updated 05:45 pm EST, Mon December 7, 2009
802.11ac process underway
The IEEE has recently begun the first steps of voting on a major improvement to Wi-Fi standards due in two years. The 802.11ac standard should upgrade 802.11a to use 80MHz or even 160MHz channels that provide much more bandwidth than today. Combined with about a 10 percent increase in efficiency for modulating the actual frequencies, the speedup should improve the theoretical transfer speeds to as much as 1Gbps, or more than three times the 300Mbps 802.11n reaches for now.
As the technology still isn't yet in the draft phase and only began debate in earnest on November 10th, its specifications are likely to change. However, the technology should become usable as a draft standard in late 2011 and should be completely approved by December 2012.
Interim steps are also enroute following the ratification of 802.11n earlier this year and should allow the three or even four MIMO (multiple in, multiple out) data streams to greatly accelerate the theoretical speeds of 802.11n from 300Mbps on two streams today to 450Mbps on three streams or 600Mbps with four. Current client and router hardware, such as Intel's 5300 chipset and Apple's fall 2009 Airport devices, already support three streams and simply need to connect to devices that themselves can send and receive three streams themselves. It's not known how many Macs, if any, already support three streams. [via Ars Technica]