2012 – The year of 802.11ac

802.11ac is expected to be a natural progression from 802.11ac and become the accepted industry standard by the Wi-fi Alliance by Summer 2012 because of its many improvements and benefits.


The long awaited 802.11ac has finally hit the market in a big way. This year’s CES has showcased new products from Broadcom, Buffalo, D-Link, Trendnet and many others.

Here at IMS Research we believe it’s now full steam ahead for the standard! Many companies interviewed for our latest report “802.11 – Diversifying into new markets – 2012” considered it to be a natural progression from 802.11n to the new standard.

It is forecast that it will be widely adopted, since the performance of the 802.11ac standard is a huge leap from its 802.11n predecessor. The benefits of 802.11ac over 802.11n include: channel bandwidths of 80 MHz and 160 MHz (against 40 MHz maximum in 802.11n); support for up to 8 spatial streams (against 4 in 802.11n); 1.3 Gbps transmission rate (three times faster than 802.11n); and its ability to operate in the 5-GHz spectral band, which will mean that devices are less likely to suffer from interference.

The Wi-Fi Alliance has not yet approved 802.11ac. However, this is expected in mid-2012; with retail products anticipated for release in 4Q 2012. In spite of this, IMS Research believes that over 3 million 802.11ac-enabled devices will be shipped in the first year alone; and predicts that over 400 million devices will be shipped in 2016. 

Uptake of the new standard in portable computing devices will be very aggressive and that it won’t be long before more will be shipped with 802.11ac than 802.11n. As for use in smartphones, although 802.11ac is an interesting proposition, we believe it might be 2014 before we see the first 802.11ac-enabled smartphone. This is mainly as a result of its higher cost and also footprint issues. However, with users demanding higher throughput and wider bandwidths for specific applications, 802.11ac will eventually have a huge impact on this market and many others!

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