802.11ac Gets Ready to Do the Wave

Carl Weinschenk
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The first wave of 802.11ac products certainly is having an impact. For instance, ZDNet Senior Technical Editor Jason Perlow, in the course of describing his use of the Linksys RE6500 range extender, discusses the differences between 802.11ac on one hand and 802.11g and 802.11n on the other. The bottom line is that it is a significant upgrade, especially when combined with advances in antenna science providing a boost to all iterations of 802.11.

The 802.11ac products currently in the field are members of the first 802.11ac “wave.” The second wave, according to PCWorld, pushes speeds even further:

Wave 2 802.11ac routers will arrive sometime in 2015. These devices will also operate on the less-crowded 5GHz frequency band, but they’ll take advantage of several optional elements of the 802.11ac standard: First, they’ll support a feature called MU-MIMO (multi-user multiple input/multiple output), which allows them to transmit multiple spatial streams to multiple clients simultaneously.


The industry clearly is on the road to 802.11ac wave 2, and it all starts with chips. AnandTech looks at the status of 802.11ac wave 2 chipmakers. The details are complex, but the bottom line is clear: Chipmakers are pumping out products aimed at this segment.

Network World’s Craig Mathias echoes the common wisdom that wave 2 products will be available next year. He cites the announcement that Xirrus has begun taking orders for modules. At Computer Technology Review, Xirrus itself weighs in. Vice President of Marketing Bruce Miller knocks down what he describes as five myths about 802.11ac. He writes that 802.11ac can coexist with earlier versions of 802.11 and denies that new network architecture is necessary. He writes that 802.11ac is not a panacea that solves all problems, that implementation can vary across and within the two waves and that customized network designs are necessary.

Android Authority, in a status update on 802.11ac, laid out a basic timeline for the next version of the overall standard, which is 802.11ax. The takeaway is that the industry will take a bit of a pause with 802.11ac:

The current plan is for the Wi-Fi alliance to ratify the 802.11ax standard in 2019. However, devices based on a draft of the standard could reach the buying public by 2016. But just like the early versions of 802.11n and 802.11ac products these 802.11ax would be based on an un-ratified standard.

The valuable context makes two points clear: The progress train isn’t going to stop with the second wave of 802.11ac technology, but 802.11ac will be the focal point for quite a while.

Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Intenet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at cweinsch@optonline.net and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.



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