Entrepreneur Sees Benefits of 5G-WiFi

5G WiFi Drives New Opportunities

A recent article by Steward Wolpin in Entrepreneur.com does a great job of highlighting emerging WiFi technology, and in particular the new 5G WiFi (802.11ac).

Wolpin, a New York City-based writer who has been covering technology for more than 30 years, correctly notes that among the biggest benefits of these new Wi-Fi technologies will be a greatly increased ability to wirelessly connect business environments.

“Wi-Fi as you know it will begin to evolve over the next few months, changing how businesses stay connected,” he writes.

“Today’s fastest Wi-Fi protocol is 802.11n, or just “n,” which provides theoretical data transfer speeds of around 300 megabits per second (Mbps),” notes Wolpin. “Up next on the Wi-Fi speed chart is 802.11ac, alternately called “gigabit,” Very High Throughput Wi-Fi or fifth-generation (5G) Wi-Fi. By any name, 802.11ac Wi-Fi is expected to offer speeds of up to 1300 Mbps — potentially more than four times faster than current “n” routers and about 1,000 times faster than 4G LTE connectivity.”

It should be pointed out that some of the performance comparisons made vis-a-vis 4G LTE are not accurate ; in actual conditions, for example, 5G WiFi is expected to be about 6 times faster than 4G LTE.

Still, the point is well taken. 5G WiFi offers the fastest available wireless download speeds, which is important in environments where large file transfers are common.

At the same time, he notes that 5G  WiFi delivers another equally important benefit: a “relatively vacant” channel.

“Instead of operating in the crowded 2.4 GHz frequencies along with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and wireless communication gadgets, 802.11ac Wi-Fi will transmit data in the relatively vacant 5 GHz spectrum,” writes Wolpin.

In addition, he noted,these and other improvements are expected to create speedier, more consistent wireless links further from the router with fewer dead spots and greater ability to penetrate walls.”

For businesses, all of this means more reliable in-office wireless connectivity, which ultimately means businesses can “reduce or eliminate the need for complex and expensive wired broadband connections”.

For workers using portable devices, this also means speedier downloads via 5FWi-Fi and a resulting increase battery life as well.

Other emerging WiFi technologies highlighted in the article include Hotspot 2.0 (also known as Wi-Fi Certified Passpoint), which enables autonomous connection of wireless devices wherever you go; and Super Wi-Fi, which uses so-called TV white space, unused over-the-air spectrum recently approved by the FCC for commercial use. These lower frequencies allow wider and more powerful wireless signal propagation, said Wolpin, adding that, “An indoor Super Wi-Fi 40 mW transmitter creates a Wi-Fi hotspot up to five times the range of current Wi-Fi hotspots. In other words, a hotspot blanketing more than 1,000 feet would be enough to cover a small business office with a single router.”

Edimax announces two new 5G WiFi consumer products

The emerging 5G WiFi (802.11ac) wireless communications standard got a new boost this week when Taiwanese electronics maker Edimax announced it will roll out a new family of wireless communications devices. According to VR-Zone and others, Edimax is unveiling a networking duo including a wireless 5G WiFi (802.11ac) router and a USB adapter.

The Edimax router and wireless USB dongle and similar devices are slated for production in the next few months, marking early entries into the 5G WiFi market for router-to-PC or router-to-laptop connectivity. Later devices are expected to replace the USB dongle with 5G WiFi connectivity embedded directly into the computing platforms.

The Edimax router uses a Broadcom 600 MHz Intensi-fi MIPS32 central processor with two WLAN modules: the Broadcom BCM4331 for 802.11 b/g/n in the 2.40 GHz band, and a Broadcom BCM4360 supporting 5G WiFi for network bandwidths up to 1.30 Gbps. The wired LAN interface includes a one gigabit uplink port and four gigabit downstream ports. The device also includes two PCI-Express interfaces, a built-in USB 2.0 host controller, and DDR2 memory controller.

The Edimax USB dongle is one of the industry’s first to support 5G WiFi. The dongle uses Broadcom BCM43526 chip, and offers dual-band operation.

Broadcom’s 5G WiFi technology features beam-forming technology, which assists 5G WiFi enabled devices by streaming or steering content in the direction of the intended receiver, thereby increasing reliability, extending range and providing better coverage.

Interference Part 2 – 5G WiFi cleaner

In the first part of this series, I talked about how the 2.4 GHz band is not very conducive to reliable Wi-Fi. In this part, I will talk about the 5G WiFi’s interference avoidance benefits.

5G WiFi operates in a much cleaner, wider swathe of radio spectrum. 5G WiFi is therefore devoid of any interference from microwave ovens or cordless phones. Besides, the wider spectrum implies that neighboring Wi-Fi networks need not share the air waves as in the 2.4 GHz band. Clearly, the 2.4 GHz pain-points are addressed by 5G WiFi.

Now, 5G WiFi not only works in a different swathe of spectrum, but is also backward compatible with all your other existing Wi-Fi devices that works in 2.4 GHz. So, if your access point and your TV have 5G WiFi, then you get the benefits of this cleaner, wider spectrum. However, if one of your devices does not support 5G WiFi, don’t worry! That device will still work with other 5G WiFi devices in your network. It will, however, not benefit from the 5G WiFi goodness.

In summary, 5G WiFi elegantly addresses the interference problems with current Wi-Fi networks. It is, at the same time, completely interoperable with existing Wi-Fi devices. So, if you are considering an upgrade of your Wi-Fi access point or buying a PC/laptop in the second half of this year, there is only upside in going for a 5G WiFi device. You get blazing speeds, and the cleaner air results in much better coverage & reliability.

Interference Part 1 – Current Wi-Fi networks suffer

5G WiFi is less susceptible to wireless interference than your current Wi-Fi devices. Let me try and explain here in this two part series.

Most Wi-Fi networks today in what the tech-geeks call the “2.4 GHz band.” This represents a narrow swathe of spectrum available for wireless transmissions. Since this band is open to everyone, it is typically fraught with interference problems. Therefore, the 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi network will have to compete with Bluetooth devices, microwave ovens, cordless phones & baby monitors which also use the same band. This inherently causes interference leading to video buffering or slow downloads when these other devices are operational.

The second challenge with the 2.4 GHz band is that it is relatively narrow. This means that neighboring Wi-Fi networks will more often than not interfere with each other, or will need to share the air time. This, in turn, implies that these networks get nowhere close to the promised peak speeds.

My apartment complex is a good example of this situation. In my case, I was running into a problem streaming my Netflix movies to my Roku box. I sought to investigate, and found the results rather astonishing.

There were about fifty Wi-Fi networks in my apartment complex (see figures). A good number of these networks were competing for air time with my Wi-Fi.  Besides, the interference levels around my home were quite high, presumably from the many cordless phones and microwave ovens in the neighborhood. My situation was certainly not helped by the fact that my Wi-Fi router and TV were in different rooms. I had interference, neighboring networks and coverage issues to deal with that gave me a rather poor video experience.

Figure 1: There were 15 other networks sharing the air with me in 2.4 GHz

Figure 2: Many networks in the 2.4GHz band in my neighborhood

So, the 2.4 GHz band is very interference prone, and Wi-Fi in this band is bound to have issues. In contrast, 5G WiFi operates in a completely different band of spectrum that is much cleaner. More in the second part of this series!