Netgear is poised to be the first networking company with a next-generation router on the market—one that has been shown to reach speeds of up to 1.3Gbps in the 5GHz band. The company’s new router is based on the as-yet-unratified 802.11ac standard, which is theoretically three times faster than the preceding 802.11n standard.
The router, called the R6300, runs on a WiFi chip from Broadcom and uses a number of new techniques to achieve gigabit wireless speeds. First, the 802.11ac standard requires transmission of data in the 5GHz band of spectrum, which is considerably less crowded than the 2.4GHz band that older routers tend to use. The new router can combine its channels to access up to 80MHz of bandwidth at once, and rather than transmitting data indiscriminately, it uses “beam forming” to maximize signal strength.
At 2012’s Consumer Electronics Show back in January, lots of networking companies showed off 802.11ac router prototypes (and even an 802.11ad prototype), but none had consumer models ready to go. Buffalo and TrendNet both showed off prototypes that we’ll likely see sometime this summer.
As yet, you can’t purchase any 802.11ac-compatible devices (phones, laptops, etc), but companies like Broadcom, Qualcomm, and Quantenna are manufacturing chips to make devices 802.11ac-compatible by the beginning of next year, when the IEEE expects to ratify the standard’s specifications. Netgear’s R6300 is backward compatible with older standards, but connecting devices won’t see optimal performance without new chips.
The router will be available for consumer purchase in May, at a price of $199.99.