802.11ac Benefits: The Myths And The Reality

As the ever-ambitious wireless manufacturers rush to get their own iterations of devices supporting 802.11ac on the shelves, hype about how the average end user will benefit from this new wireless standard overshadows its real advantages.

Like 802.11n before it, there are so many impressive and exciting features defining 802.11ac that people are having difficulty grasping the reality of the standard and how it will improve user experience. As a result, many manufacturers try to nonchalantly summarize the new standard and its advances in bumper sticker fashion: First Gigabit Wireless! Nearly 7Gbps potential! Wireless switching! In a typical manner for the marketing in this industry, the average user is misled.

For example, it should be obvious that no one will be getting their hands on an eight spatial stream device -- the only way of attaining the theoretical max rate of 6993Mbps. As was the case with RIFS, STBC, the virtually non-existent fourth spatial stream, and other "enhancements" within the 802.11n standard, aspects of the new standard likely will not come to fruition.

The 802.11ac marketing claims also ignore the technical fact that the calculated data rates at the physical layer do not accurately depict the true observable throughput, which is ultimately what a consumer is thinking about when he or she reads the advertised "speeds" on the box of their next wireless device.

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