Will 802.11ac Drive Connectivity in Hospitals?

April 26, 2013, 9:06 am

According to a recent eWeek article, 802.11ac (which we discuss in this post) "could drive a new way of connectivity in hospitals". Unfortunately, this article, which is based on an interview with one "expert", vastly overestimates the short-term impact of 802.11ac on client devices used in hospitals.

The article stumbles early with a claim that 802.11ac will enable an iPhone in a hospital to achieve a data rate of 450 megabits per second (Mbps). High data rates require a client device to support multiple spatial streams, or parallel paths for transmitted data. As we explain in our September 2012 blog post, smartphones will not support multiple spatial streams because:

  • Such support requires the use of more than one antenna simultaneously, something that has not been attempted on smartphones.
  • Antennas must be over 5 cm (one 5 GHz wavelength) apart, which is difficult to accomplish on a smartphone.
  • Spatial streams work only when a client device is stationary; smartphones often are mobile when is use.

While infrastructure devices such as access points can exploit all of the enhancements of 802.11ac, client devices such as iPhones cannot. 802.11ac will appear on client devices before the end of this year, but the impact of 802.11ac on those devices will be negligible. To learn more about the realistic expectations for 802.11ac, read our blog post 802.11ac and Wi-Fi® Client Devices.

One thing that the article gets right is the fact that 802.11ac operates in the 5 GHz band. Today, the majority of client devices operate in the 2.4 GHz band, so most device makers have little to no experience with 5 GHz operation. Embedded Wi-Fi solutions from Laird Technologies have provided enterprise-grade 5 GHz operation since 2008. To learn more about 5 GHz operation, read our white papers on the topic.