Those face-meltingly fast new 802.11ac routers might not be king of the wireless networking world for long. On Sunday, Samsung announced it's developing new 802.11ad Wi-Fi technology that can turbocharge network speeds fivefold, from today's 866Mbps per-device maximum to a blistering 4.6Gbps. At that rate, Samsung says, a 1GB movie file can transfer from one device to another in under 3 seconds.
The secret sauce: Ditching the crowded 2.4GHz and 5GHz wireless channels used by today's routers and jumping to the 60GHz frequency band.
Even though you might not have heard of them, neither the futuristic 802.11ad standard nor the idea of using the 60GHz frequency for ultra-fast Wi-Fi are new. But prior implementations have run into a brick wall, both literally and figuratively: 60GHz signals can't easily penetrate walls. That's obviously a big problem for real-world usage. Most of the 60GHz-capable "WiGig" accessories you can find today are designed to operate at very, very short ranges as a result.
But Kim Chang Yong, head of Samsung's DMC R&D Center, says the company has "successfully overcome the barriers to the commercialization of 60GHz millimeter-wave band Wi-Fi technology."
Samsung's press release says it overcame those physical and metaphorical barriers with "high-performance modem technologies and by developing wide-coverage beam-forming antenna." The WirelessHD and WiGig standards groups have also been trying to improve 60GHz signal performance using beam-forming, a Wi-Fi technology that detects where client devices (like PCs and tablets) are physically located and then sends a focused signal directly at those devices, rather than mindlessly broadcasting a Wi-Fi signal in all directions as most routers do. (Beam-forming is already becoming a common feature in high-end 802.11ac routers.)
For the future, not today
Don't start saving your pennies for this particular bit of next-gen networking kit just quite yet, however. While Samsung's press release states that "commercialization is expected as early as next year," that's only talking about industry-wide usage of the 60GHz frequency itself--not necessarily the release of Samsung products packing the company's new technology. A Samsung spokesperson provided the following statement to John Ribeiro of the IDG News Service:
"As 60GHz is an unlicensed band spectrum globally, along with 2.4GHz and 5GHz spectrum, industry-level of commercialization is expected as early as next year, but there's nothing we could confirm at this point on when Samsung products supporting 60GHz Wi-Fi will be available in the market."
The story behind the story: The idea of making wireless networks as fast or faster than wired connections holds obvious appeal--the less time you spend waiting for files to transfer, the more stuff you can get done. But while Wi-Fi improvements like Samsung's new technology should (eventually) turbocharge sharing files, streaming locally-stored movies, or playing games across your home network, don't forget that a fast router won't magically make your actual Internet connection any faster. Activities like browsing the web or zoning out on the couch and watching Netflix are usually limited by your Internet speed, not your router.