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Broadcom backs 802.11ac WiFi standard

Posted: 14 Dec 2011 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:WiFi standard? 802.11ac? 802.11n?

Broadcom Corp. has announced that it is supporting the forthcoming 802.11ac WiFi standard. The company is hoping to replace the current 802.11n standard in its consumer electronics hardware lines with the new standard by the end of 2012.

Rahul Patel, Broadcom's vice president of mobile and wireless told press at a recent briefing that 802.11ac would almost double the range of 802.11n systems, increase the available bandwidth, improved device battery life and exist on the currently far less congested 5Gz spectrum.

With reports showing that 50 percent of content consumed today on devices is video, with four-fold growth to 91 percent expected by 2015, Patel said the current standard was simply not able to deal with the sheer amount of data being pushed through it from an increasing number of connected devices.

802.11ac 802.11ac

The 802.11ac standard also purportedly has better beam forming capabilities, which would make it easier to send content through physical obstacles

Early data on 802.11ac purports that the standard would offer faster throughput, much broader coverage and higher capacity for content streaming, as well as allowing more devices to be simultaneously connected to the network, reducing connectivity deadspots and allowing devices to work for longer without needing to be plugged in.

"802.11ac allows you to take the link budget to new heights," said Patel, explaining that Broadcom believed the standard would take the WiFi experience to a new level, especially in terms of being able to digitally beam HD 1080p content from one's PC, tablet or phone to the TV.

"At 2.4Ghz there's only three channels, but at 5Ghz you have 20 odd channels to use so you have more power and reach, there's a much wider highway for the traffic," he noted, though he admitted that the standard would not be a long term fix. "There will be a point where 20 channels won't be sufficient, but for next few years we have a solution."

The 802.11ac standard also purportedly has better beam forming capabilities, which would make it easier to send content through physical obstacles like walls. "It allows for better coverage, less interference and higher channel width," he said adding that it was the "much needed plumbing for tomorrow's internet home."

The system, which would apparently be backwards compatible with 802.11n systems, would use a three-by-three antenna operating at 80MHz, allowing for download speeds of around 1.3Gbit/s. This, said Patel, would rise to about 2.6Gbit/s if the channel bandwidth was increased to 160MHz.

Patel posited that 802.11ac would certainly be more beneficial than competing standards like wireless HDMI or WiGig, owing to limitations in terms of range and being too costly for the mass market.

"We don't have two different groups competing," said Patel, explaining that most people in the industry were happy to rally behind one standard, be they OEMS, chipset manufacturers or content providers.

Despite Patel's insistence that the industry stands behind 802.11ac, however, the IEEE hasn't ratified it yet, and the first meeting to discuss it is scheduled for the first quarter of 2012, meaning full ratification could only be expected toward the end of 2013, once all the issues have been addressed and fixed.

The long time frame does not mean Broadcom intends to hold back, however, with Patel noting the firm should have products based on the standard already in production by the end of 2012.

The firm also hinted that it might even have 802.11ac device related news at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas in early January. Broadcom is developing several types of 802.11ac chipsets, which it says will address a broad set of customer segments and CE devices.

"We aspire to be in a leadership position for 802.11ac WiFi," said Patel adding that the firm would continue to push its engineering capabilities to achieve the standard sooner rather than later.

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