802.11ac Wi-Fi's 'Wave 2' Standard Is Faster Than Ever

The industry body that certifies devices and chipsets as meeting the Wi-Fi standard -- that means they can use the black-and-white 'Wi-Fi' logo, and that those gadgets will be guaranteed to work correctly with the various wireless frequencies and communication methods that exist -- has just signed off on a brand new level of performance that's more comprehensive than ever. Expect your future smartphones, laptops and tablets to transfer data wirelessly up to twice as fast, with less interference and congestion and massively improved overall network efficiency.

Image credit: ImgTec

The new standard in question is 802.11ac Wi-Fi -- already ridiculously fast, with individual 5GHz channel speeds of up to 867Mbps. Wave 2, as it's known, supercharges the already existing tech behind Wave 1 802.11ac with new technologies like multi-user, multiple input multiple output -- y'know, MU-MIMO -- and wider channel bandwidth that should allow for faster outright transfers.

With maximum channel widths of up to 160MHz, wave 2 AC Wi-Fi has twice the potential throughput of the current 802.11ac devices and routers already on the market. Similarly, previous chips used a maximum of three input and three output streams, but the new standard can use a maximum of four each way. What does this mean to you? Well, the laptops and routers and smartphones that you buy from around the third quarter of this year onwards will likely support the new Wave 2 specification, which means faster and more reliable Wi-Fi.

New devices that support Wi-Fi Certified 802.11ac Wave 2 are already out on the market, like the ImgTec Creator Ci40, that are designed mostly for enthusiast use -- but high-end Wi-Fi routers using the Qualcomm, Marvel, Mediatek and Broadcom chipsets will likely come out in the coming weeks and months. We'll let you know of any new Wave 2 routers as they're released.

* MU-MIMO: Networks with MU-MIMO are capable of multitasking by sending data to multiple devices at once rather than one-at-a-time, improving overall network efficiency and throughput    * 160 MHz channels: Wi-Fi CERTIFIED ac increases the maximum channel bandwidth from 80 MHz channels to 160 MHz channels, potentially doubling transmission speeds    * Four spatial streams: Device speeds are proportional to the number of spatial streams. Wi-Fi CERTIFIED ac now includes support for four spatial streams, up from three spatial streams.    * Extended 5 GHz channel support: Wi-Fi CERTIFIED ac encourages device support for a greater number of available channels in 5 GHz. Support for additional channels makes more efficient use of available spectrum and reduces interference and congestion by minimizing the number of networks operating on overlapping channels.    Wi-Fi CERTIFIED ac was the first version of Wi-Fi to break the gigabit barrier, accelerating the shift to greater utilization of the 5 GHz band. Now, more than 65 percent of devices are dual-band, operating in both 2.4 and 5 GHz. The Wi-Fi CERTIFIED interoperability certification program will increase product support for newly supported features from a wide variety of mobile devices and access points, and 96 percent of devices will be dual-band by 2020. Access points supporting new features are expected to dominate the market within the next five years.