The Beacon

Wi-Fi CERTIFIED™ ac: A year in and much to celebrate

Vijay Nagarajan

One thing worth celebrating this month—in the high-tech industry, that is—is the one-year anniversary of  Wi-Fi CERTIFIED™ ac, the latest generation of Wi-Fi®, based on the 802.11ac standard.

Wi-Fi CERTIFIED ac was originally conceptualized as a way to deal with the increasing number of connected electronic devices and the massive amounts of data they demand. For proof of these trends, one need look no further than the latest market statistics. IDC analysts, for example, predict that by the end of 2020, there will be an installed base of 212 billion devices connected, 30.1 billion of which will be connected autonomous things. And, according to the Cisco Visual Networking Index, by 2018 mobile data is expected to reach 18 exabytes per month (1 exabyte = 1 billion gigabytes).

Wi-Fi CERTIFIED ac helps solve this connectivity and data explosion conundrum by delivering greater speeds, better coverage and better power efficiency. Just consider a 3x3 Wi-Fi CERTIFIED ac device, which is common to most 802.11ac routers and high-end computing devices; it can serve up to 1.3 Gbps of data. With Wi-Fi CERTIFIED ac, greater speeds result from the expanded use of bandwidth, up to 80 MHz, and increased data transfer efficiency. The use of technologies like beamforming enable increased coverage as well.

Over the past year, great progress has indeed been made. The number of Wi-Fi CERTIFIED ac devices on the market has grown and a number of leading smartphones now include 802.11ac for connectivity.

But the momentum doesn’t stop there. The quest for more and more data consumption continues to grow, leaving smaller devices to turn to faster and faster Wi-Fi. Smartphones are looking to 2-stream 802.11ac to help them push more than 800 Mbps.

Progress has also been made with regard to channel availability. Since the certification of 802.11ac devices first began, additional spectrum has been made available for operation in the 5 GHz band. This is good news since it allows for the availability of sufficient 80 MHz channels. It even opens up the possibility of using up to 160 MHz of bandwidth, which would translate into another 2X speed improvement.

Routers and gateways—those devices responsible for helping to lead the transition to any new technology—have also continued to push the limits of speed and capacity over the last year. In fact, with backward compatibility and simultaneous support for legacy 2.4 GHz devices, today's 802.11ac routers can now achieve up to 1.75 Gbps.

By all accounts it seems that one year in, everything has gone fairly well for 802.11ac. However, as with any new technology, challenges still abound. As more 802.11ac devices come on board, for example, consumers will need to be able to service their older 802.11n-based devices, while at the same time enjoying the benefits of 802.11ac. And that requires a router that can optimally service both 802.11ac and 802.11n devices. In other words, consumers will need to future proof their homes.                                           

In the coming years, as the demand for both data and connected devices continues, Wi-Fi CERTIFIED ac devices will undoubtedly continue to proliferate. Today we already see routers, gateways, smartphones, tablets, and PCs enabled with 802.11ac, but that’s just the beginning. By 2015, ABI predicts that 802.11ac will be in roughly 45% of all consumer Wi-Fi access points. Considering the fast connectivity the standard enables, that should come as no great surprise to anyone and it’s something definitely worth celebrating.

Wi-Fi CERTIFIED ac not only has the ability to handle today’s demanding applications and even more demanding consumers, it also lays the groundwork for new products and services for the home, public locales, and the enterprise. As a proud member of Wi-Fi Alliance®, Broadcom is excited and strongly committed to helping define and deliver best-in-class Wi-Fi to meet consumers’ needs, both today and into the future.

The statements and opinions by each Wi-Fi Alliance member and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions or views of Wi-Fi Alliance or any other member. Wi-Fi Alliance is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information provided by any member in posting to or commenting on this blog. Concerns should be directed to

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Vijay Nagarajan

Vijay Nagarajan is the Vice President, Wireless Connectivity Division at Broadcom Inc.