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Gigabit WiFi coming on Apples?

February 14, 2012

The growth of mobile internet traffic is HUGE and has baffled mobile network (cellphone) operators. For instance AT&T reported a doubling of wireless data volume on their mobile network last year. Cisco in their anual ‘Visual Networking Index” calculated that the average volume for Smartphones (iPhones and the other ones) is 150 MBytes/ month and for Tablets (iPads etc) 517 MB/month. Both traffic types more than double every year, with the volume of mobile data use of smartphones growing faster than the volume on tablets. Faced with the upgrades needed for the networks to handle this huge traffic without congestion and with the upcoming investments in the 4G fourth generation mobile technology (LTE+) and extra frequency room they need, the operators are starting to throttle this flow by asking more money. Instead of unlimitted datavolume + time tariff for voice contracts, new tariffs are implemented with gradual ceilings for call minutes, MBytes, speed of download. Typical example is KPN who states the new tariffs for business customers for smartphones in 7 layers starting with 100 call minutes/ 125 MB/ 1.0 Mbit/s for 25 Euro/month. To the highest layer: 2250 min / 1000MB (= 1 GByte)/  7,2 Mb/s for 200 Euro/month; plus a lot of bells and whistles.

What the mobile operators seem to disregard or do not want to know is that most datatraffic of smartphones, tablets and laptops is not generated in public places but  handled  in-office and in-house with Wi-Fi wireless connection to fixed line internet with corporate networks, ADSL or Cable modems. Looking at home at a film on your iPad leads to 20 to 40 GBytes of data transfer at a rate of for instance 10 Mbit/s on Wi-Fi— ADSL. This would eat up my datacontract if I did that mobile, for instance  in a train, in no time. So I doubt that LTE+ will satisfy the expectations of the public in public places at all. And for reasons unknown to me the telco’s in their devine and greedy wisdom skipped WiMax after 3G (UMTS).

In comes the new and improved version of WiFi called “gigabit WiFi”  (for the geeks: Yes, is should be written “Gigabit/sec Wi-Fi”) has been developed by the telecom engineers that cooperate in the workgroups of the IEEE 802.11ac studygroup. Some people call it 5G but I do not think it is, since it is meant for IN-HOUSE use. The first IC’s for this upcoming standard have been baked and rumor is that Apple will implement it in the upcoming iPad3 and/or iPhone5, as well as the new access point (AP) box. Apple was also the first to implement Wi-Fi in their line of computers and laptops. Since then the combination of Wi-Fi and ADSL is an enormous success. So they can pull of such a scoop again.

A bit more about GigaBit Wi-Fi. Yes it is faster than Wi-Fi is (10 – 100 Mbit/s), which means gigabit/sec speeds which is done by taking larger chunks of radio spectrum (number of MHz per wireless link). This is done in the 5 GHz band available for unlicensed use in most countries, instead of Wi-Fi that uses the 2.4 GHz unlicensed band but can also operate in the 5 GHz band. The present iPad for instance can do that. Problem however with this higher wireless spectrum is that it gets less well through walls within a home than 2,4 GHz. This could lead to a problem which most of you will have encountered but which is seldom mentioned by the manufacturers: Wi-Fi reception field strength fluctuates when you are at the edges of the coverage radiated field, as if there are  gusts of wind. Normaly this is not noticable to the users but in such situation like you use your laptop on the top floor of the house the internet connection stops suddenly and restarts after a while. What the enigineers did was to optimise gigabit wifi aka IEEE 802.11ac with multiple antenna’s (up to 8) so it works with a protocol called MiMo (multiple in, multiple out) which splits and directs multiple wireless links to several points in the house at the same time for several users who live in the house, with optimal connections that do go through walls better than Wi-Fi did. At least that is what the chip manufacturers tell us. It remians to be seen how well gigabit Wi-Fi behaves if people (and their iPads) move through the house.

So to summarize: we expect Apple to introduce gigabit Wi-Fi soon, possibly alongside LTE+ Fourth Generation Mobile capabilities for outside use. Gigabit Wi-Fi is faster and has better IN-HOME performance than the present very successful and massively used Wi-Fi. I forecast that in the future even higher radio frequencies will be used that will not go through walls at all (so no licence is needed) and will be coupled by simple room to room repeaters, or inhouse fiber. Something which is underestimated at present is that with Gigabit Wi-Fi the difference in experience of iPads, iPhones or laptops on wireless and wired connections to the internet will disappear, will no longer be noticable.  Great. But at home this will put presure on the capacity of ADSL and Cable modem links. I expect that the families that are so lucky to have Fibre-t0-the-Home will suddenly see that they have a real advantage over the copper connected. Multiple gigabit/s fiber links are no problem and should not be costly. That is what optic fibers are made for!!!

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3 Comments
  1. A friend of mine mentioned that Wi-Fi version 802.11n already implemented MiMo which could boost link speeds to 300 Mbit/sec. That is right but that is done by combining the different skattered ‘routes’, each with a narrow capacity, through a building into one faster link.
    In this new gigabit Wi-Fi implementation the routes themselves are more broadband by having larger chunks of the 5 GHz band for each route to a different user in the house. Each of them can now see streaming HD video or upload films from his/her own room at the same time.

    And since the 5 GHz band is enclosed better within walls (including modern windows) the 5 Ghz frequency band in your house does not have to be shared, or less, with the neighbors or offices nearby.

  2. Cisco is also hinting at the solution to the congestion problems coming up in mobile networks for mobile internet data use: offloading via Wi-Fi (and in my opinion Gig Wi-Fi):

    http://www.zdnet.com.au/mobile-to-go-wi-fi-within-a-year-cisco-339332502.htm

    Rather brave of Cisco since they may contradict outdated views of their clients the Telco’s and cable co’s !!!

  3. broodjejaap permalink

    Since the name BroodjeJaap does not catch on outside the Netherlands and Belgium, I continue writing my blogs at http://theconnectivist.wordpress.com/

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