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.

5G WiFi and the Road Analogy – Part 3

In the second part of this series, I tried to explain the speed benefits of 5G WiFi using the road analogy. This concluding part focuses on another interesting aspect of 5G WiFi – reliability.

While the increased speeds are great, reliability of the data transfer is equally important. What is the use of pushing video from your mobile phone to the TV quickly if you can’t see continuous and clear video? Further, the key is also to ensure that all areas around the home get reliable coverage. To draw the road analogy one last time, what is the use of a super-fast lane if it has pot-holes and is accident–prone? After all, commuter safety is as important as the traffic capacity!

Beamforming is 5G WiFi’s mechanism to ensure that the data gets pushed reliably across a wider area. In a road, if there are pot-holes, there is an impact on traffic speeds as people get watchful. However, if the traffic is streamlined around these pot-holes and everyone steers clear of them, the flow is smoother, safer and faster. Beamforming does just that for the wireless connection.

Beamforming steers clear of obstacles

Beamforming recognizes elements in the wireless medium that impede the flow of data, and steers clear of them. There is directionality to the flow of data that helps in focused and reliable transmission. Beamforming, coupled with advanced data error correction mechanisms in 5G WiFi, guarantees that the higher speeds do not come at the cost of reliability and coverage.

I have tried to simplify the technology behind 5G WiFi with the traffic analogy. Hope this helps you identify 5G WiFi as one of the next big things in wireless. The standard is designed to serve the growing consumer need for media content exchange and provide whole home video distribution. The consumer benefits not just from the increased speeds, but the greater reliability and coverage. And this dream is all set to become a reality in 2012!

For more on 5G WiFi innovations and benefits, visit

5G WiFi and the Road Analogy – Part 2

In the first part of this article, I described a basic analogy that exists between roads and wireless communications. In this part, I will explain the speed benefits and relevant innovations of 5G WiFi using this analogy.

The one obvious way to solve traffic clogs is to widen the roads. This allows more commuters to use it at any point in time. Bandwidth is like the width of the road. Increasing the bandwidth of the wireless medium allows more data to be sent. With 5G WiFi, the bandwidth can be increased up to 4x that of 802.11n Wi-Fi. This allows for optimal use of the unlicensed 5 GHz spectrum. Incidentally, 5 GHz is like a highway or expressway without traffic lights or “interference”. Unlike the 2.4 GHz, the 5 GHz link is not affected by Microwave, cordless phones or Bluetooth devices, thus enabling data to go through more reliably. You can get more information on the benefits of the 5 GHz here and here.

Another way to address the traffic issue is to mandate carpools and public transportation. This immediately allows more people to be transported for the same road-width. Modulation schemes serve a similar purpose. When a link uses higher modulation schemes, more data can be packed in the same bandwidth. 5G WiFi, in addition to increasing available bandwidth, has also incorporated the higher modulation scheme of 256-QAM for greater speeds. This higher modulation scheme allows us to transmit the same amount of data in lesser time.

Carpools help us conserve fuel and go-green by reducing the number of cars on the road for the same number of people!  The more efficient data transfer, together with the higher bandwidth, allows us to save battery life of devices using 5G WiFi making it ideal for mobile computing and transfer of media content!

In summary, 5G WiFi’s innovations give us faster speeds and better battery life. In the concluding part of this series, I will describe the higher reliability offered by 5G WiFi using the same road analogy.

5G WiFi and the Road Analogy – Part 1

5G WiFi, based on IEEE 802.11ac forms the basis of next generation Wi-Fi – Wi-Fi which will get us 3x more speeds than similar Wi-Fi solutions today. The disruptive speeds brought to us by 5G WiFi are best explained by the traffic analogy.

Roads are designed to transport people. A bigger, more organized road enables more people to commute at any point in time. The commuter experience is further helped by lack of accidents, pot-holes, and slower vehicles on the road. The communication link is similar to the road. While roads carry people, these links carry data from one device to another. Much like roads, the amount of data that can be transferred at any point in time really depends on how “wide” the link is and how smoothly and reliably the data travels through the link.

Today’s 802.11n Wi-Fi is a good wireless link. It reliably transmits up to a few hundred Mbps of data wirelessly. But greater speeds will allow data to be transferred faster, and will therefore allow more devices to use the wireless medium at the same time. Data is very much like people on the road. Data also requires getting to the destination as fast as possible. But that goal is becoming increasingly difficult to achieve now. In traffic parlance, the 11n road is getting clogged, and there are people in ramps waiting to be metered in.

Wider wireless "roads" support more data

5G WiFi is designed to address the growing need to support more content and more devices. In order to provide these higher speeds and reliable coverage, the standard uses more bandwidth, higher modulation schemes, and features such as beam-forming.

In the second part of this article, I will jump right back to the road to help understand what these enhancements bring to the table.