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5G Wi-Fi: The 5th generation of Wi-Fi is here
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The first generation Wi-Fi launched 15 years ago brought forth wireless LAN (WLAN) applications, and the newer Wi-Fi standards that ensued have been providing faster transmission to notebooks, smartphones, and tablets. Over the past few years, Wi-Fi has even become available to consumer electronics and peripherals.

In terms of the emerging home applications, however, Wi-Fi 802.11g and 802.11n in the existing 2.4GHz band can no longer meet the requirement for HD streaming video transmission. As a result, 5G Wi-Fi - faster than 1 Gbps - is forthcoming.

Wireless video transmission expedited by 5G Wi-Fi

The trademark of 5G Wi-Fi can be noticed at the exhibition halls of Computex 2012 and on the shuttle buses for the event. This is what Michael Hurlston said at his key note speech for "Computex Taipei Digitimes Tech Forum 2012 - Mobile Technology." Hurlston is Senior Vice President and General Manager of Wireless Combo Connectivity Line of Business, Broadcom. He also noted 5G Wi-Fi-related products exhibited by some companies at Computex.

Why is there the 5G Wi-Fi standard? What are the benefits of the standard? According to Hurlston, Wi-Fi dominates all the applications of digital home devices and every consumer needs Wi-Fi. According to a Broadcom survey of about 1,000 people in America, 60% of the respondents said that they cannot do without Wi-Fi on any single day; 39% said that they are willing to give up drinking coffee for one month in exchange for Wi-Fi; and 50% are willing to give up Facebook for one month in exchange for Wi-Fi.

Videos amounted to 29.5% of the global network traffic in 2009, and the percentage increased to 42.7% and 53.6% respectively in 2010 and 2011, but the explosive growth of videos is just beginning. According to VNI's statistics and forecast in June 2011, more than 50% of the global network packet traffic comes from video transmission and network streaming traffic alone exceeds 1 ExaBytes. By 2015, the percentage of online video traffic is expected to exceed 91% and 7 ExaBytes, four times of the traffic in 2012.

Prevalent Wi-Fi for PC, mobile devices, and consumer electronics

According to Hurlston, as online video traffic is on the rise globally, the types of devices for online video viewing have started to change. According to a Sandvine Broadband Report in October 2011, 90% of online video viewing used to rely on desktops and 10% used to rely on game consoles, smart TV, set-top boxes (STBs), tablet devices, and smartphones, but now only 45% rely on desktops while 55% rely on game consoles, smart TV, set-top boxes, tablet devices, smartphones, and other mobile devices.

He noted the ongoing increase of Wi-Fi applications and types of Wi-Fi devices. In 2008, Wi-Fi was built in on smartphones, notebooks and game consoles, but since then built-in Wi-Fi has been expanding to smart TV, set-top boxes, vehicle electronics and entertainment systems. The number of Wi-Fi built-in devices around the world is expected to exceed 3.2 billions in 2012, and then smart meters, e-healthcare devices, remote control helicopters, and even refrigerators as well as laundry machines will have Wi-Fi built in. The number of Wi-Fi built-in devices around the world is expected to exceed five billions by 2014.

When Wi-Fi 801.11n - the mainstream standard at present - was introduced in 2007, continuous transmission of massive streaming videos of high definition as required by today's mobile devices and consumer electronics had not been expected. As a result, 5G Wi-Fi is the only solution now.

Wi-Fi evolution and technology advancement

According to Hurlston, from 1997 to 1998, speed of the 1st-generation Wi-Fi 802.11 was only 2Mbps. From 1999 to 2001, the 2nd-generation Wi-Fi 802.11b accelerated wireless transmission to 11Mbps. From 2002 to 2006, the 3rd-generation Wi-Fi 802.11g/a increased it to 54Mbps. From 2007 to 2011, the 4th-generation Wi-Fi 802.11n raised the limit to 600Mbps (4 channels). The current limit is 450Mbps (3 channels).

