5G WiFi: The Standard for the Mobile Age

Increasingly, the Internet is moving to mobile devices. In fact, the speed of this migration has even taken social media platforms like Facebook by surprise.

Savvy tech companies will learn from this.

The stratospheric increase in the use of smart phones with sophisticated apps and web browsing abilities means that the platform is quickly reaching (and perhaps soon exceeding) the functional capabilities of current televisions and desktop PCs.

With their high performance processors and large data storage capabilities, smart phones are quickly becoming mini television sets and game players as well as mini computers.

The only significant bottleneck in the system is the wireless connection.

Current wireless standards simply don’t have the bandwidth to handle the applications that users are now expecting – and content providers are close to providing.

As a solution, the 5GWiFi or IEEE 802.11ac standard allows wireless networks keep pace with our constantly expanding use of computers, phones, and tablets, for both work and fun.

The new IEEE 802.11ac is a worldwide standard that offers at least triple the transmission speeds of current Wi-Fi products using IEEE 802.11n.

Even the slowest IEEE 802.11ac connection will be about as fast as a today’s USB 2.0 wired links, which are widely used in external storage and far better than existing wireless data rates.

This means that even on mobile devices, streaming video won’t freeze or sputter and Web downloads won’t slow to a crawl when multiple devices are in use, 5GWiFi provides a technology to ensure that the user experience is everything they expect.

Times I Wished I had 5G WiFi: Part I

This might seem implausible, but I think I’m a Luddite technologist – I have six computers, three personal audio players, two tablets, a supposedly wireless printer and an HDTV with more inputs than I could ever use…And yet I am an incredibly slow adopter of technology. Here’s a great example – a few years ago, I bought my mom a Slingplayer so that she could watch her TV when she was traveling. I didn’t have cable TV myself, but I put together a system she could use when she was visiting:

In case that’s not clear, my PC connects to the Slingplayer and streams video to my TV using a VGA-to-composite converter (which is sadly SD on my HDTV.) For all of the inputs on my HDTV, I didn’t have any that had the same sync rates as the PC I was using to generate video, and the PC was so old that I couldn’t successfully add an HDMI card to it. Of course, the system now needed a remote control, a role that was ably-filled by a wireless keyboard and mouse. As you may well imagine, everyone other than me found this system incredibly confusing and I basically had to come into the living room anytime anyone wanted to change the channel.  I finally gave in and got cable last year, and I now have a fairly standard setup with a set-top box connected to my TV, but no capability to stream video from my PC to the TV.

Here’s where I wish I had 5G WiFi. With 802.11ac expected to ship in the next generation of HDTVs, wireless routers and smartphones, my TV will have an interface that will allow me to access content from the outside world, whether my router is connected to the internet via a cable modem, fiber optic cable or even 4G LTE. (This nicely eliminates the PC from my setup.) And with seamless integration of 5G WiFi into all of these devices, my smartphone will also serve as a remote control – an obvious application, but not one that’s done poorly at the moment – or as a game controller. (Now my wireless keyboard and mouse are eliminated.)

Those are the simple and obvious applications – 5G WiFi eliminates the most-complicated parts of my Rube Goldberg A/V setup. But it also enables Wi-Fi Display from my smartphone – I can stream a movie or a video game from my phone directly to my TV. 5G WiFi has three times the throughput of my 802.11n wireless router, so I can stream high-quality video and do something else simultaneously with my phone – use the internet, stream audio, you name it.

As I mentioned in my last piece, I like to try to come up with technology that my mom would find useful. Not only would my mom find the 5G WiFi TV, smartphone remote and 5G WiFi Display really cool, she’d be really excited that it got rid of all of the clutter (keyboard, mouse, extra computer) that I had in my living room.

The Future of 5G WiFi and Smartphones

Like Vijay mentioned in his inaugural post, I also think about technology a lot from the perspective of what my mom would find useful and interesting. When I was an IC designer, the work I did was so microscopic and so far from the end product that it was difficult to explain it to someone who wasn’t in the same field as me. Most people who asked me what I did had their eyes glaze over almost as soon as I started to answer, but now that I’m focused on technology strategy, I can see their eyes light up instead.

So here’s what I told my mom the last time we talked about what I do at work: two years ago, you would call me up to ask me to look something up on the internet for you because you didn’t have a smart phone. Today, you wonder how you survived so many years with your old flip phone. Two years from now, your phone will do so many new things that you’ll wonder how you survived with your first smart phone for so long.

