802.11ac Wi-Fi Gets Speed Boost to 7 Gbps

New extension to 802.11ac high-speed wireless standard gets approved by IEEE.

By Sean Michael Kerner | Posted Jan 8, 2014
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Amidst the myriad consumer gadgets, wearables and curved Ultra-HD TVs emerging from the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas this week, the IEEE announced a major technical innovation that will quite literally make the wireless world a faster place.

The IEEE has now formally approved the 802.11ac -2013 update which boasts as much as 7 Gbps of data in the 5 GHz spectrum. The 802.11ac -2013 update is an addendum to the initial 802.11ac specification, which in 2013 began to emerge in both enterprise and consumer devices as the next generation of wireless, following the widely deployed 802.11n standard.

With the new 802.11ac -2013 update, the wireless specification gets even faster than originally designed.

The first generation, or wave one, of 802.11ac devices in the market provide up to 1.3 Gbps of wireless bandwidth.802.11ac The second wave of 802.11ac devices promise up to 6 Gbps and are just now being announced. The Wi-Fi Alliance, which helps to certify compliance and interoperability with wireless standards, only formally began certifying 802.11ac compliance in June of 2013.

The accelerated 802.11ac wireless specification gets its speed boost in part by way of Multi User, Multiple-Input, Multiple-Output (MU-MIMO) technology, which enables multiple download links to run concurrently. MIMO is already widely deployed on 802.11n access points and is accelerated in the new specification with the multi-user capabilities.

According to the IEEE, MU-MIMO delivers reduced latency and more efficient use of the wireless spectrum.

Additionally, the 802.11ac now makes improvements to beamforming transmission technology that improves data rates and wireless coverage areas.

"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," said Bruce Kraemer, chair of the IEEE 802.11 working group, in a statement. "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."

Kraemer added that the IEEE 802.11ac wireless standard is intended to meet the evolving needs for higher data rates and to help enable new generations of data-intensive wireless applications.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at Enterprise Networking Planet and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist

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