Terms such as "256 QAM," "MU-MIMO" and "beamforming" might sound like jargon out of a "Star Trek" episode, but they are new tech capabilities to boost wireless router speeds. They are hitting the market in the wake of the new WiFi standard called 802.11ac by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Standards Association and the emergence, in January, of the first Wave 2 devices designed to take advantage of it.
Many new routers are expected to capitalize on the higher-data-rate capabilities of 802.11ac, which, theoretically, is capable of speeds of up to 1.3 gigabytes a second. One router, announced recently at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, bills itself as the first portable 802.11ac Wave 2 router and doubles as a powerful device charger.
The DIR-510L from D-Link, Fountain Valley, Calif., claims a wireless speed of up to 750 megabytes per second. It has a high-capacity, 4,000-milliamp-hour battery powerful enough to charge multiple devices quickly. For comparison, the iPhone wall charger provides 1,000 mAh.
One of the DIR-510L's two USB ports is for charging devices, but both can be used to access and transfer data on remote storage devices. The router has an Ethernet port for hardwired connections.
The new standard "can support much higher data rates and higher traffic over its network," declared Avril Salter, a wireless deployment specialist at tech consultant Next Direction Technologies. "It goes to wider bandwidths."
The new generation of 802.11ac-capable devices can support simultaneous streaming of multiple HD-quality videos to multiple devices at much faster speeds than the previously established 802.11g or 802.11n standards. An 802.11ac device also can support up to eight devices at once.