How fast can wireless networking get?

Wireless Gigabit Alliance announces 60 GHz spec, which would support rates as fast as 7 gigabits/sec

AIRING IT OUT. The march toward faster wireless networks took a potentially big step May 10, when the Wireless Gigabit Alliance announced Version 1.0 of its unified wireless specification, which would use the unlicensed 60 GHz band and achieve data transfer rates as fast as 7 gigabits/sec.

WiGig, which promotes adoption of 60 GHz wireless technology, said the specification would allow for triband devices that could also work in the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands used by IEEE 802.11n and would be backward-compatible with existing Wi-Fi devices.

The speed jump would be significant. The 802.11n specification, finally approved last year, supports theoretical speeds as fast as 300 megabits/sec, although real-word speeds usually are slower. The GCN Lab’s March 2009 roundup review of Draft-N wireless access points recorded speeds as fast as 258 megabits/sec. The older 802.11g specification topped out at 54 megabits/sec.

Even if WiGig’s spec follows form and runs slower that the theoretical peak, getting anywhere in the neighborhood of 7 gigabits/sec would qualify as blazing fast.

A few things will have to be ironed out first, among them that the 60 GHz band doesn’t travel as far as other Wi-Fi bands and is more susceptible to interference. WiGig proposes using a multitransmitter system it calls beamforming to get around the problem. And products for the 60 GHz band must be developed.

But who knows — in a few years, agencies that have held off on wireless networks because of throughput concerns just might find themselves saying goodbye to their networking cables.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is editor of Defense Systems. Follow him on Twitter: @KevinMcCaney.

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