Why your next smartphone could have better Wi-Fi


Wi-Fi is now a staple in today’s smartphones, but it’s expected to get even better in handsets as soon as next year. The new 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard, or 5th generation of Wi-Fi, is still in the works, but companies such as Broadcom already have supporting products available. This “5G Wi-Fi” offers improved power efficiency and speeds faster than 802.11n Wi-Fi, and it could be your smartphone’s new best friend.

The new Wi-Fi standard boosts wireless speeds three times over the current 802.11n radios — 433 Mbps per antenna — while also improving power efficiency up to six times, according to Broadcom(s bcom). The company released its first 5G Wi-Fi chips last month at the Consumer Electronics Show. Benefits come in two forms: beamforming, which can steer signals toward a target, and a doubling of bandwidth per channel over today’s wireless technology, from 40 to 80 MHz.

Scott Bibaud, former EVP & FM, Mobile Platforms, at Broadcom, offers this additional explanation of the benefits 802.11ac will bring to all devices, and why carriers would be interested in getting this new Wi-Fi into handsets:

As cellular data plans slowly disappear and more wireless hotspots appear, smartphone owners are relying on Wi-Fi as a free or low-cost option. Carriers, too, have been building up their Wi-Fi hotspot capabilities in order to offload traffic from costly cellular networks. If consumers can get a more efficient, faster Wi-Fi radio that can help save on battery life, I’d say it’s a win all around.


Michael Elling

Is there a good source showing what type of Wifi radio is in the leading smartphones? Are many limited to 2.4ghz band, or are most dual-mode: 2.4 and 5?

Daniel Blois

I think an even bigger problem and more important fix is making the switching between Cellular and WiFi more streamlined. It should switch automatically after initial setup (and should work with multiple hotspots).


How does tripling the wifi speed help anyone? Does anyone have Internet speed fast than 100Mbps or important the large objects on their local networks that they need to download to the phone?

The battery life is important.

Daniel Blois

Easily because still the biggest drain on battery life is the Screen. So if you increase the speed and download the pages quicker then people will get to the content they want faster and be able to turn off the screen after. So it will give even more battery savings beyond the WiFi battery improvement itself.

Brent W. Hopkins

What we desperately need is a widespread implementation of mesh networking. Every node should also be a relay, not just an endpoint. Corporations desperately want to control and limit the Internet, but that is such an inefficient approach and is not sustainable. The current model is so badly flawed, that data throttling can’t save it. In fact, that misguided tactic will implode disastrously very soon. You heard it here!

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