Full steam ahead for gigabit wireless, report says

The arrival of the first products based on 802.11ac will get a warm welcome later this year

The uptake of wireless networks based on 802.11ac is expected to be high when the first products arrive later this year, according to a report from IMS Research.

Over 3 million products with 802.11ac, including access points and notebooks, will be shipped in the first year of availability alone, IMS expects.

"That is a very positive start," said Filomena Berardi, senior market analyst at IMS.

The first products are expected to arrive in stores by the end of the year. Chipsets and routers were demonstrated at last week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

It won't be long before more laptops are shipped with 802.11ac than without, according to Berardi. The technology will then become more widespread, and in 2016 more than 400 million devices will be shipped.

It's now full steam ahead for the standard, according to IMS.

The upcoming 802.11ac standard will offer higher speeds than what is currently possible using 802.11n, thanks to the use of more spectrum and more advanced antenna technology.

But the performance improvements will come at a cost. Enterprises will have to buy new clients and access points, as existing Wi-Fi chipsets can't be upgraded to handle 802.11ac, according to Aruba Networks, which still expects that the technology will be very popular, it said.

The driving force is a growing amount of video traffic in enterprise networks, Aruba Networks' Peter Thornycroft said in arecent video on the basics of 802.11ac.

Not all products will have integrated support for the standard from day one. The first smartphones with 802.11ac won't arrive until 2014, IMS said. This is mainly a result of higher costs and also footprint issues, it said.

But smartphones and other clients will still be able to access W-Fi networks using 802.11n, as most access points will be able to handle both standards at the same time -- 802.11n on the 2.4GHz band and 802.11ac on the 5GHz band.

Despite tough economic conditions, enterprises are spending more money on Wi-Fi networks. Overall revenue grew more than 20 percent during the third quarter over the same period last year, driven in large part by a 40 percent bump in enterprise sales, according to market research company Dell'Oro Group.

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