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    For all the computing power and innovation built into today’s devices, connectivity is always a bottleneck. Even as streaming, video chats and meetings, and mobile connectivity becomes a normal part of computing life, the limitations of network speeds are constantly there, reminding us how far the technology and associated rollouts still have to go.

    With the introduction of the new 802.11ac wireless standard, WiFi is getting a nice boost, at least. The new standard promises gigabit WiFi speeds, as much as 1.3Gbps. Channel bandwidth is slated to be double or even quadruple that of the 802.11n standard, with double the spatial streams. 802.11ac will also operate in the 5GHz spectrum, where there is far less interference from common household devices than in the 2.4GHz spectrum, where most WiFi products operate.

    Lots of new 802.11ac devices were shown off at CES, and promises that those very products will hit the market in 2012 abounded. IMS Research believes that those promises will indeed be fulfilled. After conducting a study titled “802.11 – Diversifying into new markets – 2012”, IMS predicts that 3 million 802.11ac products will ship this year, with 400 million shipments expected in 2016.

    In a press release, Filomena Berardi, Senior Market Analyst and lead analyst for 802.11 and WLAN at IMS, said “Uptake of the new standard is forecast to be extremely high. IMS Research believes that penetration in portable computing devices will be very aggressive and that it won’t be long before more will be shipped with 802.11ac than 802.11n.” She expects to see the first 802.11ac-enabled smartphones closer to 2014.

    There are, of course, some bits of reality that can’t be ignored. One is that the WiFi Alliance still needs to actually approve the standard, although it’s expected that it will by the middle of the year, with a certification process for actual products to follow. Thus, any 802.11ac devices companies are showing off before then are running draft versions of the technology, so there may be some hiccups with the first round of 802.11ac products.

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