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First 802.11ad products shipping soon for wireless office

A Qualcomm Wi-Fi chipset scheduled for release this year will power 802.11ad products designed for the wireless office.

The first products built around the Wi-Fi standard 802.11ad, a technology that eliminates the use of hard-wired PC peripherals in the office, are expected to be available this year.

Chipmaker Qualcomm, wireless router maker TP-LINK and computer maker Acer showed off 802.11ad products last week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The products are set for release in the coming months.

The standard complements 802.11ac, which organizations use for computer-to-infrastructure network connectivity in wireless LANs (WLANs). Rather than connect devices to the Internet, 802.11ad is used for a personal area network (PAN).

A PAN connects wireless monitors, speakers, storage and other devices to PCs in a single room. The 802.11ad standard uses the 60 GHz band in providing very fast connections over short distances, a kind of "Bluetooth on steroids," said Lisa Phifer, a consultant for emerging technologies at Core Competence Inc., based in Santa Fe, N.M.

Also called WiGig, 802.11ad has a throughput of up to 7 Gbps and a range of roughly 30 feet. Enterprises will find the technology most suitable for wireless docking of PCs and for video conferencing, Mark Hung, an analyst at Gartner, said.

"Given 802.11ad certification is expected mid-2016, we'll probably see early adoption of the technology at the end of this year or next year," said Hung. The Wi-Fi Alliance, a nonprofit industry association, provides certification of Wi-Fi-enabled products.

The IT department at the University of South Florida in Tampa has been watching the development of 802.11ad for some time, Joe Rogers, associate director of network engineering, said. While the technology appears to be useful, "I'd still be wary of interference issues in high-density office environments."

Upcoming 802.11ad products

Qualcomm plans to introduce a Wi-Fi chipset featuring 802.11ad in the 60 GHz band and 802.11ac in the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands. The multi-band technology makes it possible for a product to switch from one standard to the other as needed.

Acer announced that it would use the Qualcomm chipset in the TravelMate P648 series commercial notebook, set for release in April. Pricing will start at $800.

TP-LINK expects to use the tri-band chipset in the Talon AD7200 Wi-Fi router, which the company plans to release this year for the consumer market.

Other vendors that have promised to ship products using the Qualcomm chipset include Chinese media giant LeTV, which is planning to release smartphones; Elecom Co. Ltd. and NEC Corp., which expect to ship access points; and ASUS, which is set to release laptops.

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