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What is 802.11ac?

802.11ac is the next generation of WiFi — the fifth, to be specific — and it’s poised to benefit our wireless experience with even faster throughput and more stable connections.

802.11ac is a faster and more scalable version of 802.11n. Itís designed to offer wireless speeds of up to 1.3 Gigabits per second. Thatís more than double the bandwidth of the current standard, 802.11n. On the scalability front, it allows for up to eight multiple input, multiple output (MIMO) streams and multi-user MIMO.

MIMO uses several antennas to move multiple data streams from one place to another. Instead of sending and receiving a single stream of data, MIMO can simultaneously transmit and receive multiple streams of data. This allows more data to be transmitted in the same period of time. This technique can also increase range, or the distance over which data can be transmitted.

802.11ac also utilizes a technique called beamforming, which directs a concentrated wireless signal to a specific area — in this case, the 802.11ac wireless device you’re using. In order for beamforming to work, you need a router or base station that supports it, and a device capable of talking to the router.

What are the benefits for consumers?

What all of this adds up to is a faster, more stable, more capable home wireless network. It should make file downloads faster, peer-to-peer sharing near-instantaneous, and video and music streaming much smoother. The increased range of 802.11ac will mean fewer "dead spots" in homes served by a single Wi-Fi router.

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Revised: 06/18/2013