Monday, 6 February 2012

802.11ac update

I briefly mentioned 802.11ac a while ago here however a little more information is now available. At CES this year some vendors demonstarted 802.11ac products. Notably Buffalo with a prototype running a Broadcom chipset. Although this had a mighty 800mbps throughput that really is the tip of the iceberg.

A few highlights.
  • 802.11ac should be backwards compatible with 802.11a/n.
  • Channel widths will be 80 or 160MHz (802.11n can use 40MHz wide channels) now it remains to be seen exactly which channels these will be and how that can be worked into the current regulatory domains around the world.
  • Support for 8 spatial streams compared to 802.11n 4 spatial streams. If like 802.11n initial products wont be the full bore 8 spatial streams however and similarly to 802.11n that may be a theoretical maximum, nobody has commercialised a 4 spatial stream device and there are only a few vendors with 3 spatial stream access points.
  • A massive 256 QAM against 64 QAM for 802.11n.
  • There will be compatability mechanisms for 802.11ac to coexist with 20 and 40MHz 802.11a/n
  • Lets not forget MU-MIMO which will let us have multiple devices receiving from a single signal.
  • Ultimately we all want to know how fast, well 6.93Gbps.
I feel it will certainly speed up the adoption of the 5.0GHz technology, I only hope it does not become as congested as the 2.4GHz spectrum however this may be the leading technology of the future so simply it will be everywhere, consumer electronis included. That will present its own challenges again as we try to support a greater level of legacy devices.

It certainly bodes for an interesting future as a wireless engineer.

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