802.11ad: What to Expect? Experts Respond

What will the wireless standard 802.11ad mean to most users in the short and longer term? Wi-Fi experts Josef Noll and Geir Arne Rimala respond.

Josef Noll Responds

Exciting developments are happening within wireless communication. With new technologies for Wi-Fi we are looking at a huge increase in capacity. The new 802.11 d standard operates at 60 GHz, and is trying for 4-6 Gbps, which is 20-60 times more data than we can achieve with today's Wi-Fi.

Some technological challenges remain, because communication works best by direct communication (line-of-sight, LOS), and any object that gets in the way can disrupt communication considerably. We imagine that this type of communication first comes as cable replacement for high-capacity video links, such as between TV, set-top-box and a router.

Geir Arne Rimala Responds

802.11ad is the new standard that offers up to 7 Gbps and uses the unlicensed frequency band at 60 GHz. The main usage for 802.11ad is likely to be HD/4k streams and devices that need to transmit very large files, such as camcorders that will transmit footage, backing up laptops and the like, as well as regular use.

So let's look more closely at the technology behind 802.11ad. The standard is still a child, technologically speaking, compared to today's standard 802.11ac.

  • 802.11ac Wave 2 utilizes four channels for 160 mhz bandwidth, up to 256 QAM modulation, 8x8 spatial streams and NOT least MU-MIMO to offer approximately the same speed as 802.11ad.
  • 802.11ad, however, uses only one spatial stream (1x1), one channel (of a total of 4) and 64 QAM modulation to make the same offer.

When we move to the next phase of 802.11ad, with higher modulation, multiple spatial streams with MIMO, and the use of multiple channels, then we will be able to achieve very high speeds. 802.11ad also comes with 16-32 antennas that will probably provide a very precise beamforming that later will be useful for MU-MIMO.

What is simultaneously the advantage and disadvantage of 802.11ad is the short wavelength (5 mm), which limits the range to be within the same room and barely that. That means your neighbor can't disturb your signal. The short wavelength also means that a device on the other side of the room may have a very good link, while another device that is less than one meter away will not have a link at all due to obstacles.

802.11ad can offer very high speeds over very short distances, but most people ask for better coverage and stability – not ever higher speeds, so unfortunately this is no magical silver bullet. But as an alternative to pulling a network cable along the living room wall, it is well positioned.

Meet the Experts

Professor Josef Noll, UiO

Professor Josef Noll

Josef is a specialist in wireless and mobile networks and security, employed by the Department of Informatics at the University of Oslo. Josef is passionate about public Internet access and is also the head of the Basic Internet Foundation. He heads up the research project IoTSec-Security in IoT for Smart Grids.

Josef on LinkedIn

@josefnoll on Twitter

Geir Arne Rimala, Eye Networks CTO

Geir Arne Rimala, Eye Networks CTO

Geir Arne is an expert in IP networks, internet services, and Wi-Fi. He is also an experienced customer problem solver, educationally and a popular course instructor and speaker.

Geir Arne on LinkedIn

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