Summary:

Qualcomm announced chips that can take advantage of the new 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard, allowing connected devices to move data up to three times faster than today. That’s important as we’re streaming HD video, remotely accessing PCs and playing video games through cloud services.

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UpdatedQualcomm announced chips that can take advantage of a the new 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard, allowing connected devices to stream high-definition video and other data at speeds at least three times faster than today. A single chip can use fifth generation Wi-Fi, or 5G Wi-Fi, while adding support for Bluetooth and FM radio waves; the first combo chip to do so, according to the company.

Qualcomm’s new WCN3680 chip is the standalone solution, providing data rates up to 433 Mbps on a supported 802.11ac network; this new 5G  802.11ac Wi-Fi connectivity is backwards compatible with current 802.11n networks. But the company is also integrating support for 5G 802.11ac Wi-Fi in its dual- and quad-core Snapdragon chips that power smartphones and tablets. The chips are sampling now and should appear in products by the end of this year, said Craig H. Barratt, president of Qualcomm Atheros, in an interview.

This development underscores the need for fast, reliable connections on portable devices as high-definition video consumption continues to migrate down from large screened TVs to handheld gadgets. Indeed, with more video content available online and only 47 percent of all Smart TVs actually connected to the web, mobile devices could become the set-top box.

I made that very prediction in January of last year when I experienced HD video playback from a phone to TV. And we later saw another implementation with the addition of AirPlay in Apple iOS devices.

But there are many other reasons we need faster, more efficient Wi-Fi networks and chips. We’re moving more bits through the air by collaborating on documents, remotely accessing PCs and playing video games through cloud services. And those are just the connected activities we’re using today. As new use cases for fast connections appear in the future, 5G 802.11ac Wi-Fi in our devices will let us keep watching, playing and working online.

Update: Clarified to include the use of industry standard wireless protocols.

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