The latest generation 802.11n routers promises theoretical speeds up to 450 MB/s and in practice the 100 MB/s has been more than surpassed. The desire for faster wireless connections remains, however. The solution is 802.11ac, a new standard with theoretical speeds in excess of 1000 MB/s.
Wi-Fi is a real success story. Nowadays we can't imagine a laptop, tablet or smartphone without a wireless network connection. The number of devices that can connect wirelessly to the internet keeps growing. Research suggests that 40 percent of American households own six or more online devices, most of which are connected wirelessly. About seven percent of households have 11 or more devices that are connected to the internet. This number will continue to grow.
New internet usage patterns require faster and faster connections. Many years ago when the internet mostly consisted of simple text pages the 11 MB/s of the 802.11b standard was more than enough. Nowadays we watch streaming HD video online and we work with files in online cloud services as if they were located on our own hard drive. The combination of new usage trends and more simultaneous users of wireless networks cause even a state-of-the-art 802.11n network to be slow at times.
Users that download large files or want to view streaming HD video without hiccups, are best off connecting an ethernet cable to their PC. This dependency on a wired connection will disappear, if the 802.11 club gets its way. The new 802.11ac standard claims speeds exceeding the gigabit per second. Connections are supposed to be more reliable as well. While the standard probably won't be definitive until the end of 2013, the first 802.11ac devices will hit the market mid-2012 already. During the recent CeBIT and CES fairs a few router manufacturers demonstrated the speeds that will be possible with the new standard. Let's take a closer look at this new standard.