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Wi-Fi 802.11ac to drive wireless HD video in the home

With routers, smartphones, tablets, and TVs expected to adopt Wi-Fi 802.11ac over the next few years, the upcoming standard will be the linchpinch for wireless HD video streaming, says NPD In-Stat.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
2 min read

Streaming high-definition video wirelessly throughout your home will be a major benefit of Wi-Fi 802.11ac in the next few years, says NPD In-Stat.

Expected to receive final approval by the IEEE toward the end of this year, 802.11ac will boast several improvements over 802.11n. The new wireless flavor will offer speeds surpassing 1 gigabit per second, almost three times that of 802.11n. It also promises to provide better coverage throughout an entire home with fewer dead spots.

From a technical standpoint, the new standard will use such technologies as beamforming and higher amplitude modulation to send more data faster and more efficiently than 802.11n, NPD In-Stat analyst Gregory Potter told CNET. And 802.11ac will help smartphones and other mobile devices by providing higher bandwidth and a savings in power compared with 802.11n.

As 802.11ac starts to hit a variety of gadgets, including laptops, smartphones, tablets, and TVs, Potter sees high-definition video as the major beneficiary.

"The primary use case for consumers using 802.11ac is for video distribution," the analyst said late last week. "One scenario would be utilizing 802.11ac in a cable or satellite set top box for distribution of video to multiple televisions outside the main viewing area. Another would be utilizing 802.11ac on a smartphone to stream HD video directly to a television."

Once 802.11ac is approved this year, it will then be ready for certification by the Wi-Fi Alliance in early 2013, Potter explained. That will then pave the way for its full adoption by technology and consumer electronics companies.

At first, though, the industry will likely release a slew of "draft" 802.11ac devices, just as was seen with Wireless-N. Several vendors already showed off some of their upcoming 802.11ac products at CES earlier this month, including Buffalo, which demoed its first wireless router powered by the new protocol.

The first smartphones sporting 802.11ac will pop up early in 2013, forecasts Potter. Digital televisions adopting the new standard will also appear next year, with NPD In-Stat projecting more than 2 million 802.11ac-equipped TVs .

But consumers will probably have to wait until around 2015 before 802.11ac really latches onto the market.

At that point, the analyst expects 802.11ac to appear in more than 18 million routers, 25 million TVs, 129 million tablets, 184 million notebooks, and 279 million smartphones. Altogether, around 1 billion devices equipped with the new standard are forecast to ship in another three years.