The pipeline for content is about to get a lot bigger. Imagine being able to transfer a full-length HD movie in 3-4 minutes. That could happen with the latest Wi-Fi technology, referred to as “802.11ac,” which promises speeds of up to 1.3 Gigabits per second.
Recently, the Wi-Fi Alliance, a global organization that oversees Wi-Fi technology interoperability, began certifying mobile devices for this faster standard. These “ac” devices include smartphones, routers and microchips, some of which are already available in the marketplace. Substantially faster than what most people get from their home broadband (the current standard offers speeds between 300 Mbps and 450 Mbps,) the 1.3 Gigabit speed is a theoretical maximum. So far, devices with potential top speeds of 1.3Gbps have topped out at around 800Mbps. This is still blazingly fast, however and should dispense forever with buffering video.
With increasing demand on networks for streaming content, the popularity of online gaming and the use of multiple devices on the same network, the need for higher speeds is becoming critical. (The current number of connected devices per house in the U.S. is 5.7.)Th ac standard also requires less power from mobile devices and PCs when they’re in use — a welcome feature for anyone who finds their cellphone contantly in need of a recharge.
According to a research forecast, 40% of existing smartphones will support the 802.11ac standard this year. And by next year, ac devices will likely dominate the market. That may include the iPhone and iPad, since Apple has announced its intention to adopt the new standard for future products. Samsung is also on board with its Galaxy product line as is Cisco with its routers.
More great news is that the 802.11ac routers will be backwards-compatible with existing Wi-Fi kits, so you won’t have to throw away your old hardware.
How will you know where to find ac networks when you’re out and about? Wireless carriers have begun testing a new technology which will automatically switch mobile device users from 3G and 4G networks to ac Wi-Fi. That means that you could soon be connecting to a fast Wi-Fi network without even knowing it, and getting some of the fastest speed you’ve ever had in the process.