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802.11ac is a draft standard for Wi-Fi® operation developed by the IEEE Standards Association. It is a superset of 802.11n and, more importantly, is interoperable with 802.11n and previous standards.
802.11ac was developed to meet the need for higher Wi-Fi throughput. According to an Ixia white paper, video content is expected to reach more than 70% of global traffic by 2017. With Wi-Fi handling more and more video, mobile device data syncing, and data backup, Wi-Fi needs higher throughput than what is available currently with 802.11n.
802.11ac achieves this by enabling higher data rates, higher capacity, and lower latency. This improves performance in many applications (such as streaming HD video) due to its wider channels and enhanced beamforming capabilities.
According to an article for PC World, IEEE isn’t expected to finish the work for this new standard until November 2013, with final ratification in February 2014. Since many vendors are already launching products based on the draft 802.11ac standard, however, the Wi-Fi Alliance is launching the 802.11ac certification program.
The Alliance recently announced that it is expanding its Wi-Fi CERTIFIED™ program to include 802.11ac. As with Wi-Fi CERTIFIED programs for previous standards (like 802.11b and 802.11n), the Wi-Fi CERTIFIED ac program will focus on the interoperability of client devices from one vendor to another.
The certification program is open to any type of Wi-Fi equipment, which tests for specification compliance, minimum performance requirements, interoperability across vendors, and backwards compatibility.
802.11ac will drive more Wi-Fi traffic from the 2.4 GHz band to the 5 GHz band, which today is relatively uncluttered. As mentioned in the previous Laird blog post, "802.11ac and Wi-Fi® Client Devices," client devices that use streaming video, such as smartphones and tablets, will be the first in line for 802.11ac support. But initial 802.11ac support on many of these client devices may prove disappointing.
One reason is that, because of its support for channels as wide as 160 MHz, 802.11ac will be available only in the 5 GHz band. Today, the Wi-Fi radios in the vast majority of smartphones, tablets, and other consumer devices operate only in the 2.4 GHz band. As detailed in our white papers, 5 GHz operation is very different than 2.4 GHz operation, and most device makers have little experience with 5 GHz operation. Initial implementations may be buggy.
To learn more about the Wi-Fi Certified ac program launch, visit www.wi-ficertifiedac.com.