IEEE 802.11ac is a wireless networking standard in the 802.11 set of protocols (which is part of the Wi-Fi networking family), providing high-throughput wireless local area networks (WLANs) on the 5 GHz band. The standard was developed in the IEEE Standards Association from 2008 (PAR approved 2008-09-26) through 2013 and published in December 2013 (ANSI approved 2013-12-11). The standard has been retroactively labelled as Wi-Fi 5 by Wi-Fi Alliance.
The specification has multi-station throughput of at least 1 gigabit per second and single-link throughput of at least 500 megabits per second (500 Mbit/s). This is accomplished by extending the air-interface concepts embraced by 802.11n: wider RF bandwidth (up to 160 MHz), more MIMO spatial streams (up to eight), downlink multi-user MIMO (up to four clients), and high-density modulation (up to 256-QAM).
Wi-Fi Alliance separated the introduction of ac wireless products into two phases ("wave"), named "Wave 1" and "Wave 2". From mid-2013, the alliance started certifying Wave 1 802.11 ac products ships by manufacturers, based on the IEEE 802.11ac Draft 3.0 (the IEEE standard was not finalized until later that year). Subsequently in year 2016, Wi-Fi Alliance introduced the Wave 2 certification, which include additional features like MU-MIMO, 160MHz channel width support, support for more 5GHz channels, and four spatial streams (with four antennas; compares to three in Wave 1 and 802.11n, and eight in IEEE's 802.11ac specification). It means Wave 2 products would have higher bandwidth and capacity than Wave 1 products.
- Extended channel binding
- Optional 160 MHz and mandatory 80 MHz channel bandwidth for stations; cf. 40 MHz maximum in 802.11n.
- More MIMO spatial streams
- Support for up to eight spatial streams (vs. four in 802.11n)
- Downlink multi-user MIMO (MU-MIMO, allows up to four simultaneous downlink MU-MIMO clients)
- Multiple STAs, each with one or more antennas, transmit or receive independent data streams simultaneously.
- Space-division multiple access (SDMA): streams not separated by frequency, but instead resolved spatially, analogous to 11n-style MIMO.
- Downlink MU-MIMO (one transmitting device, multiple receiving devices) included as an optional mode.
- Multiple STAs, each with one or more antennas, transmit or receive independent data streams simultaneously.
- 256-QAM, rate 3/4 and 5/6, added as optional modes (vs. 64-QAM, rate 5/6 maximum in 802.11n).
- Some vendors offer a non-standard 1024-QAM mode, providing 25% higher data rate compared to 256-QAM
- Other elements/features
- Beamforming with standardized sounding and feedback for compatibility between vendors (non-standard in 802.11n made it hard for beamforming to work effectively between different vendor products)
- MAC modifications (mostly to support above changes)
- Coexistence mechanisms for 20, 40, 80, and 160 MHz channels, 11ac and 11a/n devices
- Adds four new fields to the PPDU header identifying the frame as a very high throughput (VHT) frame as opposed to 802.11n's high throughput (HT) or earlier. The first three fields in the header are readable by legacy devices to allow coexistence
- Borrowed from the 802.11a/802.11g specifications:
- Newly introduced by the 802.11ac specification:
- 80 MHz channel bandwidths
- Borrowed from the 802.11n specification:
- Newly introduced by the 802.11ac specification:
- five to eight spatial streams
- 160 MHz channel bandwidths (contiguous 80+80)
- 80+80 MHz channel bonding (discontiguous 80+80)
- MCS 8/9 (256-QAM)
New scenarios and configurationsEdit
The single-link and multi-station enhancements supported by 802.11ac enable several new WLAN usage scenarios, such as simultaneous streaming of HD video to multiple clients throughout the home, rapid synchronization and backup of large data files, wireless display, large campus/auditorium deployments, and manufacturing floor automation.
