Industry divided on 802.11ac

Caroline Gabriel/Wireless Watch
21 Feb 2012


Broadcom, one of the chip suppliers which has chosen to launch silicon ahead of the finalized 802.11ac gigabit standard, says it will target enterprises and carriers first.


But the industry is divided on whether the souped-up Wi-Fi will deliver sufficient benefits to corporate to justify the risk of a platform which may have to be tweaked later to comply fully with the eventual specifications.


Broadcom has often leapt early into new Wi-Fi generations, at the point where it believes any further changes to the standard will be easily addressed in software. The risk paid dividends when the company took the first plunge into 802.11g back in 2003, grabbing the Wi-Fi market lead in the process, but the benefits were less clear when 11n came along in 2006.


Early movers like Marvell admitted that there were problems with pre-standard 11n in terms of performance and interoperability (Marvell has, this time around, decided to wait until 11ac is frozen before going commercial with its silicon). Companies "should wait until the standard is ratified and Wi-Fi certification is implemented," Gartner Group advised in the early phase of 11n.


But this time, the influential research firm has changed its tune, with analyst Paul DeBeasi saying: "Enterprises can't stand by and wait [for 11ac]. There are now more Wi-Fi devices than humans in many enterprises”, putting a huge strain on the corporate WLan‟s capacity, as does the rising use of data hungry tablets.


Such trends have brought Broadcom into the space early, and it has provided more details of its first 11ac platform, the BCM 43460. This supports 3x3 MIMO antenna arrays and promises to treble the speed of previous generation 802.11n devices – with six times better power efficiency.


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