IEEE 802.11ac: What Does it Mean for Test?

Late in 2008, a new task group (TG) was formed within the IEEE 802 Standards Committee with the goal of creating a new amendment to the 802.11-2007 standard. The new amendment, known as 802.11ac, includes mechanisms to improve the data throughput of the existing Wireless Local Area Networks (WLAN), enabling wireless networks to offer wired network performance. Since its formation, the TGac has made significant progress in the definition of the technology: in January 2011, the framework specifications for the technology moved into draft form, which then underwent subsequent revisions and is currently available in version D1.1. The draft was completed at the end of 2012, a certification program was established in June 2013, and ratification of the 802.11ac standard planned in February 2014.

This document describes the motivations, key features, and market forecast of 802.11ac. It also reviews the 802.11ac physical layer (PHY), and the several applications enabled by the new 802.11ac capabilities. Finally, how the new 802.11ac specifications have impacted the requirements for test equipment necessary to validate the technology in both R&D and manufacturing environments.