More than a mere update, the latest Wi-Fi standard moves wireless networking to a whole new level
You may or may not have noticed, but wireless products supporting a new Wi-Fi standard called 802.11ac have been appearing in stores, promising Gigabit performance along with improvements in both wireless range and reliability.
We need this new standard due primarily to our never-ending love affair with all things wireless and a growing expectation that Wi-Fi will be built into each and every electronic device we buy. Not just notebook computers and broadband routers, but smartphones and tablets, satnavs, IP cameras, Hi-Fi systems and the latest TVs. You name it and it’s probably got it – even watches, domestic appliances and cars.
The downside of our insatiable thirst for wireless connectivity, however, is that we’re starting to bump into the limits of what the previous technology (802.11n) is able to deliver. Particularly in terms of the number of devices that can be supported at the same time, the bandwidth we can expect to get plus the range and reliability of wireless connections. We’ve more or less come to the end of the road as far as current wireless technology is concerned. Patches and fixes are of help but the only sure solution is to give up trying to fix it and replace it with something better. Therefore, the biggest change in 802.11ac, is a move away from the over-crowded 2.4GHz spectrum to a relatively empty new “super highway” to be found at 5GHz.
As well as being less crowded there’s also a lot more space up in the 5GHz waveband which means room for a lot more wireless channels. That translates into being able to connect and use more devices at the same time, enabling you to connect smart TVs and set top boxes in different rooms, for example, along with all of your family notebooks, smartphones and tablets. The wireless channels can also be a lot be bigger, so all those devices will benefit from access to a lot more bandwidth.
Moreover, as the technology spreads and becomes more widely available, we’ll be able to use Wi-Fi to make voice calls and work with Internet enabled applications wherever there’s a hotspot to connect to, rather than have to rely on expensive 3G/4G cellular services to stay in touch.