2012 the year of 802.11ac 5G Gigabit WiFi?

By Richard Mallion

The gigabit-speed version of WiFi isn’t set to be fully ratified by the WiFi Alliance and IEEE until the end of 2012, but  it looks like Apple and many other companies may still be working to support the new standard across its product line this year. The faster WiFi standard, known as 802.11ac, is already supported by chipsets from Broadcom, which supplies the WiFi chips used in most Apple products.

The new 802.11ac standard achieves much faster wireless networking speeds than the existing 802.11n specification (which are currently in use by  Macs, AirPort and iOS devices) by using 2 to 4 times the frequency bandwidth (from 80 to 160MHz), more efficient data transfers through sophisticated modulation, and more antennas (up to 8; existing standards support up to 4, while Apple’s Macs currently use up to 3). Such chips are also backwards compatible with 802.11n and other existing WiFi standards.

In addition to reaching networking speeds above 1 Gigabit (about three times as fast as 802.11n networks can manage), 802.11ac promises better networking range, improved reliability, and more power efficient chips, thanks to parallel advances in reducing chip size and enhancing power management.

Historically Apple have always implemented WiFi standards long before they where fully ratified. For instance Apple started deploying 802.11n devices 3 years before full ratification.

The tremendous speed gains possible with 802.11ac will continue to make Apple’s wireless technologies from AirPlay, Time Machine  or AirDrop much faster and more efficient, possibly erasing any advantage in using wired network cabling in most cases.

Anyone fancy network homes folders over WiFi?

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