With the inclusion of USB 3.0 interface, 802.11ac access points and routers can use locally attached storage to provide various services that fully utilize their WLAN capacities, such as video streaming, FTP servers, and personal cloud services. With storage locally attached through USB 2.0, filling the bandwidth made available by 802.11ac was not easily accomplished.
All rates assume 256-QAM, rate 5/6:
|PHY link rate||Aggregate|
|One-antenna AP, one-antenna STA, 80 MHz||Handheld||433 Mbit/s||433 Mbit/s|
|Two-antenna AP, two-antenna STA, 80 MHz||Tablet, laptop||867 Mbit/s||867 Mbit/s|
|One-antenna AP, one-antenna STA, 160 MHz||Handheld||867 Mbit/s||867 Mbit/s|
|Three-antenna AP, three-antenna STA, 80 MHz||Laptop, PC||1.27 Gbit/s||1.27 Gbit/s|
|Two-antenna AP, two-antenna STA, 160 MHz||Tablet, laptop||1.69 Gbit/s||1.69 Gbit/s|
|Four-antenna AP, four one-antenna STAs, 160 MHz
|Handheld||867 Mbit/s to each STA||3.39 Gbit/s|
|Eight-antenna AP, 160 MHz (MU-MIMO)
||Digital TV, Set-top Box,
Tablet, Laptop, PC, Handheld
|Eight-antenna AP, four 2-antenna STAs, 160 MHz
|Digital TV, tablet, laptop, PC||1.69 Gbit/s to each STA||6.77 Gbit/s|
Wave 1 vs. Wave 2Edit
Wave 2, referring to products introduced in 2016, offers a higher throughput than legacy Wave 1 products, those introduced starting in 2013. The maximum PHY (physical) theoretical rate for Wave 1 is 1.3 Gbit/s, while Wave 2 can reach 2.34 Gbit/s. Wave 2 can therefore achieve 1 Gbit/s even if the real world throughput turns out to be only 50% of the theoretical rate. Wave 2 also supports a higher number of connected devices.
Data rates and speedEdit
|Data rate (in Mbit/s)[b]|
|20 MHz channels||40 MHz channels||80 MHz channels||160 MHz channels|
|800 ns GI||400 ns GI||800 ns GI||400 ns GI||800 ns GI||400 ns GI||800 ns GI||400 ns GI|
Several companies are currently offering 802.11ac chipsets with higher modulation rates: MCS-10 and MCS-11 (1024-QAM), supported by Quantenna and Broadcom. Although technically not part of 802.11ac, these new MCS indices are expected to become official in the 802.11ax standard (~2019), the successor to 802.11ac.
160 MHz channels, and thus the throughput might be unusable in some countries/regions due to regulatory issues that allocated some frequencies for other purposes.
802.11ac-class device wireless speeds are often advertised as AC followed by a number, that number being the highest link rates in Mbit/s of all the simultaneously-usable radios in the device added up. For example, an AC1900 access point might have 600 Mbps capability on its 2.4 GHz radio and 1300 Mbps capability on its 5 GHz radio. No single client device could connect and achieve 1900 Mbps of throughput, but separate devices each connecting to the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz radios could achieve combined throughput approaching 1900 Mbps. Different possible stream configurations can add up to the same AC number.
