Ixia to Demonstrate 5G WiFi Test Support at Interop 2012

The migration to 5G WiFi got another boost this morning when Ixia Corporation, a leading provider of converged IP and wireless network test solutions, announced that it will demonstrate test support for fifth-generation Wi-Fi or IEEE 802.11ac at Interop 2012 in Las Vegas, May 5-11.

Ixia’s 802.11ac test solution will be part of  its IxVeriWave Wi-Fi suite of products and will provide a “complete and thorough approach to Wi-Fi device and network validation.”  Ixia’s IxVeriWave solutions test Wi-Fi devices and wireless LAN networks using a client-centric model that precisely measures the real-world behavior of mobile devices, their impact on other devices, and overall network performance.

Ixia has developed a test architecture that provides complete and thorough Wi-Fi device validation. Joe Zeto, Sr. Manager, Market Development at Ixia, said the approach is “critical for organizations seeking to build high performing AC chipsets and access points.”

The three main innovations of this approach include:

  • Integrated RF testing, impairment tools, and traffic generation. Ixia’s solution can test the key RF parameters (e.g. EVM, flatness, and I/Q gain, and phase error), generate full rate 802.11ac traffic, and model environmental RF conditions, saving time and cost.
  • RF measurements in real-time on every packet. Ixia’s solution analyzes every single frame and provides real time measurements.
  • Integrated channel modeling for each client. Ixia is the only solution that enables applying a different RF channel model to each of the 500 emulated clients.

“5G WiFi powered by IEEE 802.11ac, provides new innovations that enable more reliable whole home coverage for consumers to stream digital content between devices faster, while simultaneously connecting more wireless devices,” said Bryan Richter, Director of Hardware Development Engineering, Mobile & Wireless Group at Broadcom. “Innovations in 802.11ac test systems, such as those by Ixia are critical for developing a complete and robust 5G Wi-Fi ecosystem.”

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.”

Well, this is exciting…

The first 5G WiFi product has been announced: the NETGEAR R6300 will ship with Broadcom’s 3×3 802.11ac/5G WiFi chip next month at a low, low price of about $200.

If you were so inclined to try out 5G WiFi, you could buy two units and use them for bridging – essentially, you could use the second unit to extend the range over which you could achieve the highest data synchronization rates.  Normally, your 11n throughput would be reduced because the bridge needs to maintain two links (one to your PC; one to the router.) But with the two routers completing transactions more quickly using 802.11ac, there would be more time left over for the bridge to connect to your PC using 802.11n. Or if you wanted to be the first person on your block to demonstrate 5G WiFi’s maximum speeds, you could go back to what I did in the dawn of Wi-Fi and plug an ethernet cable directly into the bridge router and use it as a very large external wireless card on your PC.

In the near-term, there will be many more 5G WiFi devices on the market, ranging from smartphones to tablets to 5G-enabled laptops and television sets.  You’ll be able to do data synchronization at up to 1300 Mbps, which would be a huge improvement relative to today’s automatic wireless backup devices – mine averages about 40 Mbps, and when I transfer data between legacy 802.11g devices through the router, it didn’t even hit 3 Mbps.  When I want to copy a video onto my current phone, it can take hours; 5G WiFi will reduce this to a matter of minutes.

You’ll also see a significant improvement in your media streaming experience.  Not only will you be able to transfer video from media devices to your PC or phone more quickly, but you’ll see much better performance when you’re actually sharing that video onto an HDTV.  Broadcom’s 5G WiFi chipsets have numerous features that not only extend the range of the highest Wi-Fi data rates, but also reduce the impact of signal fading, which eliminates the periodic video skipping and loss of fidelity that I’ve become so used to when watching TV over the internet.

As with most new technologies, it’s difficult to predict how people will use 5G WiFi once it’s in the marketplace. But as the guy who didn’t see the point of Wi-Fi in the first place, I’m expecting to find out about a whole bunch of different use cases that I never expected.

NETGEAR is First to use Broadcom 5G WiFi Solution

As noted by Engadget and others this morning, NETGEAR announced that its R6300 router is first to use the Broadcom 802.11ac (5G WiFi) chipset in a production device. The router will ship next month for $199.

A NETGEAR release said the R6300 is the first 802.11ac dual band gigabit WiFi router, providing 5th generation WiFi (5G WiFi) at gigabit speeds. The router is also backwards compatible with 802.11a/b/g/n, enabling optimum interoperability with legacy WiFi devices.

“802.11ac is the next-generation of WiFi connectivity and is set to revolutionize the way we consume content wirelessly by delivering Internet speeds up to three times faster than consumers are used to experiencing,” said David Henry, vice president of product management, retail products at NETGEAR. “NETGEAR’s leadership in the industry, and collaboration with Broadcom to introduce the first 802.11ac router, will future proof your network by ensuring your home is capable of supporting new faster 802.11ac devices as they begin to roll out this year.”

