For all of use who have been waiting for greater support for the next generation of WiFi—802.11ac—in devices (routers have already started hitting the shelves), your wait might soon be over. Apple and Broadcom are reportedly working together on a 802.11ac chip for Macs and other devices that could be ready this year.
The 802.11ac standard is still being revised, but has already come out in some routers and access points (I have some from Linksys running at home), but widespread support in laptops and devices hasn’t arrived yet. Reportedly Apple and Broadcom are working now on a chip to bring 802.11ac support that will boost wireless transmission rates to near-wired speeds:
While it’s believed that Apple’s 2013 Mac lineup will feature the same designs as their late-2012 counterparts, they are set to include a range of updated internal features and hardware. We’ve learned about one such chipset change – the inclusion of 802.11ac networking – providing Apple’s updated Mac range with super-fast WiFi connectivity.
802.11ac is often referred to as 5G WiFi, offering faster throughput, higher capacity, wider coverage and improved power efficiency. Products offering 802.11n connectivity (found in most consumer electronics) provide connections up to 450Mbps with three antennas, while 802.11ac equivalents start at 450Mbps for one antennae and are capable of almost tripling its predecessor with 1.3Gbps throughput via three antennas.
What would this do for us? Well, beyond faster downloads and in-network file transfers (like iOS to Mac AirDrop), AirPlay and home streaming will be better and more reliable. I can tell you from my own experience you see an immediate difference using AirPlay and Home Sharing when you use 802.11ac. I have an ac router in my office and a corresponding ac media device that I connect my Apple TV to upstairs. When I use only wireless on my Apple TV, movies and music streamed from my Mac downstairs (with a wired connection to the router), take several minutes to start streaming. When I have the Apple TV use a wired connection to the ac media relay, movies start almost immediately. Now, if we had that kind of gigabit connection natively over wireless on all devices, that would certainly be a treat and opens up a whole range of expanded possibilities for file sharing, games, and multimedia.
For newer devices, we might see a speed boost with updated firmware in existing 802.11n chips—if the device has multiple WiFi antennas to handle it—otherwise you’ll have to wait to replace it with an updated model.