802.11ac for smartphones shown in an HTC Android phone

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Extended battery life with 802.11ac | Wi-Fi Alliance

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HTC have announced the next “refresh” of their One Android smartphone is to be equipped for 802.11ac 5GHz Wi-Fi segments. Plus there is some talk of other manufacturers fielding similarly-equipped smartphones for the up-and-coming Mobile World Congress that is to occur in Barcelona, Spain.

But, as with 802.11n, these phones will implement a single-stream variant of the technology. The reason why this is to be is because the digital signal processing required for handling a multi-stream signal required for these “MIMO-capable” systems is very taxing on the device’s battery runtime as has been explained in the article.

There will still be a significant data throughput and bandwidth bonus offered by these devices and, of course, smartphones that are equipped for 802.11ac will work with 802.11n networks on either the 2.4GHz or the 5GHz bands. This could really open up the 5GHz band for more of the handheld devices and legitimise its place in the creation of Wi-Fi segments.

A reality that is often missed with 5GHz is the fact that this band is like traditional FM radio on the 88-108MHz waveband compared to traditional AM radio on the 540-1600khz waveband. As I have observed even from childhood, it was feasible to pick up the AM stations over very long distances, even to the country areas while FM stations could be heard within the main urban areas. In some cases, a few AM stations with very low frequencies effectively covered the state of Victoria in Australia with a strong signal.

In this case, I would notice that access points operating on the 5GHz band used for 802.11n and 802.11ac will have shorter coverage areas compared to those on the 2.4GHz band for 802.11n. This will manifest in some situations where one router may cover a suburban block yet you may have to add a 5GHz range extender or access point with a wired backbone for the same coverage or the same router may have to use a stronger 5GHz antenna.

On the other hand, this band may allow for better handling of dense living areas like apartment blocks, but would require all Wi-Fi devices to support it in order to gain this benefit.

Who knows what this means for the evolution of the Wi-Fi wireless local area network especially as it is also considered as an offload companion to the 3G or 4G mobile broadband service?

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