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Here comes the 2nd Wave of Wi-Fi: Asus’s new hopped-up 802.11ac routers start shipping

The new IEEE 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard may have just emerged, but there is already a newer wireless home networking standard hitting the market. Asus has finally started shipping the Wave 2 802.11ac router it promised back at CES, and home networking geeks who recently bought shiny new Wave 1 routers might just wind up kicking themselves.

Wave 2 technology isn’t promising a huge uptick in speed — at least not initially — but what it does provide is the ability to handle multiple simultaneous Wi-Fi connections over its four antennas using a tongue twisting technique called Multi-User Multiple Input Multiple Output (MU-MIMO).

Multiple simultaneous connections have become the norm in households these days with many smartphones, tablets and entertainment appliances connecting all vying for network time. Wave 1 and older Wi-Fi routers can only connect a single device at one time, meaning multiple devices queue up and take turns accessing its signals. Those connections are limited by the Wi-Fi speed of the device, which is often a fraction of what your router supports. But MU-MIMO assigns those different connections to different spatial streams.

The new Asus Wave 2 802.11ac router at CES
The new Asus Wave 2 802.11ac router at CES

You’re never going to get more than 1.7 Gbps of total capacity out of your Wave 2 router, but that capacity will go a lot further if four different devices can tap it simultaneously. The only catch is that client devices have to support Wave 2 technology as well to make full use of MU-MIMO’s capabilities. But as the routers emerge, the technology will starting making its way into laptops, media devices and even laptops and smartphones.

The new Asus RT-AC87, powered by Quantenna’s Wave 2 chipsets, is now available on Best Buy’s(s bby) website for $280 and will be available in other physical and online retail stores in coming weeks. But it’s just the first of what will hopefully be a lot of new Wave 2 routers and devices. Qualcomm(s qcom) has started sampling its own Wave 2 silicon, and the rest of the Wi-Fi industry is working on their own consumer and enterprise products.

Meanwhile Quantenna is just getting started on its own Wave 2 silicon. It is already preparing a chip that will introduce eight-antenna configurations into routers, make use of wider Wi-Fi spectrum channels and boost network capacities into the 10 Gbps range.

Good luck figuring out applications to use over a 10 Gbps router though, apart from zipping extremely large media files across your home instantaneously.

3 Responses to “Here comes the 2nd Wave of Wi-Fi: Asus’s new hopped-up 802.11ac routers start shipping”

  1. I agree with Roland. The ASUS Dark Knight firmware / software is crappy. It drops packets, and can not be relied on for stable SOHO situations.

  2. Roland

    It will be interesting to see if the factory-supplied software on these routers has evolved. Have they learned from releases like Tomato? With all that bandwidth, the usefulness of home servers increases, which would probably require port knocking, among other things. Will that finally be included?