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IEEE 802.11ac WLAN specification promises 10X speed improvements



January 9, 2014 – IEEE has approved 802.11ac-2013, which is intended to achieve higher multi-user throughput in wireless local area networks (WLANs). The amendment is intended to improve WLAN user experience by providing data rates up to 7Gbps in the 5GHz band (more than 10X the speed previously standardized).

“As wireless networks become more widely deployed, users are able to transition applications from fixed links to the convenience, freedom and versatility of wireless links,” said Bruce Kraemer, IEEE 802.11 working group chair.

The IEEE 802.11ac specification adds channel bandwidths of 80MHz and 160MHz with both contiguous and non-contiguous 160MHz channels for flexible channel assignment. It adds higher-order modulation in the form of 256 quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM), providing an additional 33% improvement in data rate. A further doubling of the data rate is achieved by increasing the maximum number of spatial streams to eight.

The IEEE 802.11ac amendment introduces a new technology to support multiple concurrent downlink transmissions, referred to as MU MIMO (multi-user, multiple-input, multiple-output). By using smart antenna technology, MU MIMO enables more efficient spectrum use, says IEEE, higher system capacity and reduced latency by supporting up to four simultaneous user transmissions. This is particularly useful for client devices with a limited number of antennas, such as smartphones and tablets.

More than 300 individuals from equipment and silicon suppliers, service providers, systems integrators, consultant organizations and academic institutions from more than 20 countries participated in IEEE 802.11ac’s development.