802.11ac Wave 2: Sooner, Not Later

Quantenna’s announcement today of a Wave 2 .11ac chipset is an indication that (a) Wave 2 is going to happen a lot sooner than many users (and analysts) assume, and (b) 802.11ac is, well, ditto.

A very hot topic of discussion at Interop this month was, of course, 802.11ac, and, specifically, when 802.11ac will become a force in the market. Some analysts are very skeptical of .11ac and believe that .11n has nothing to fear; even I have advised that continued purchases of .11n will almost certainly have positive ROI - I'm assuming that .11n systems won't be replaced en masse before 2018.

But other analysts have also expressed the opinion that customers will wait for Wave 2 of .11ac, which will bring wider channels, more streams, and what might be the killer feature of all, multi-user MIMO (MU-MIMO). And the general assumption has been that Wave 2 will not be seen before the end of 2014 - yes, 18 months from now.

Well, surprise, surprise, surprise. High-end Wi-Fi chip leader Quantenna [http://www.quantenna.com/] today announced [http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20130522006085/en/Quantenna-Announces-Availability-World%E2%80%99s-Fastest-Wi-Fi-Chipset] the first Wave-2 chipset, the QSR1000 [http://www.quantenna.com/qsr-1000.html] family. It features four streams (4x4) and MU-MIMO. Quantenna rates the initial product in this family at 1.7 Gbps, upping the 1.3 that is increasingly common today. 256-QAM and beamforming are also included. The products are sampling now, and I expect volume shipments before the end of this year.

I'm on record as forecasting that we'll see critical mass in the 802.11ac market - more .11ac than .11n being sold on a unit basis - in 2015. And I stand by that prediction. Really, are the other chip guys going wait 18 months to introduce and ship their Wave 2 products? I don't think so. If the lack of Wave 2 is a barrier to adoption (and it most certainly is not in every case), such certainly won't last long. And, even if enterprises need only .11n levels of throughput and capacity to meet their needs, they'll increasingly be doing that - while simultaneously preparing for future demands - with 802.11ac products.

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