Here are all the things you want your phone to do today (and more) that it will do very soon:

  • You’ll have 5G WiFi, which will give you 300+ Mbps throughput for all kinds of applications ranging from streaming TV to fast wireless data transfer to and from your computer
  • With 4G LTE cellular data networks, you’ll get significantly higher internet throughput with your phone than you get with your home cable modem today
  • With 5G WiFi and Wi-Fi Direct and you’ll be able to use LTE to connect your laptop directly to the internet through your phone when you’re at a hotel or a friend’s house
  • Your GPS will be much better at finding your location, especially when you’re indoors
  • You’ll have an FM radio that’s so good you can even use it at the gym where all the concrete blocks cellular signals
  • You’ll have a mobile credit card payment system integrated into your phone and you’ll be able to pay for things just by tapping your phone on a point of sale terminal in the checkout line in a store
  • You won’t have to remember to plug your phone in when you get home – its battery life will be so much better that it won’t die if you go a day without charging!
  • And you’ll have a whole bunch of other devices around the house that will play well with your phone. The possibilities are endless: you’ll be able to download and stream a movie to your TV, print wirelessly, turn the house lights on and off remotely, water the garden, check and set the thermostat when you’re not home, get an email when the washing machine and the dryer are done, and when you’re at the supermarket, you’ll even be able to use your fridge’s camera to look inside and see if you’re out of milk!

Needless to say, my mom was impressed and she can’t wait to have a phone that does all of these things. In the coming weeks, I’ll discuss some of the ways that 5G WiFi combines with many of the other wireless technologies coming to the marketplace to enable features I wouldn’t have imagined back when I was texting on my flip phone.

The Need for 5G WiFi – The Panacea

In the post titled “The Need for 5G WiFi – The Media Challenge”, I suggested that the increasing amount of media content and the explosion of networked devices may make the current generation of Wi-Fi inadequate. Let me expand on that thought a little further here before presenting 5G WiFi as the panacea.

The current (4th) generation of Wi-Fi technology also known as 802.11n has largely been deployed in the 2.4GHz frequency band.  This band has limited capacity and is shared with other non-Wi-Fi gadgets/appliances such as baby monitors, microwave ovens, cordless phones and Bluetooth technology based devices such as headsets, computer wireless keyboards and mice, phones etc.    With the medium being shared amongst all these devices, performance takes the back seat, and more so at the edge of the home.  802.11n also supports 5GHz frequency band – a lot cleaner medium than 2.4GHz, but the industry adoption has been very limited largely due to range limitations.

5G WiFi, based on 802.11ac, is the 5th generation of Wi-Fi technology5G WiFi benefits from the 5GHz frequency band. Further, 5G WiFi innovations focus on the pain points of the prior generations especially around media content consumption.   5G WiFi is 3-4 times faster than 802.11N giving us Gigabit wireless speeds. To put this in perspective, this is better than wired USB2.0 speeds and comparable to Gigabit Ethernet speeds.

These increased speeds are achieved through a combination of support for wider channels up to 160MHz [compared to 40MHz in 802.11n], and higher modulations of up to 256 QAM [compared to 64 QAM in 802.11n].  This makes 5G WiFi an ideal option when synchronizing gadgets wirelessly at wired speeds.    Also, 5G WiFi with its industry-specified beamforming technology provides range benefits that enable whole home coverage for media intensive applications such as streaming of HD content.   Together, these innovations help 5G WiFi address the challenges faced by today’s Wi-Fi network in the face of the media challenge.

In summary, 5G WiFi is exactly what the doctor ordered for the next gen in-home mobility experience!!

The Need for 5G WiFi: The Media Challenge

In this two part series, I will attempt to make a case for 5G WiFi. The first part talks to the challenge that the exploding amount of media content poses for current Wi-Fi.

For the past few years Wi-Fi has grown on us.  We have been using Wi-Fi for emails, instant messengers, browsing the web for information, news, on-line shopping, uploading/downloading pictures etc.  And now we have begun to use a lot more of Wi-Fi for sharing our personal videos with family and friends, on-line gaming, watching sneak previews of movies on YouTube, streaming movies and favorite shows from Netflix and watching our favorite sporting events from anywhere in the world over the internet.   In fact, video/real-time media content consumption forms the majority of the internet traffic today, and this category of traffic is becoming increasingly wireless in-home and is only growing faster all around the world.

