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Gigabit Wireless? Five 802.11ac Routers, Benchmarked

Broadcom: Insider Comments, Continued

Tom's Hardware: Broadcom has its silicon. Are we going to see other vendors share your enthusiasm for such an industry-unified approach?

Broadcom: From a market adoption perspective, we’re the only ones with a product today that’s shipping. We’ve been in production since May, and we’re seeing very strong adoption across the board. As of June, the first PCs with embedded 5G Wi-Fi were being launched, particularly from Asus at Computex. We expect that by early 2013, you’ll see some of the high-end electronics platforms, like TVs, launching with 11ac integrated. Within the first quarter, we’ll have multiple phones being launched into production with 11ac.

Tom's Hardware: Some people might still be leery of jumping on 11ac without a finished standard in place. We remember the incompatibility debacle from the days of 11g Turbo, Pre-N, Draft N, and so on.

Broadcom: Also, after the 11n battle, no one felt like a victor. So when it was time to look at the 11ac standard, every vendor made a conscious effort not to have a repeat of that mistake. Very early on, the 11ac spec gelled much more cleanly than anything that ever happened with 11n. So we’re in the final draft stages. 11ac will be ratified in Q1, and very few changes have been implemented. The different constituents converged very quickly. Where we think there will be some variances, they’ll be minor, and the expectation across the board is that they’ll be easily addressed through minor software updates. It’s not going to be driving any hardware changes. I can’t say it’s zero probability, but it’s as close to zero as anyone could claim. I think we’re very safe.

Tom's Hardware: These wider 5.0 GHz channels give us a little cause for concern. We’ve got 11ac specifying up to 160 MHz while 11n was already causing some issues at 40 MHz. Should we be worried?

Broadcom: The work has gone into making sure that 11ac doesn’t impact [5.0 GHz devices] significantly. Now, you can’t avoid the fact that as you go from 40 to 80 to 160 MHz channel bandwidth you’re gonna be using up more of the spectrum. At some point, you’re going to have a limited number of channels that you can take advantage of with those higher bandwidths. So yeah, there are ways to step back from 160 MHz to narrower channel bandwidths, but physics is going to prevent multiple 160 MHz channel bandwidth clients in the same location operating in a very high number. But the adoption we’re seeing today has 80 MHz channel bandwidth as the baseline people want to run with. 160 may apply in longer-term applications, but it’s not something we’re seeing very high demand for today.

Also, from a standards perspective, 80 MHz is mandatory and 160 MHz is not. And for what we’re doing now, 80 is sufficient. As you look at current router options, you’re going to find you’re locked into 80. People are being much more conservative in their deployment, more metered in their approach. They want to make sure there’s a successful roll-out before they take the next turn of the crank.