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Gigabit Wi-Fi previewed at CES

A number of vendors are showing off early demonstrations of gigabit Wi-Fi at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas this week. By choosing CES as the venue for these demos, the implication is clear. Vendors see home electronics as an early proving ground for gigabit Wi-Fi technologies. Think wireless streaming of HD TV from your broadband connection to any device in your house.

Broadcom Corp. introduced 802.11ac chips at CES, what it describes as 5th generation (5G) Wi-Fi The top-line chip, the BCM4360, supports a 3-stream 802.11ac device that can transmit at theoretical top speeds of 1.3 Gbps. Broadcom is highlighting the potential of these chips for multimedia home entertainment. Consumer networking and storage vendor Buffalo Technology is showing off an 802.11ac router at the show. These vendors aren’t offering many specifics on when gigabit Wi-Fi products will be commercially available, but it’s safe to assume products will hit store shelves in the second half of this year.

802.11ac (which transmits at 5 GHz), and 802.11ad (which transmits at 60 GHz with theoretical throughput as high as 7 Gbps) are both IEEE standards that are still in development. A ratification of those standards won’t come before 2013. But the Wi-Fi industry has never waited for the final standards before. That’s what the Wi-Fi Alliance is here for: to make sure that all Wi-Fi technology, both pre-standard and post-standard, are interoperable and comply with the evolving standard.

The Wi-Fi Alliance, the industry association that certifies Wi-Fi technologies for interoperability, said it is developing a new interoperability program for both 802.11ac and 802.11ad right now.

You should probably expect enterprise wireless LAN vendors to start demonstrating their own 802.11ac and 802.11ad products and prototypes in the next few months. Interop Last Vegas might be generate a lot of gigabit Wi-Fi noise this year.

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