Despite the fact that 802.11ac products have barely even penetrated the market up to this point, we now have another standard to keep our eyes on: 802.11ad. No, that's not some odd date format talking about the year 802, but rather an upcoming wireless standard that's said to be more revolutionary than evolutionary - the latter of which 802.11ac is.
Due in 2014, the 802.11ad standard will open up a new band, 60GHz, which will allow for transmission speeds far greater than the typical home network will offer - up to 7Gbit/s. It's important to note; that's just a theoretical maximum, and not likely what we'll see right out of the gate. As technology often proves, these maximums are rarely matched at official launch - look no further than the initial promise of 2TB SDXC cards, something I'm sure a lot of us were drooling over in 2009.
NETGEAR's 802.11ac-enabled N6300 Router
That said, if we see 802.11ad launch with even a fraction of that promised speed, it'd be something major. A personal beef I've had for a while is that 1Gbit/s Ethernet isn't interesting anymore. Generally speaking, top-end hard drives, such as WD's VelociRaptor 1TB, can often sustain speeds above 1Gbit/s (125MB/s). When I look at my Gigabit NAS, backed by 4x 2TB drives in a RAID 5 that can barely break 100MB/s, it makes me wish that 10Gbit/s Ethernet trickled down to the home a lot faster. Alas, $500 for a network adapter doesn't seem too intriguing at this point - and past that, you need products to support it.
It's for those reasons that 802.11ad intrigues me quite a bit. If we could even reach 2Gbit/s out of the gate, that means we've already doubled typical wired home networks. Then there's another thing to consider: 802.11ac, which can deliver up to 500Mbit/s per connection, can have its performance further degraded by the fact that its wireless signal isn't focused only on the device that's accessing it. 802.11ad, by contrast, does focus it's signal - which can hopefully prevent things like drop-outs.
Thanks to the performance that 802.11ad could enable, there's even been mention that it could stream uncompressed video - although I'm not sure that's a perk that will lure many people in.
If nothing else, I do hope that the 802.11ad launch won't be so clunky like the one for 802.11ac. To have the routers for months but no adapters to use with them is just absurd. That said, 802.11ad could truly become one of the biggest shifts in WiFi technology to date. As a data hound, I can't wait to see it be deployed.
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