The Wi-Fi Alliance has announced the expansion of the 802.11ac standard to include new features that provide a higher-performance connectivity experience. Most Apple products offer 802.11ac compatibility, including Macs, the AirPort Extreme, and AirPort Time Capsule. The expanded 802.11ac could see implementation in future versions of the latter two devices, which are overdue for an upgrade.
New features in the expanded 802.11ac standard include:
- MU-MIMO: Networks with MU-MIMO are capable of multitasking by sending data to multiple devices at once rather than one-at-a-time, improving overall network efficiency and throughput
- 160MHz channels: Wi-Fi Certified ac increases the maximum channel bandwidth from 80 MHz channels to 160MHz channels, potentially doubling transmission speeds
- Four spatial streams: Device speeds are proportional to the number of spatial streams. Wi-Fi Certified ac now includes support for four spatial streams, up from three spatial streams.
- Extended 5GHz channel support: Wi-Fi Certified ac encourages device support for a greater number of available channels in 5GHz.
The features are designed to improve the efficiency of network traffic and ensure consumers can access the 1.3 Gbps top speed that the 802.11ac protocol can provide. For example, efficiency is particularly important in situations where the number of devices handled by one Wi-Fi access point increases exponentially (e.g. sports events, live concerts, LAN parties, etc.)
Wi-Fi Certified ac was the first version of Wi-Fi to break the gigabit barrier, accelerating the shift to greater utilization of the 5 GHz band. Now, more than 65 percent of devices are dual-band, operating in both 2.4GHz and 5GHz.