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Technology Trends

IEEE 802.11ac – The New WiFi Standard

The IEEE802.11ac is the new WiFi standard which has been approved in 2013 which is designed to be effective below 6 GHz. Designed to provide 1 Gbps speed for multi-station Wireless LAN and 500 Mbps speed for a single link the new standard proposes the use of the traditional 2.4 GHz band as also the relatively lesser used 5 GHz band. This will definitely spur the development of newer and faster data transmission networks to cater for the large scale usage of WiFi technology especially within homes.

There are several improvements over the earlier IEE 802.11n which was approved in 2009. Some of the key features of this standard include the use of high density modulation of 256 QAM with rates ¾ and 5/6 and higher bandwidth rates of 80 MHz and 160 MHz as compared to 40 MHz available in the IEEE 802.11n. Other improvements include the use of 8 MIMO spatial streams. These are Multi-User MIMO which use Space Division Multiple Access (SDMA) even on the downlink for one transmitter and many receivers. Beam forming antennae would be standardized for compatibility between vendors which was a major bottleneck in the earlier 802.11n standard. Compatibility with earlier a/g/n would be ensured in this new standard. Some of the optional features which will also be available include support for 160 MHz bandwidth, 2/4/8 spatial streams Space Time Block Coding and Low Density Parity Check (LDPC) coding.

Chipsets are already available from numerous vendors like Qualcomm, Broadcom, Marvell, Mediatek, Quantenna and Redpine which can be used over handsets, tablets and routers. These devices would be available in products supporting IEE802.11ac standard by this year end.

This standard will definitely improve the capability to provide services like high definition video and TV over WiFi networks directly to subscriber homes in addition to higher speeds for Internet services. The concept of Smart Home with all household devices connected on the home network can be implemented faster with the additional speeds available through this network.

This could also provide better speeds for campus networks and other public areas having WiFi services such as airports and hotels. The case for major project initiatives like public WiFi networks extending over complete towns or villages especially in developing countries can get a major boost with the use of this latest WiFi technology standard.

The new WiFi standard IEEE 802.11ac holds lot of promise to solve the present bottlenecks in high speed last mile Internet connectivity to the growing numbers of users especially in the Third World to provide good and reliable Internet connectivity with the use of the latest smartphones and tablets which are more affordable in these countries.