The Wi-Fi World Prepares for the Next Step

Carl Weinschenk

The Wi-Fi community is on the precipice of the next step — the widespread adoption of 802.11ac — which, in a highly technical term, is going to be a doozy.

This PCWorld post from the spring has all the salient information about the standard. The one important piece of information that is missing is the actual speed promise of 802.11ac. TechRadar chimes in on that: It says that it could triple the current pace setter, 802.11n and could pass the Gigabit-per-second mark.

802.11ac won’t become a standard for a while. The good news is that the industry now has a long history of incorporating the new approaches without skipping a beat. The process entails creating an unofficial but very clear idea of what the standardized version of the technology will look like when it indeed is promulgated as a way to encourage vendors to build gear that uses the putative standard and can easily be upgraded to the official version.

John Gillooly at Atomic MPC looks at this issue and suggests that the industry is in relatively good shape. He quotes executives from Broadcom and Netgear and their assertion that all changes between the de facto and eventual standards will be made via software and not involve basic design changes. :

Not only is there an inherent compatibility advantage in the already wide adoption of Broadcom’s various processors, but both Henry and Bekis assured us that any changes made between now and the ratification of 802.11ac would be handled with software updates and not via changes to the base design of hardware.

This overview of five 802.11ac routers at CNET starts with the caveat that the necessary partner of each of these devices — phones, tablets, PCs and other end-user devices — won’t start to appear before the end of the year. That said, it offer both highlights and links to more extensive reviews of five routers that will be ready when the end-user gear emerges: Netgear’s R6300; Asus’ RT-AC66U; Buffalo’s AirStation AC1300/N900 Gigabit Dual Band Wireless Router WZR-D1800H; D-Link’s DIR-865L; and Belkin’s AC 1200 DB Wi-Fi Dual-Band AC+ Gigabit Router.

Craig Matthias takes a look at the ramifications of 802.11ac for the enterprise. He thinks that products won’t hit en masse for about a year and suggests that organizations include them in the planning process. 802.11ac is backwards compatible with existing members of the 802.11 family, but how they are positioned in the network relative to each other is important, he writes.

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