Editor’s note: This article first appeared in the Broadcom Connected Blog
In the tech industry, five years can be an eternity.
The iPhone hit retail shelves in June 2007 — five years ago this month. That same year, 802.11n — the fourth-generation of Wi-Fi technology — was introduced as a wireless technology that would meet the new consumer demands for medium-resolution video, such as those found on YouTube, a then two-year-old start-up that had just been acquired by Google.
Today, smartphone shipments around the globe are up more than 600 percent since those long ago days of 2007. Tablet PCs such as the iPad, which weren’t even on the consumer radar five years ago, have reached mainstream penetration. Nearly 73 million tablets were shipped worldwide in 2011, according to research firm NPD DisplaySearch. Now, things like Internet-connected gaming consoles, set-top boxes and TVs are joining the Wi-Fi ecosystem.
The power of 5G WiFi
Certainly, the architects of 802.11n did not design the technology with this sort of usage in-mind. Just as the second generation of Wi-Fi, designed for emailing, was succeeded by a third generation built to support a data rich Web surfing experience, the evolution of Wi-Fi continues today with the arrival of 802.11ac, or 5G WiFi.
Broadcom kick-started the 5G WiFi movement with the announcement of 802.11ac chipsets at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show, introducing the first steps in building a more robust and reliable wireless pipeline.
While 5G WiFi is designed to meet the needs of today’s consumers and their computing lifestyles, the engineers have also looked ahead at the other uses that 5G WiFi is poised to accelerate. Consider that 5G WiFi works on a spectrum that’s different from its predecessor and uses beam-forming and other innovations to penetrate all forms of building materials, including concrete. It’s a shift that will help eliminate so-called “deadspots” in a Wi-Fi network.
But that’s just one difference. Consider the following:
- 5G WiFi is at the center of a movement called “The Internet of Things,” the idea that non-computing devices, such as home appliances or medical devices, can be networked to interact with smartphones, tablets and even hospital computer systems to provide convenience, energy efficiency and advanced health care services.
- 5G WiFi is the needed link to a fully networked television experience, one where content from a variety of sources — online providers, as well as pay-TV operators — can be seamlessly transferred from one screen, such as a TV, to another screen, such as a smartphone.
- 5G WiFi is considered to be one of the technologies that will help video chat and conferencing services to gain traction among mainstream users.
- 5G WiFi could be the savior to mobile carriers whose networks are becoming overloaded by data-hungry devices. 5G WiFi’s greater capacity for offloading data traffic provides the capabilities for many more simultaneous connections, offering a better user experience.
- 5G WiFi chips, which will transfer files faster than previous wireless chips, are considered to be up to six times more power efficient. That means mobile phones, for example, will be able to go longer between battery rechargings while still handling more cumbersome tasks.
While Broadcom initially forecast the arrival of 5G WiFi-powered products for summer 2012, its partners — excited about the prospects of next-generation Wi-Fi services — jump-started the efforts with announcements of routers and other retail products in the spring months. The race is on to implement the fastest Wi-Fi yet.
Since that CES announcement, Broadcom has continued to innovate and expand the potential reach of 5G WiFi, including the February launch of a 5G WiFi system-on-chip (SoC) designed to address growing demand for gigabit speeds in enterprise, wireless cloud networks and carrier access.
At the Computex show in Taiwan earlier this month, Broadcom introduced new, highly integrated SoCs designed to unlock the full potential of 5G WiFi networking for home gateways and SMB access points, network attached storage (NAS) boxes and other devices.
Broadcom’s new SoCs allow device makers to bring 5G WiFi routers, gateways and access points to market with full features and performance at price points that will ignite the growth of the developing 5G WiFi ecosystem.
With these new chips already sampling to Broadcom’s customers, the next generation of Wi-Fi featuring gigabit speeds is well on its way!