Wi-Fi is changing, but will anything really change?
Wi-Fi is a mess. I had hope we’d all be using 802.11n at high data rates (over 100 Mbps) before we jumped into yet another standard that will follow the messy pattern of the old standards. This means broken routers, interoperability issues, and general confusion. It has happened over and over and will happen again shortly.
This time, it is 802.11ac, for starters. It’s supposed to begin shipping next year at over 1.3 Gbps. Recently, I saw specs for 802.11n that were hitting 600 Mbps but never actually saw a product work at those speeds. But 1.3 Gbps has got to be a real topper. The joke is manufacturers are even thinking of putting this in phones as a way to run phones through smaller Wi-Fi networks.
This will never work as advertised. Never.
Ok, having gotten that off my chest, I will now sit back and wait for the nasty notes from the developers of the technology telling me how horribly wrong I am. I will mention that the WiMAX folks had me on speed dial each time I questioned that dying technology.
So, what can we really expect from this new technology? Well, to begin, it appears to be nothing more than a souped-up 802.11n. Using wider bandwidth and more MIMO antennas, it’s possible to up the total throughput of 802.11n.
So, this is not really a new invention, but a hot rod version of an old technology.
Delving into it further, the actual station-to-station single connection seems to peak at around 500 Mbps. And, yes, this is plenty fast, but my guess is that you’d have to be parked pretty close to get it.
Apparently this is the talk of Barcelona because the handset guys want to use it. What we really need to study, though, is 802.11ad, not 802.11ac. This is also known as WiGig—from the Wireless Gigabit Alliance. Nobody in the gizmo-centric mainstream tech press has said much about what this group is doing despite the fact that this has been operating since 2009 and has had a working spec since the middle of last year. Routers could be sold any minute.
The kicker here is that these guys are shooting for wireless data transfer speeds of 7 Gbps. This spec is also backward compatible with all the older 802.11 gear.
Pretty much everyone, from AMD to Intel to Panasonic, is in this club. The reason we are not sitting on this gear now seems to be the fact that it’s targeting home electronics, such as the TV set of the future. You know, streaming HD from some server to the big screen TV.
With something called WiGig Display Extension, the technology can connect wirelessly to some devices expected to be hooked to HDMI and DisplayPort I/O ports. It’s just another technology running like crazy to build a new market so we can watch more videos and watch more advertisements that sell us more junk. Hooray. I need to buy more junk and I need this new expensive gear to expedite the process.
If you look at the literature surrounding this technology, you’ll see that it got a minor send off in 2009, then hardly any attention. Now, it has joined forces with the Wi-Fi Alliance and we can finally expect some action. That means, you and I are going to have to buy new routers. Again.
I’m sure I’ll rig all this stuff up, look down at the throughput, and see 54 Mbps, like I always see. Things will not change!
If you want to learn more, visit the WiGig website. Tell them Dvorak sent you.
You can Follow John C. Dvorak on Twitter @therealdvorak.
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