First 802.11ac routers emerge promising faster WiFi at greater range
By Nick Moore
May 13, 2012
With wireless home networks becoming increasingly crowded as more and more mobile devices appear under our roofs jostling for bandwidth, many will be pleased to see the upcoming 802.11ac WiFi standard stepping out from the planning meetings and laboratories and into the real world. Both Netgear and Belkin have announced plans to release dual-band routers supporting the new 5G WiFi standard that will boast speeds of up to 1,300 Mbps on the 5 GHz band and 450 Mbps on 2.4 GHz.
While Netgear has announced its R6300 Dual-Band Gigabit WiFi Router, Belkin is yet to make any specific product announcements. However, Netgear’s R6300 and Belkin’s upcoming line of wireless dual-band routers will feature Broadcom’s fifth generation (5G WiFi) 802.11ac chip. First unveiled at CES 2012, Broadcom says the first family of 802.11ac chips are three times faster and up to six times more power efficient than their 802.11n predecessors.
With the range of the average dual band 802.11n router also decreasing sharply as distance from the router increases, the 802.11ac WiFi standard promises a boost in range capabilities and reduction in "dead spots" through advances such as Beamforming technology that directs content in the direction of the intended receiver.
What does 1.3 Gbps mean for the average user? HD video mostly, as the increased bandwidth ensures that the router can handle multiple devices streaming full resolution video, which could make a big difference in the home filled with iPads and Smart TVs, all connecting to streaming services. In contrast, for power users who subscribe to top tier speeds from their internet provider, an AC router could essentially render your stash of Ethernet cables useless, thanks to blazing download speeds once reserved for wired connections only.
Much like B, G, and N, the AC standard of Wi-Fi will gradually take over the landscape of home networking. Of course, you'll need to upgrade not only your router, but your various wireless devices to get the full benefits of the shift to 802.11ac. Thankfully, routers built around Broadcom's 802.11ac chip are backwards compatible with all legacy 802.11 standards.
Netgear's R6300 Dual-Band Gigabit WiFi Router will be available this month for US$199.99, while we expect Belkin to announce details of its 802.11ac compatible dual-band router line in the near future.