When it comes to Internet connectivity, wired still beats wireless. For now.
Yet the gap is closing, and with it Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG ) opportunity to get millions more connected via fiber. Early tests of 802.11ac -- or what's become known as "gigabit Wi-Fi" -- are showing promise, according to a report in trade magazine Network World. I'd encourage you to read the entire article if you're tech-inclined.
The summary for investors who'd rather not go under the hood is that testers are getting anywhere between 400 Mbps and 800 Mbps access over configured gigabit Wi-Fi networks. For perspective, consider that my Mac gets a little more than 30 Mbps download speeds over a wired connection to the home router we use to access Comcast's Xfinity broadband service. Gigabit Wi-Fi would be a nice step for us.
Vendors know it, too. Apple's new iMacs feature an upgraded radio capable of handling 802.11ac. So does the Samsung Galaxy S4. Meanwhile, router manufacturers are upgrading their equipment to service these advanced devices. Aruba Networks introduced its 220 series "ac" router in May, while Ubiquiti Networks recently introduced gigabit router access points fit for connecting outdoor networks.
How big is the opportunity? A lot depends on how the technology handles large groups of data hungry users. There's also a difference between gigabit Wi-Fi (802.11ac) and what's called "WiGig" (802.11ad), which promises up to 7 Gbps of access over shorter distances. Vendors will need to develop the ecosystem for making these technologies useful to everyday consumers.
In the meantime, research suggests there's plenty of demand. IDC says the market for wireless local area network (WLAN) gear grew 10.8% worldwide in the second quarter. Sales of business-scale, or "enterprise" gear grew 14.8%. Good news for Aruba, Ubiquiti, their peers, and me -- a data-hungry user with an appetite for wireless gigabit.
Hurry up, Google. Attractive as fiber access might be someday, an impatient world wants to go faster right now.
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