Wi-Fi routers reach new speeds thanks to 802.11ad standard

Wireless networks using significantly higher-up-the-spectrum radio frequencies will allow media to be distributed faster than ever before. Equipment will be available soon.

CES 2016 802.11ad routers Qualcomm TP-LINK Acer
Credit: TP-LINK

Just as the digital consumer eschews downloading in favor of streaming, wireless hardware that can take advantage of the fastest download speeds are about to be launched. Luckily for the hardware makers, the gear will stream fast too.

TP-LINK, Qualcomm, and Acer have all just announced products that will take advantage of the latest, fast 802.11ad wireless standard (PDF).

Four-minute 4K

That technology is capable of downloading a 4K movie "in about four minutes," TP-LINK says of its upcoming router in a press release.

Throughput on the TP-LINK router can reach 7,200 Mbps (or about 7 Gbps) when all the radios are used. In comparison, the current generation of fastest wireless routers—using 8012.11ac—send and receive data at 3.2 Gbps with all radios in-use. I wrote about that batch of routers around this time last year.

Spectrum

One of the first products with the new tech, TP-LINK's new Talon AD7200 router, takes advantage of bandwidth and channels at 60GHz and can provide speeds of up to 4.6 Gbps on that band, the company says.

That 60GHz unlicensed spectrum, which the company calls a "new frequency," isn't used much right now and so is hoped to be interference-free.

However, one disadvantage is that those high frequencies don't propagate very far—the higher you go up the spectrum, the smaller and more easily the frequency is lost. This one, in fact, won't go through walls.

Combination frequencies

The router gets around this distance issue by providing the ultra-high speeds at 60 GHz in the same room as the router. It then steps down to 802.11ac—with its lower-down-the-spectrum, bigger wavelengths at 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz that can get around obstacles better—as the mobile devices move away from the router.

In other words, the technology takes advantage of high-speed line-of-sight paths nearby, and slower ones down the hallway. Good compromise.

Point-to-point 'zones'

It's a good idea. You can use the fast, higher frequencies to send data from the router to an important anchor TV, say, in the same room as the router and ISP pipe.

They then use slower, lower-down frequencies to send media to secondary devices around the home, such as smart home products like a thermostat or kids' game consoles. Just don't tell the kids.

Creating "zones" is how Qualcomm president Derek Aberle explained the point-to-point 60 GHz media delivery idea in a Consumer Electronics Show keynote this week, according to PC World. Qualcomm makes the router's chipset.

Faster frequencies

WiGig—as the 60 GHz "ad" technology is branded—isn't the only technology eyeing the juicy unlicensed spectrum way up in the millimeter bands. 5G is currently looking for a home too.

Nokia has been testing 73 GHz, and Samsung has been working with 28GHz for their upcoming 5G mobile offerings. I've written about 5G and its state of play in "Huawei 5G hits 3.6 gigabits per second in field test"

With new antenna designs, beam-forming and other innovative technologies that we're seeing, radios can begin to use those currently unused or under-used frequencies.

Those formerly unusable frequencies are quick and copious, albeit with range issues.

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