5G WiFi: Pioneering the New Generation of Wireless Connectivity

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!

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5G WiFi Ground Zero – Broadcom NETGEAR launch event

Here is the video of the 5G WiFi launch event that happened in San Francisco today. Hear Michael Hurlston, SVP Broadcom talk about the pervasiveness of Wi-Fi today, and the benefits of 5G WiFi. Patrick Lo, NETGEAR’s CEO talks to their leadership in the networking space. David Henry, NETGEAR’s VP Product Marketing demonstrates why 5G WiFi & the R6300 Wi-Fi routers are an absolute must for future proofing your home network.

NETGEAR Unveils 5G WiFi Routers and Notebook Adapter

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.

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.