Netgear to ship gigabit-speed wireless in May with 802.11ac router

The R6300 home router will be capable of 1.3Gbps using the emerging 802.11ac standard, the next generation of Wi-Fi

Gigabit-speed wireless LAN equipment that uses the emerging IEEE 802.11ac standard is about to hit the market, with Netgear saying on Thursday that it will start shipping a consumer 802.11ac router in May for a starting list price of US$199.99.

The Netgear R6300 WiFi Router will be able to achieve a speed of 1.3Gbps (bits per second) and extend the range of high-definition video streaming in homes, the company said. Because it's compatible with the DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) standard, the R6300 will be able to stream content to any DLNA device, including TVs, Blu-ray players and other home entertainment gear.

IEEE 802.11ac can go faster than the current 802.11n technology because of a variety of enhancements, including the ability to use a radio band as wide as 80MHz (versus 40MHz for 802.11n). That's possible because the new standard uses only the 5GHz band, which offers more non-overlapping channels than Wi-Fi's other band, at 2.4GHz. The R6300 will be able to use 802.11n and earlier Wi-Fi standards for both bands in addition to 802.11ac.

Netgear's is the first router based on Broadcom's 802.11ac silicon, which the chip maker introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show in January under the name 5GWiFi. Other chip vendors are also working on processors for 802.11ac. Broadcom's rival Qualcomm Atheros has said it will start shipping samples of chips with the new standard in the second quarter of this year.

The IEEE hasn't yet finished the standard, and the Wi-Fi Alliance does not plan to start a certification program for 802.11ac products until early in the first half of next year. But Broadcom believes any changes still to come in the standard will be relatively minor and can be applied to products already in the field.

Like 802.11n, the new standard presents a variety of modes and features that can provide different performance up to that 1.3Gbps top speed. Those include sending and receiving multiple data streams from multiple antennas and creating targeted streams that resist interference, using so-called "beam-forming." Also, consumers will need to have client devices equipped with 802.11ac in order to get top speeds. Phones, tablets, laptops and other devices built for the current or older standards will work with an 802.11ac router but won't get its optimal performance.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

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