Exciting things are happening in wireless. In particular, the WiFi Alliance finally got around to certifying WiGig, a super-fast, short-range wireless network otherwise known as 802.11ad. When this technology becomes more prevalent, it could lead to versions of the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive that are wireless.
WiGig uses wider channels in the unlicensed 60GHz band. It's not congested like the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, both of which are also unlicensed spectrum but crowded because of all the devices that use them. By taking advantage of the wider channels in the 60GHz band, WiGig is capable of multi-gigabit speeds with low latencies—up to 8Gbps. That's sufficient to download an HD movie in just a few seconds (provided your storage is up to task) and is the key to delivering wired-like performance via wireless connections.
The downside is that 802.11ad is horrible at penetrating walls and other objects. It requires a direct line of sight and short distances to work best—10 meters is about the limit for hitting max speeds with low latencies. Even so, it could (and probably will be) a game changer for VR and streaming in general.
"Wi-Fi Alliance certification has a strong history of accelerating broad technology adoption across the industry, and we expect 2017 to be a breakout year for WiGig on the heels of Wi-Fi Certified program availability," said Phil Solis (opens in new tab), Research Director, ABI Research. "The ecosystem for WiGig spans the mobile, PC, and consumer electronics industries across the consumer, enterprise, and service provider markets. Devices will leverage the brand and ubiquity of Wi-Fi for continued momentum across these industries."
One thing to keep in mind is that 802.11ad isn't a replacement for 802.11ac, but a complementary Wi-Fi technology for specific tasks and scenarios. As part of the certification process, multi-band products supporting 2.4GHz, 5GHz, and 60GHz frequencies must be able to identify and switch between the most appropriate bands.
Now that WiFi is finally certifying devices, expect an influx of new gadgets promoting the standard. ABI Research is forecasting 180 million WiGig chipsets shipping to smartphones next year, with smartphones accounting for nearly half of the 1.5 billion total WiGig device shipments in 2021. Laptops, tablets, and access points are also expected to jump on the WiGig bandwagon.
There are only a handful of certified WiGig devices out there, among them Dell's Latitude E7450/70. And as we saw with Netgear's recently announced Nighthawk X10 router, some early devices are likely to carry a hefty premium. But if the movement happens as fast as ABI Research predicts, 802.11ad could become rather commonplace by the end of next year.