Wi-Fi has thus enabled us to watch internet content on any and possibly every display screen at homes and enterprises.   Wi-Fi has also enabled productivity gains by providing mobile network connectivity to various gadgets. Thus devices such as PCs, smart phones, tablets, TVs, home theaters, Blu-Ray Disc players, set top boxes, cameras, gaming consoles are all becoming Wi-Fi enabled today.   Further, Wi-Fi will be in more gadgets, appliances and ‘things’ we come to use in our day to day lives such as cameras, cars, washers/dryers, in-home security systems etc. to name a few.

As the appetite for content-rich internet media consumption and distribution in the home and enterprise grows, the question of adequacy of the current networks for delivering a quality video stream without compromise of the mobility experience remains.   Further, with more networked Wi-Fi devices than people in the homes today, the question of bandwidth availability also arises.

In the next part of this series, I will make the case for 5G WiFi given this media and device explosion challenge.

5G WiFi – why call it that?

5G WiFi is the moniker for IEEE 802.11ac based Wi-Fi solutions. So, why 5G WiFi?

802.11ac is the 5th generation of Wi-Fi! Wi-Fi as a technology has come a long way from the 2 Megabits per second [Mbps] speeds that it offered way back in 1997. Since then, it has revolutionized the way people use their computers, popularized laptops and mobile devices, and opened up the internet to every corner of the world. What is more, Wi-Fi as a technology has also continually improved in speeds and reliability with every new generation. Essentially, it has fostered the mobile computing revolution, and stepped up every single time to meet the increasing wireless needs of the consumers. Therein lies the unique success of Wi-Fi over the years.


As we enter 2012, we introduce 5G WiFi, the 5th generation of Wi-Fi – aptly named to recognize the impact Wi-Fi will continue to have on us in the years ahead.

5G WiFi recognizes the fact that each previous generation has come in at the right time to address an inflection point in consumer needs. The 1st generation Wi-Fi, 802.11, was introduced in 1997 for wireless internet. As emails became more prevalent, the industry quickly productized the second generation of Wi-Fi (802.11b) in 1999. In 2002, as the web experience became richer & graphics intensive, 802.11g/a stepped up as Gen3 Wi-Fi. The popularity of internet video sites like YouTube simply meant that it was time for the much faster 802.11n to take the mantle of 4G WiFi! And 5G WiFi is no different – it is here as a panacea for the video challenge. We need 5G WiFi to help the increasing number of Wi-Fi enabled devices access all the rich media content available on and off the web.

5G WiFi also reminds us that Wi-Fi will continue to serve us all for many years to come. It represents the continual industry commitment to meet your every single wireless need at home and at work. Today, with 5G WiFi, it is all about media content and devices. The possibilities for tomorrow are unlimited. And history suggests that Wi-Fi will keep up – with 6G WiFi and more.

So, join us in welcoming the 5th generation of Wi-Fi as 2012 dawns on us!

Welcome to the 5G WiFi blog

Why a 5G WiFi Blog?

5G WiFi is an exciting new technological development. The Broadcom WiFi team truly believes that it will revolutionize the way people access their digital content wireless among other things. As a leading WiFi solutions provider, our entire team also felt the need to share this excitement with everyone! And what better means to shout out to every nook-and-corner of the world than a blog that brings you real-time updates about the state-of-the-art in WiFi.

Our objective is to make the 5G WiFi website, and this blog as the only stops you will ever have to take for anything on 802.11ac – the 5th generation of Wi-Fi. As the blog rolls out, we will strive to answer several aspects of this wireless standard for readers with different interests. We are hoping that the blog will cater to engineers and marketing teams in the technology industry, journalists/bloggers, IT planners for enterprises, and the general consumer. We want you to be able to look up this site for WiFi technology and product information before you want to buy a new wireless router, smart phone, tablet, PC, TV or other consumer electronics goods for your home and offices.

On a personal note, I am a believer in “Impact through Information”. I want this blog to help my mother happily head to the store and get herself a 5G WiFi product. If I can make her understand that 5G WiFi will improve her Skype experience with me, or that she can now download our family videos on to her PC and watch it seamlessly on her wireless television. To that end, I am determined to peel the layers of technology jargon and make 5G WiFi palatable to her and to all of you.

So, welcome to the 5G WiFi blog! Hope we are able to rub some of our excitement on you! Please feel free to reach out to us with questions and suggestions. Your questions will also help us create content that is useful for other readers as well.

Happy reading!