See it, believe it, buy it!
At a joint event with Broadcom in San Francisco today, NETGEAR announced the first 802.11ac adapter for notebooks, and showed two versions of routers.
The A6200 WiFi Adapter is the first USB 802.11ac-based adapter on the market for client devices like notebook computers. The A6200 notebook adapter docks to client devices using a USB 2.0 port. It’s expected to cost about $69 and will ship in August.
David Henry, vice president of product management for NETGEAR, told a crowd of reporters that the high-end, three-stream R6300 is available online Thursday for the previously announced price of $199.99 and is expected to be available in retail stores by the end of the week.
NETGEAR also unveiled the R6200, a two-stream, mid-range version of the R6300 that will retail for about $179.99 beginning in July.
aLL devices use Broadcom 5G WiFi chips to deliver up to 1,300 Mbps speeds on the 5 GHz band, plus additional coverage in the earlier 2.4 GHz band for combined performance well above the Gigabit range.
Both the adapter and routers are backward compatible with previous Wi-Fi routers and clients.
Michael Hurlston, senior vice president at Broadcom, said he expects that 802.11ac technology will be integrated into PCs during the third quarter of this year, followed by televisions in the fourth quarter, and finally mobile phones in early 2013, largely due to their differing development cycles.
Earlier this week, BuffaloTechnology shipped its first 5G WiFi router.
Wireless spectrum is like freeways: the more you build, the more traffic you get. There was certainly a time when the 110 freeway through downtown Los Angeles was synonymous with smooth sailing at 55 miles per hour, but for decades, the world’s highest-capacity freeway network has filled every additional lane that got built with twice as much traffic as before.
I noticed this tweet from Stephen Lawson a couple of days ago that suggests cellular operators are running up against the same problem:
— Stephen Lawson (@sdlawsonmedia) May 8, 2012
Stephen has a number of other comments from his trip to CTIA, including what might seem like a surprising statistic: wireless subscriptions have achieved 105% penetration in the United States. Surprising when I think back to my summer job with a CDMA operator in 1998 where everyone wondered if cell phones would ever achieve 30% market penetration; unsurprising given that today I have three wireless subscriptions.
With so many wireless devices in service, it’s definitely no surprise that we’re running out of spectrum, especially as more and more of these mobile devices are used for high-bandwidth video applications. And while allocating a significant amount of additional spectrum could solve the problem in the short-term, that’s not a simple solution – roughly 1 GHz of total cellular bandwidth has been set aside worldwide, but in any given country, it is shared with dozens of other wireless applications, including television, radio, satellites and navigation. (This 2003 chart of United States frequency allocations is very instructive!) The pace of clearing spectrum to open up new cellular bands is very slow because it often requires completely changing existing technology in a band – think about how long it took to switch to digital television, which created the already at-capacity 700 MHz LTE bands.
Fortunately, 5G WiFi presents a solution to this problem. The 5 GHz band, where 5G WiFi operates, offers another 1 GHz of spectrum that can potentially be used to offload high-bandwidth cellular usage to Wi-Fi. Much of this band is already open for Wi-Fi use in the United States and other countries, and the remainder may be licensed in the near future. The even better news is that the capacity of the 5 GHz band is even greater than a similar amount of cellular spectrum: there are significantly fewer users in this band than there are in cellular bands, and the reduced range of Wi-Fi relative to cellular (several hundred meters vs several kilometers) allows even more users to share the spectrum. While it’s difficult for cellular spectrum allocations to keep up with the growth in a carrier’s customers, for example, 5G WiFi presents an opportunity to quickly build 10 times as many freeways, so to speak. Even Los Angeles would have smooth traffic with that kind of increase in capacity.
Buffalo Technology, a leader in wired and wireless networking and direct attached storage solutions, has selected the 5G WiFi standard to realize a 3x improvement in download performance, increased signal integrity and wider coverage for its new generation of routers.
