The misuse of the term '4G' to denote the latest cellular technology, LTE, has become an unstoppable tsunami. We've not previously seen the various stages of WiFi evolution similarly designated but now Broadcom has gone and done it. And to give the term a veneer of respectability it has even launched a 5G WiFi web site (www.5gwifi.org): a move that will surely sow the seeds of further confusion.
That aside, the new BCM4335 chipset is a pretty impressive beast. It "integrates a complete [802.11ac] WiFi system – including the MAC, PHY and RF – with Bluetooth 4.0, FM radio and software on a single chip using 40nm CMOS process" according to Broadcom. The company claims that its 'platform-agnostic design' ensures that it can be used in any smartphone or tablet.
According to Broadcom, the IEEE 802.11ac standard "is a major evolutionary step from the existing 802.11a/b/g/n networks [and] dramatically improves the wireless range in the home, allowing consumers to watch HD-quality video from more devices, in more places, simultaneously."
According to Wikipedia "Theoretically, [802.11ac] will enable multi-station WLAN throughput of at least 1Gbps and a maximum single link throughput of at least 500Mbps. This is accomplished by extending the air interface concepts embraced by 802.11n: wider RF bandwidth (up to 160MHz), more MIMO spatial streams (up to 8), multi-user MIMO and high-density modulation (up to 256 QAM)."
"With 3X faster speeds, consumers can download web content from a mobile device, and sync large files such as videos, in a fraction of the time it would take on a similar 802.11n device," Broadcom says.
And because data transfers happen much faster "devices enter low-power mode quickly and, as a result, are up to six times more power efficient than equivalent 802.11n solutions," Broadcom claims.
So how long will you have to wait? "Smartphones and tablets powered by the new BCM4335 are expected to hit shelves in Q1 2013," says Broadcom.
Broadcom introduced its family of 802.11ac WiFi chips for access points and PCs at CES in January 2012 and the first products incorporating these are already on the market.
Cisco and D-Link have both launched 802.11ac capable wireless access points. For its product, the EA650, Cisco is claiming up to 1.3Gbps, in the 5GHz band, approximately three times faster than the 450MHz maximum of 802.11n in the 2.4GHz band.
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