Get Ready for the Summer of 802.11ac

Carl Weinschenk

It’s the first day of summer and if feels like it in New York. It’s warm and the Mets are losing. More than ever before, however, IT and telecom newsmakers – and the commentators who analyze their moves – operate independently of the calendar. With that in mind, here is a rundown of interesting items from the past week.

Canonical Ubuntu Makes a Move

The next phase in the jockeying to become the third and fourth mobile operating system platforms , after Android and iOS, is upon us. There really are two groups: The two that are known to be in the game fairly widely (BlackBerry and Windows Phone) and the newbies (Canonical’s Ubuntu, Tizen, the Firefox OS and Jolla’s Sailfish).

Much of the technology is done. The next few months will see maneuvering for position between these players. This week, Ars Technica reports that Canonical has introduced a “carrier advisory group” that will get early information on which devices will have its Ubuntu OS. Advisors are looked to as potential launch partners.


The first members of the advisory board are Deutsche Telekom, Everything Everywhere, Korea Telecom, Telecom Italia, LG UPlus, Portugal Telecom, SK Telecom and an unnamed Spanish carrier, which Ars Technica speculates is Telefonica. The story points out that Canonical’s only foothold in North America is via Deutsche Telekom’s ownership of T-Mobile.

Wireless: AT&T Fastest, Verizon Most Reliable and Broadest

There are too many statistics to highlight to meaningfully encapsulate PCMag’s annual assessment of wireless networks. The site took a deep dive into networks in the northeast, southeast, north central, south central, northwest and southwest. In addition, it offers assessments on the national and rural/suburban levels. Several metrics for 3G and 4G products from Sprint, AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless are assessed.

Fortunately, the site offered a more general overview. AT&T, it found, offers the fastest LTE network in most cities. Sprint has made the move from WiMax to LTE and improved its speed in all but two cities. T-Mobile’s HSPA+ network takes too long to deliver the first byte of data and Verizon Wireless, which the site calls the only true nationwide LTE network, is best in coverage and reliability.

802.11ac Soon to Be a Household Name

IT Business Edge has been following the rollout of 802.11ac and 802.11ad. The news is starting to move more quickly in the “.ac” realm. This week, GigaOm and other sites reported that The Wi-Fi Alliance started its certification program. Three versions of the Samsung Galaxy Mega smartphone and two other products from the vendor -- the S 4 Active and an unidentified phone -- were approved.

The fact that general awareness of the new spec is up is illustrated by a story linked to the Wi-Fi Alliance certification program posted at CNNMoney. General interest sites and publications only start paying attention when it is thought that the new technology is having a real-world impact.

Steven Vaughan-Nichols uses a ZDNet post to make five points about 802.11ac: He writes that it won’t provide Gigabit throughput, despite the theoretical maximum of 1.3 Gbps and its “Gigabit Wi-Fi” tag line. He writes that the range of the new standard still is uncertain. He also writes that 802.11ac devices are backwards compatible to older flavors of 802.11, that there may be conflicts between access points in the 5 GHz frequency range in which it operates, and that additional infrastructure is necessary to fully utilize the new standard.

LTE Continues to Separate Itself from the Pack

Infonetics this week released excerpts of its first quarter worldwide report on mobile infrastructure. Not surprisingly, it paints a picture of 2G, 3G and WiMax weakness and LTE strength. Overall, the market is a bit down. The bottom line is that the shift to LTE is continuing, and gathering steam in China and Russia.

Specifically, Infonetics found that the market totaled $9.8 billion in the first quarter. That’s down 9 percent compared to the fourth quarter of 2012 and down 2 percent compared to the year-ago quarter. However, LTE revenue, at $2.7 billion, increased 21 percent quarter over quarter, a 108 percent increase against the year-ago quarter. WiMax revenues dropped 42 percent compared to the fourth quarter of 2012. The firm considers Brazil, Russia, India and China to be major drivers for the remainder of 2013.

Up in the Sky…It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane…It’s Google

And, finally, comes another thinking outside the gondola idea from the company that has brought us driverless cars and the biggest update to glasses since Ben Franklin’s bifocals.

ExtremeTech reports that Google has launched – in more ways than one -- Project Loon. The goal is to use hovering balloons to provide wireless coverage to huge and sparsely populated tracts of the earth.

The balloons hold radios that communicate with each other and the ground and weather monitoring equipment. They are solar powered and cruise about 12 miles up -- away from birds and planes. The project consists of about 30 balloons capable of 3G speeds. Wi-Fi is not being used.



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