NETGEAR noted that the upcoming 802.11ac wireless standard is the world’s fastest WiFi, providing gigabit WiFi speeds and allowing for web content to download faster, and large video or music files to synch more quickly. The increased speed of 802.11ac technology is ideal for mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, by providing three times the performance for a similar amount of battery consumption of devices utilizing the current 802.11n WiFi standard, said the release.

The NETGEAR R6300 WiFi Router is powered by Broadcom’s 5G WiFi IEEE 802.11ac chips, which are up to three times faster than today’s 802.11n routers.

With an elegant new design that fits perfectly in consumers’ living spaces, the router increases the coverage area for HD streaming in the home, said the release. The NETGEAR R6300 WiFi Router has speeds of up to 1300 Mbps on 5GHz and 450 Mbps on 2.4GHz enabling consumers to download web content from any device in the home in a fraction of the time it would take on a similar 802.11n device.

The NETGEAR R6300 WiFi Router includes a variety of features and apps that enable mobile access to music, video and photo files, command printers, provide guest access, stream to DLNA-compatible devices such as Smart TVs and game consoles, provide parental controls, and automatically secure WiFi access out-of-the-box.

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.

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.

Times I Wished I had 5G WiFi and 4G LTE

I don’t usually work in a coffee shop – I don’t like not being able to charge my laptop, and my “home office” is the living room couch, with multiple computers strewn in front of me while I watch sports on TV – but on a recent nice and sunny day, I was convinced to go to one. Unfortunately, technical difficulties abounded. I waited in line, bought a drink and asked for the Wi-Fi password. I spent a few minutes trying to log in to various access points with no success – it turned out that my (brand new) machine could not see the coffee shop’s router.

Luckily, all was not lost. I fired up “Mobile Hotspot” on my LTE phone and, in less than a minute, connected my laptop to the internet using the phone’s software-based “Soft AP.”  The only downside? My phone only lets me run “Mobile Hotspot” on Channel 6 in the noisy 2.4 GHz band – I’m sure that’s to prevent some crazy harmonic of the LTE phone transmitter from interacting with the Wi-Fi chip in the phone, but it was certainly inconvenient where I was sitting because there were at least a half-dozen access points set to Channel 6. In fact, I’m pretty sure Channel 6 is the most commonly-used Wi-Fi channel in the United States. So my data rates were in the range of 10 Megabits per second – probably better than I would have had if I had been able to connect to the coffee shop Wi-Fi, but not that great.

You probably know where I’m going: this is one of those times I wish I had 5G WiFi to go with my 4G LTE phone. When I use the internet directly on my phone, I’ve been able to get upwards of 25 Mbps in some places using first-generation LTE. If I had 5G WiFi, I’d have a lot more bandwidth to work with and fewer interferers, so I could get my full LTE data rate on my PC. And future LTE networks will likely offer significantly higher data rates, way more than I got at home with DSL and more than I can get with a cable modem. (I’ll never be able to get fiber to my house, so those are my choices.) In fact, with LTE routers becoming more common, they might become an alternative to cable modems – they take a matter of minutes to set up rather than having to wait for days or weeks for someone to come to your house to install the system!

Times I Wished I had 5G WiFi: Part II

As I mentioned in my last post, despite being immersed in technology all day long, I’m actually a bit of a Luddite. Case in point: I needed to transfer 3 GB of data between two of the (seven) computers in my house.

For data transfers like this, I could use a USB flash drive, but I’m always lending them out or losing them, so I couldn’t find any. So I moved on to the next option: an external USB hard drive that I use to backup my data.  It’s fairly slow, so it might have taken half an hour to copy from the first PC to it, and then another half hour to copy to the second machine from the drive. That’s the best case. The much worse case is what actually happened: the source machine is old and some of its USB ports don’t work. When I plugged the drive in, the PC couldn’t recognize the hard drive partition where I could store the data.

So then I had a brilliant idea: transfer over Wi-Fi. All it took to get started was me figuring out how to share a folder on the destination machine. The new machine supports peer-to-peer Wi-Fi, but the old one doesn’t seem to, so the data transfer had to go through my 802.11g router (I told you I was a Luddite.) After just four hours, the transfer was complete, for an average data rate of…less than 3 Mbps.

That’s just sad. My PCs were both close to the router, so that wouldn’t have slowed them down. But with two machines not optimized for data transfer and five other devices (plus the microwave oven) competing for the same channel on my router, the results were awful.

Here’s where I wish I had 5G WiFi. Not only would the data transfer have been faster – both because it would be peer-to-peer and a higher data rate – but it would have been more obvious how to do it. What do I mean? You often can’t tell what the value of a particular technology is before it’s launched – ten years ago, I didn’t even see the point of Wi-Fi. I mean, who needs Wi-Fi when you can just pull hundreds of feet of cable through your walls and ceiling and connect your desktop into an ethernet wall socket? So once you have 5G WiFi-enabled machines, your operating system will support wireless data transfer in a much more obvious way than it does today. And I think that’s true of many 5G WiFi features – we can’t imagine them yet, but once the technology is available, people will figure out all kinds of new and interesting things to do with it.

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.

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.