The 5G Wi-Fi 802.11ac launched in 2012 enables single-channel transmission at 450Mbps, three times of 150Mbps of 802.11n. At present, 802.11ac supports four MIMO channels (1.8Gbps) and will support up to eight MIMO channels. Therefore, the mainstream design of three transreceiver antennas for MIMO may reach 1.35Gbps. 5G Wi-Fi 802.11ac is also compatible with 802.11n (2.4GHz/5Ghz).

Hurlston pointed out the features of 5G Wi-Fi as the following:

(1) Highest speed of streaming video transmission.

(2) Higher capacity for networking of more devices.

(3) Wider network coverage that is three to four times of the existing 802.11n to reduce dead spots.

(4) A longer battery life resulting from faster transmission that shortens the time required for high power consumption. At present, 5G Wi-Fi is able to concurrent transmit three HD 1080p streaming videos.

HD streaming video playing evidenced by 5G Wi-Fi device demo

Hurlston also invited a Broadcom colleague for a 5G Wi-Fi device demonstration. The colleague unveiled three large-size LCD TVs on the stage. The three TVs played Iron Man, Lorax, and John Carter respectively, using Broadcom's 5G Wi-Fi chip-based wireless multimedia gateway to concurrently play three full HD 1080p videos by wireless transmission without any delay. Concurrent output of four full HD videos is also doable.

In terms of file transmission, 5G Wi-Fi enables less packet synchronizations than Wi-Fi 802.11n. It was clocked onsite that transmission of a video of more than 900MB by a 5G Wi-Fi device took only 33-40% of time required for transmission by a 802.11n device. 5G Wi-Fi - because of its speediness and power efficiency - is very suitable for mobile device video transmission.

Available products and applications

According to Hurlston, Broadcom debuted its 5G Wi-Fi chipset at CES 2012. The dual-band chipset, which supports 2.4G/5GHz and meets the 802.11ac standard, has won support from wireless network equipment suppliers. Netgear has been the first company supporting 802.11n/802.11ac by launching its A6200 USB adapter as well as R6200 and R6300 wireless routers. Other wireless router and multimedia bridge products launched later to support 5G Wi-Fi include Buffalo AC1300, Air Station WZR-D1800H, and WLI-H4-D300H. Broadcom has become the first ever 5G Wi-Fi equipment supplier in the physical market.

The China-based Datang Telecom Technology has announced its 5G Wi-Fi access device adoption. Asustek Computer has announced its RT-AC66U router across 2.4G/5G with the 2.4G band (802.11n) supporting transmission at 400Mbps and the 5G band (802.11ac) supporting transmission at 1,350Mbps. A total bandwidth of 1,750Mbps is available for transmission. Hurlston also mentioned the availability of upcoming wireless routers such as D-Link DIR-865L, Belkin AC1000 and AC1200, Tenda W1800R, and EDIMAX BR-6673AC.

Hurlston noted that a complete 5G Wi-Fi ecosystem is being established, for example, ASUS G75VW shown at Computex is the world's first ever gaming notebook with 5G Wi-Fi built in and ASUS P8Z77V motherboard also has 5G Wi-Fi built in.

According to Hurlston, the core products with 5G Wi-Fi built in for the first half of 2012 are wireless routers and notebooks, and there will be backbone devices of wireless routers each equipped with two or three antennas in the second half of this year. In the first half of 2013, 5G Wi-Fi will become available to desktops, laptops, smart TV, and set-top boxes. In the second half of the year, it will become available to every type of mobile devices including smart phones, tablets, game consoles, and digital cameras.

It is Hurlston's expectation that there will be more choices of 5G Wi-Fi applications and devices to provide better experiences. The latest 5G Wi-Fi guidelines and industry news are available at:

Michael Hurlston, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Wireless Combo Connectivity Line of Business, Broadcom Corporation

Michael Hurlston, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Wireless Combo Connectivity Line of Business, Broadcom

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