A Buffalo Technology statement said the company has selected Broadcom’s 5G WiFi chips for its new AirStation™ WZR-D1800H wireless router and WLI-H4-D1300 wireless media bridge, both available now at select retail locations.
“Buffalo is again at the forefront of wireless networking, delivering the world’s first Wi-Fi router leveraging 802.11ac technology in a cost-effective, high performance package,” said Hajime Nakai, chief executive officer at Buffalo Technology.
First unveiled at the 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, the AirStation™ router and bridge combination use Broadcom’s 5G WiFi to implement the emerging 802.11ac wireless standard for improved download speeds, reduced power consumption in mobile devices, and wider coverage areas. The 5G WiFi devices are also fully backward compatible with earlier wireless protocols, including 802.11a, 11b, 11g and 11n.
Operating in the 5 GHz spectrum, 802.11ac offers transfer speeds up to 1300 Mbps, ideal for uninterrupted HD video streaming and concurrent Internet access. Buffalo’s 802.11ac products will also feature improved signal reliability and produce better in-home coverage for ultra-portable devices such as tablets and smart phones. As 5G WiFi proliferates into phones and tablets, the chips will enable even better coverage and faster download times, improving the battery life of client devices.
“5G WiFi will improve the HD video streaming experience with its higher speeds, enhanced range and increased reliability,” said Michael Hurlston, Broadcom’s SVP and GM of the Wireless Combo Connectivity line of business. “Buffalo Technology’s products using Broadcom’s chipsets give consumers the fastest, most robust wireless networking solutions available.”
Buffalo’s AirStation AC1300 / N900 Gigabit Dual Band Wireless Router WZR-D1800H provides a dependable, high quality signal boasting speeds up to 1300 Mbps on the 5 GHz band, and 450Mbps on the 2.4 GHz 3×3 802.11n band. This enables a total aggregate wireless throughput up to 1750 Mbps for extremely fast data syncing, video streaming, and wireless networking.
The AirStation AC1300 / N450 4-Port Gigabit Dual Band Wireless Ethernet Bridge WLI-H4-D1300 is a versatile dual band media bridge connecting up to four network-enabled wired devices, such as media players and gaming consoles, using the 802.11ac network. Using the 5 GHz and 2.4 GHz spectrum for transfer speeds up to 1300 Mbps, the bridge offers uninterrupted HD video streaming and concurrent Internet access from multiple connected devices.
The WZR-D1800H and WLI-H4D1300 are available now at Fry’s, Frys.com and NewEgg.com at an estimated price of $179.99 each. For more information about Buffalo Technology see www.buffalotech.com.
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.”
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.
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.
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!
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.
In the first part of this series, I talked about how the 2.4 GHz band is not very conducive to reliable Wi-Fi. In this part, I will talk about the 5G WiFi’s interference avoidance benefits.
5G WiFi operates in a much cleaner, wider swathe of radio spectrum. 5G WiFi is therefore devoid of any interference from microwave ovens or cordless phones. Besides, the wider spectrum implies that neighboring Wi-Fi networks need not share the air waves as in the 2.4 GHz band. Clearly, the 2.4 GHz pain-points are addressed by 5G WiFi.
Now, 5G WiFi not only works in a different swathe of spectrum, but is also backward compatible with all your other existing Wi-Fi devices that works in 2.4 GHz. So, if your access point and your TV have 5G WiFi, then you get the benefits of this cleaner, wider spectrum. However, if one of your devices does not support 5G WiFi, don’t worry! That device will still work with other 5G WiFi devices in your network. It will, however, not benefit from the 5G WiFi goodness.
In summary, 5G WiFi elegantly addresses the interference problems with current Wi-Fi networks. It is, at the same time, completely interoperable with existing Wi-Fi devices. So, if you are considering an upgrade of your Wi-Fi access point or buying a PC/laptop in the second half of this year, there is only upside in going for a 5G WiFi device. You get blazing speeds, and the cleaner air results in much better coverage & reliability.