SANTA CLARA, Calif.—Chip makers and consumer electronics manufacturers are working to improve the tablet user experience within the home, turning to newer versions of Wi-Fi to improve connectivity and the ability to stream content from tablets to TVs, according to Michael Hurlston, senior vice president of Broadcom Corp.'s Home and Wireless Networking business unit.
"There is a lot of innovation happening in Wi-Fi right now," Hurlston said during a panel discussion at the DesignCon 2012 conference here Tuesday (Jan. 31).
Broadcom is pushing what it calls 5G Wi-Fi, based on the 802.11ac version of the Wi-Fi spec. At the Consumer Electronics Show last month, Broadcom rolled out a family of chips based on the 802.11ac, which promises higher speed and better reliability than the current mainstream, 802.11n.
Hurlston said Broadcom is pushing the term 5G Wi-Fi because it is the fifth generation of Wi-Fi to be rolled out to consumer devices and because he said the naming convention for new versions of Wi-Fi has gotten too confusing. Joking that the Wi-Fi industry "ran out of letters," he acknowledged that the average consumer might not realize that 802.11ac is the more advanced version of the standard than 802.11n. Consumers are accustomed to hearing about 3G and 4G in wireless technology from cell phones, he added.
Though Broadcom was the first company to use 5G Wi-Fi tag, Hurlston said other companies have begun to use it, a move which Broadcom supports.
Down the road, the next major innovation in Wi-Fi will be the emergence of the 802.11ad standard, which operates in the 60-gigahertz band and offers tremendous speed improvements, though has a shorter transmission range, Hurlston said. He called 802.ad a "revolution," as opposed to the "evolution" offered by 802.11ac.
Though some companies may have chips supporting 802.11ad available this year, Hurlston said Broadcom doesn't believe the market is ready for them yet. He said he expects more meaningful adoption of 802.11ad in the next few years.
Meanwhile, Hurlston said he expects consumer electronics companies to bring to market products that feature 802.11ac, or 5G Wi-Fi, toward the middle of this year.
"The whole industry is kind of moving to support a better experience for the tablet with these standards-based products," Hurlston said.
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