At the International Consumer Electronics Show, Buffalo Technology previewed a prototype of what will eventually be its first 802.11ac wireless router, estimating the data rate at 1.3Gbps (though actual throughput will be less).
During Buffalo’s demonstrations, the AirStation WZR-1750H (with 11ac chips from Broadcom) was delivering throughput of about 450Mbps, which is the maximum data rate for today’s single-radio 3×3 802.11n configurations with 40MHz channels (actual 11n throughput would be much less than that). Buffalo says the final product, due out in the latter half of 2012, will surpass that throughput mark.
The 11ac AirStation will incorporate a three-data-stream 11ac radio, which runs only in the 5GHz band and uses much wider channels than 11n radios. The IEEE is expected to finalize 802.11ac in 2013, but the Wi-Fi Alliance will begin certifying interoperability for these new products later this year, based on a near-final version of the standard. The router also will pack a second radio using 802.11n, also with three data streams but in the 2.4GHz band, for an additional 450Mbps data rate.
A combination of technologies, several of them building on features introduced in the 11n standard, account for the jump in the data rate. These include: multiple data streams (as found in 11n), wide 80MHz channels, a denser modulation scheme, and beam-forming, which in effect focuses the energy more precisely to a given client. 11ac will deliver and sustain higher data rates for a given distance compared to 11n, and beam-forming (which is only an option in 11n) should sustain signal quality as range increases.
Buffalo’s 11ac radio will support three data streams, three transmit, and three receive antennas. The company also plans to release a client adapter—presumably a plug-in—for PCs and other devices. Buffalo didn’t go into more detail. Both router and adapter will ship in the latter half of 2012. The company also plans to release an 11ac “media bridge,” which will allow Ethernet devices such as PCs, TV sets, and media streaming devices to connect to an 11ac network via four Gigabit Ethernet ports.
Buffalo, headquartered in Japan but with U.S. offices in Austin, Texas, didn’t release pricing information.
[John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.]