5G WiFi Standard is Going Global

The life of a successful communications standard goes through four phases: development by a standards group; approval by regulatory bodies; implementation by hardware and software vendors; and acceptance by the user community. Much of this work can be done in overlapping fashion, to accelerate the standard’s time to market.

In the case of the 5G WiFi (IEEE 802.11ac) standard, development is nearly complete and implementation is beginning. Importantly, approval by regulatory bodies must be achieved to ensure that the largest possible number of users have access to the standard.

Many of our readers wished to understand where 5G WiFi stands with respect to spectrum availability around the world. We interviewed Vinko Erceg, Technical Director of Systems Design Engineering in Broadcom’s Mobile & Wireless Communications division & the Chair of the Wi-Fi Alliance Technical Task Group launching the 802.11ac certification program to get the answers. He has been helping with the drive to secure regulatory approval for 802.11ac around the world.

Erceg noted that companies such as Broadcom, Intel, Marvell, Qualcomm Atheros and others have reached out to regulatory agencies seeking approval for the standard.  This means clearing the 80MHz, 160MHz, and 80+80MHz bandwidths in countries around the world.

“Not every place is cleared yet, but we expect that by the end of the year, we should be able to get approval by most of the countries we are talking with,” said Erceg.

Countries and regions that have already approved or are close to approving the standard include the Brazil, China, the European Union, India, Singapore, Taiwan and the United States.

Others that are expected to approve spectrum for 5G WiFi in coming quarters include Argentina, Israel, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Russia, the Ukraine and Venezuela.

5G WiFi – Standard of Standards

One of our readers asked, “Would my 5G WiFi device work with my other Wi-Fi devices? Also, will my 5G WiFi router work with other devices that implement 802.11ac?”

The answer to both questions is YES.

5G WiFi is a holistic wireless experience. It not only provides the user with the speeds and reliability of 802.11ac, but is entirely backward compatible with existing Wi-Fi devices. As an example, today’s smartphones that predominantly use 802.11n Wi-Fi will be able to communicate with a 5G WiFi router seamlessly, but at 802.11n rates. Let us assume a home network with a 5G WiFi router, a 5G WiFi enabled PC, and an 802.11n smartphone. The 5G WiFi router is smart enough to talk to the 802.11n smartphones at lower speeds while communicating with the 5G WiFi PC at the faster 802.11ac rates.

Additionally, 5G WiFi will also be interoperable with devices from various semiconductor vendors. The industry has done well to define 802.11ac as a comprehensive and interoperable standard. This includes standardizing advanced protocols like beamforming that were left open-ended in the previous generation of Wi-Fi. Further, all 5G WiFi products will be compatible with the certification program that the Wi-Fi Alliance will launch in early 2013. This further attests to the interoperability of 5G WiFi products – when other vendors are ready with 802.11ac offerings, they will be interoperable with 5G WiFi products and vice versa. It is also worth noting that the draft standard that 5G WiFi solutions use is very stable and changes [if any] can be addressed easily with no impact on the consumers buying products.

The consumer can also be assured that the transition to 5G WiFi will be smooth unlike the 802.11n days. When 802.11n was launched, vendors implemented different flavors of the standard. As a result, there was market confusion post-launch about the capabilities of various products, and their ability to seamlessly interoperate. This time around, the industry has learned from the negative consumer experiences and has proactively worked to address them. For example, key features that are required for the speeds, range and reliability of 5G WiFi are prescribed clearly, and will be tested by the Wi-Fi Alliance for interoperability. Vendors themselves will be cautious this time around recognizing fully well that the consumer experience is key to the adoption of this next generation of Wi-Fi.

In summary, 5G WiFi will be the STANDARD OF STANDARDS – backward compatible, interoperable, and holistic. It will work.