Products based on 11ac will leave behind the 2.4GHz frequency band, which is the only space for old 802.11b gear and is an option for 11n products. The new standard will work only in the 5GHz band, which is much less crowded, according to Patel. He estimated that 90 percent to 95 percent of Wi-Fi devices operate in the 2.4GHz spectrum today. That band has just three non-overlapping channels, whereas the spectrum open to Wi-Fi in the 5GHz band has 20 channels.
Beam-forming, which directs a Wi-Fi signal to the best path through space to its destination, is another feature that will boost both the speed and the range of 11ac, Patel said. Several Wi-Fi vendors have been using beam-forming for the past few years with 802.11n, but it will be an integral part of the next standard.
All these performance gains mean radios won't have to spend as much time actually transmitting data, which will help devices make more efficient use of battery power, he added.
Wireless LANs using 11ac play a role in Broadcom's vision of home networks, which sees gateway devices receiving content of all types and distributing it around homes. In homes in different areas, that data will continue to travel over coaxial cable and electrical wiring as well as wireless, with the IEEE P1905 standard allowing those networks to find each other and share the burden of carrying the growing loads of data, said Stephen Palm, senior technical director of Broadcom's Broadband Communications Group.
For connectivity in cars, Broadcom is betting on wires. The company is working with auto manufacturers on implementing Ethernet over thin, lightweight cables, said Kevin Brown, vice president and general manager of Broadcom's Ethernet Transceiver Business Unit. Broadcom hopes to replace specialized auto wiring systems for new features such as multiple cameras around the outside of the vehicle, he said. Using Ethernet would make it easier to introduce new networked entertainment and safety features, he said.