly. Sure each end needs to be hardwired via Ethernet, but the transfer would actually be wireless. Expect widespread adoption coming in 2013. Apple and a number of other companies have confirmed support for the format.
The speed is one great aspect of the new standard, but there’s some hidden gems inside the box. 802.11N enables smart distribution of the wireless signal. This means the device is aware of the position of devices around it and send a stronger signal in that direction. This highlights just how inefficient preview WiFi technologies have been with a simple omni-directional broadcast.
The router uses the 5GHz spectrum which is much less congested than 2.4Ghz, this is great for those living in apartment complexes. The future looks bright for 802.11AC and the only real question is how fast hardware manufacturers implement the new standard – it can’t be too soon.
More info @ Wikipedia