Internet, Networking, & Security Home Networking 74 74 people found this article helpful What Is 802.11ac in Wireless Networking? A more advanced standard—but some caveats apply By Bradley Mitchell Writer An MIT graduate who brings years of technical experience to articles on SEO, computers, and wireless networking. our editorial process LinkedIn Bradley Mitchell Updated January 22, 2020 Home Networking Wi-Fi & Wireless The Wireless Connection Routers & Firewalls Network Hubs ISP Broadband Ethernet Installing & Upgrading Tweet Share Email 802.11ac is a standard for Wi-Fi wireless networking that is more advanced than the previous generation 802.11n standard. Counting back to the little-known original version of 802.11 defined in 1997, 802.11ac represents the 5th generation of Wi-Fi technology. Compared to 802.11n and its predecessors, 802.11ac offers better network performance and capability implemented through more advanced hardware and device firmware. History of 802.11ac The technical development of 802.11ac began in 2011. While the standard was finalized at the end of 2013 and formally approved on January 7, 2014, consumer products based on earlier draft versions of the standard appeared earlier. 802.11ac Technical Specifications Lifewire To be competitive in the industry and support increasingly common applications like video streaming that require high-performance networking, 802.11ac was designed to perform similarly to Gigabit Ethernet. Indeed, 802.11ac offers theoretical data rates of up to 1 Gbps. It does this through a combination of wireless signaling enhancements: Channels that use a larger (wider) expanse of signal frequencies.A larger number of MIMO radios and antennas to enable more simultaneous transmissions. 802.11ac operates in the 5 GHz signal range, unlike previous generations of Wi-Fi that used 2.4 GHz channels. The designers of 802.11ac made this choice for two reasons: To avoid problems of wireless interference common to 2.4 GHz, as many kinds of consumer gadgets use these same frequencies.To implement wider signaling channels than the 2.4 GHz space comfortably allows. To keep backward compatibility with older Wi-Fi products, 802.11ac wireless network routers also include separate 802.11n-style 2.4 GHz protocol support. Pixabay / Public Domain Another new feature of 802.11ac, called beamforming, is designed to increase the reliability of Wi-Fi connections in crowded areas. Beamforming technology enables Wi-Fi radios to target signals in the specific direction of receiving antennas rather than spreading the signal across 180 or 360 degrees as standard radios do. Beamforming is one of a list of features designated by the 802.11ac standard as optional, along with double-wide signal channels (160 MHz instead 80 MHz) and several obscure items. Challenges with 802.11ac Some analysts and consumers have been skeptical of the benefits 802.11ac brings. Many consumers did not automatically upgrade their home networks from 802.11g to 802.11n, for example, as the older standard generally met basic needs. To enjoy the performance benefits and full functionality of 802.11ac, devices on both ends of the connection must support the new standard. While 802.11ac routers came into the market fairly quickly, 802.11ac-capable chips have taken much longer to find their way into smartphones and laptops.