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Business | September 14, 2011

Fast transition to 802.11ac, crossing 50% threshold in 2014

Following small shipment volumes in 2012 and a significant increase in shipments in 2013, IEEE 802.11ac will emerge as the dominant Wi-Fi protocol by 2014. Only a niche subset of 802.11ac will be single-band 802.11ac, using solely the five GHz band. Most will be 802.11n/802.11ac dual-band chipsets.
Established Wi-Fi chipset vendors such as Broadcom, Intel, Qualcomm Atheros, and Texas Instruments will attempt to maintain or grow their share of the market by transitioning as fast as possible. The smaller vendors will attempt to grow their market share during the transition by quickly shipping chipsets with competitive protocol, band, and MIMO combinations.

While 802.11ad products will make an early debut, with a Qualcomm Atheros and Wilocity partnership leading the way, 802.11ad will not reach the 50% mark until 2016. It will be used in dual- and tri-band chipsets. Because of their lower cost, 802.11n and 802.11ac chipsets with 1X1 will remain dominant until 2015, when they will be surpassed by both 2X2 and 3X3 chipsets. 2X2 chipsets for mobile devices that can fall back to 1X1 will be indispensable to enabling this transition.

“With the exception of a small and dwindling number of 802.11g chipsets, everything has already shifted to 802.11n, and it has happened faster than most people expected. This is a clear indication of what will happen with 802.11ac,” explains Philip Solis, research director, mobile networks. “The 1x1 version of 802.11n replaced 802.11g. A rapid transition will occur with 802.11ac, but without the messy politics that slowed down the standardization of 802.11n in the past.”

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