Monday, 13 May 2013 11:08

Samsung Edges Toward 802.11ac... We Mean 5G

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Samsung has announced a breakthrough in cellular technology that should help us get to 1Gbps on a cellular network by 2020. The new network is, of course, going to be called 5G and represents a huge improvement over current data transmission rates. What is interesting about the announcement is that we are now seeing a similar technology available in the form of 802.11ac for the home. Does Samsung’s break through show how cellular and traditional wireless have become the same technology?

Two years ago at CES we heard about 802.11ac and how companies were going to simply skip over 600Mbps transfers and leap to 1Gbps+. The reasons were fairly simple; to get to the intermediate steps would be too costly and would draw too much power. I know that this does not make sense, but it is actually true. To build a wireless access point and adapter that could run 802.11n at 600Mbps would require 4 antenna at both ends, a 40 MHz channel with a 400ns Guard Interval. Both the adapter and the access point would get very warm very quickly and would draw quite a bit of power.

With 802.11ac you can reduce the power and antenna requirements as even with a 2+2 (2 on the AP and 2 on the adapter) you can get a theoretical 1.6Gbps. We are pretty sure that the cellphone guys saw this and wondered what it would take to get this into the next generation of cellular phones. It might sound strange, but when WiMax and LTE were first introduced there was a great deal of talk about their similarities with 802.11n. Even now when you look at the way mobile devices are built they are designed to integrate the WiFi and Cellular radios as much as possible.

Is 5G simply going to be an extension of 802.11ac with greater range and different transmission and reception profiles? Although this is certainly an oversimplification of what is taking place the idea does make sense. If 802.11ac is the basis for 5G you can reduce transmission and reception power needs, expand the amount of simultaneous data that can be sent by tower and that can be received by mobile devices as well more than double the current about of data that can be transmitted between devices.

Still moving the technology from a WLAN to the much larger cellular network is going to be a challenge. It is one that we are sure other companies will get involved with soon in order to bring this to market. The EU has already announced that it will invest about $65 million to help bring 5G to life in the region which is a good sign for a new technology. Back in the US we are still struggling to get LTE in all areas and arguing over what really constitutes broadband which makes us not as hopeful that we will see 5G here by 2020.

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