|Type||2.4 GHz band[c]
|2.4 GHz band config
[all 40 MHz]
|5 GHz band
|5 GHz band config|
[all 80 MHz]
|AC450||-||-||433||1 stream @ MCS 9|
|AC600||150||1 stream @ MCS 7||433||1 stream @ MCS 9|
|AC750||300||2 streams @ MCS 7||433||1 stream @ MCS 9|
|AC1000||300||2 streams @ MCS 7||650||2 streams @ MCS 7|
|AC1200||300||2 streams @ MCS 7||867||2 streams @ MCS 9|
|AC1300||400||2 streams @ 256-QAM||867||2 streams @ MCS 9|
|AC1300||-||-||1,300||3 streams @ MCS 9|
|AC 1350||450||3 streams @ MCS 7||867||2 streams @ MCS 9|
|AC1450||450||3 streams @ MCS 7||975||3 streams @ MCS 7|
|AC1600||300||2 streams @ MCS 7||1,300||3 streams @ MCS 9|
|AC1700||800||4 streams @ 256-QAM||867||2 streams @ MCS 9|
|AC1750||450||3 streams @ MCS 7||1,300||3 streams @ MCS 9|
|AC1900||600[d]||3 streams @ 256-QAM||1,300||3 streams @ MCS 9|
|AC2100||800||4 streams @ 256-QAM||1,300||3 streams @ MCS 9|
|AC2200||450||3 streams @ MCS 7||1,733||4 streams @ MCS 9|
|AC2300||600||4 streams @ MCS 7||1,625||5 streams @ MCS 7|
|AC2350||600||4 streams @ MCS 7||1,733||4 streams @ MCS 9|
|AC2600||800[d]||4 streams @ 256-QAM||1,733||4 streams @ MCS 9|
|AC3000||450||3 streams @ MCS 7||1,300 + 1,300||3 streams @ MCS 9 x 2|
|AC3150||1000[e]||4 streams @ 1024-QAM||2,167||4 streams @ 1024-QAM|
|AC3200||600[d]||3 streams @ 256-QAM||1,300 + 1,300[f]||3 streams @ MCS 9 x 2|
|AC5000||600||4 streams @ MCS 7||2,167 + 2,167||4 streams @ 1024-QAM x 2|
|AC5300||1000[e]||4 streams @ 1024-QAM||2,167 + 2,167||4 streams @ 1024-QAM x 2|
Commercial routers and access pointsEdit
Quantenna released the first 802.11ac chipset for retail Wi-Fi routers and consumer electronics on November 15, 2011. Redpine Signals released the first low power 802.11ac technology for smartphone application processors on December 14, 2011. On January 5, 2012, Broadcom announced its first 802.11ac Wi-Fi chips and partners and on April 27, 2012, Netgear announced the first Broadcom-enabled router. On May 14, 2012, Buffalo Technology released the world’s first 802.11ac products to market, releasing a wireless router and client bridge adapter. On December 6, 2012, Huawei announced commercial availability of the industry's first enterprise-level 802.11ac Access Point.
Motorola Solutions is selling 802.11ac access points including the AP 8232. In April 2014, Hewlett-Packard started selling the HP 560 access point in the controller-based WLAN enterprise market segment.
On June 7, 2012, it was reported that Asus had unveiled its ROG G75VX gaming notebook, which would be the first consumer-oriented notebook to be fully compliant with 802.11ac (albeit in its "draft 2.0" version).
In June 2013, Apple announced that the new MacBook Air features 802.11ac wireless networking capabilities, later announcing in October 2013 that the MacBook Pro and Mac Pro also featured 802.11ac.
|HTC||One (M7)||March 22, 2013||BCM4335 ||First 802.11ac-enabled handset announced February 19, 2013|
|Samsung||Galaxy S4||April 26, 2013||BCM4335 |
|Samsung||Galaxy Note 3||September 25, 2013||BCM4339 ||Subsequent Devices Include 802.11ac|
|LG||LG Nexus 5||October 2013||BCM4339 ||BCM4339 is the updated version of the BCM4335|
|Nokia||Lumia 1520||November 2013||WCN3680||First 802.11ac-enabled Windows Phone|
|Nokia||Lumia Icon||February 20, 2014||WCN3680||Lumia 930 is Europe version of the same phone, also with 802.11ac|
|HTC||One (M8)||March 25, 2014||WCN3680 |
|Samsung||Galaxy S5||April 11, 2014||BCM4354|
|LG||G2||September 18, 2013||AWL9581 |
|LG||G3||May 23, 2014||BCM4339 |
|Amazon.com||Fire Phone||July 25, 2014 ||WCN3680 |
|Samsung||Galaxy S5 Prime/SM-G906S||June 18, 2014||QCA6174|
|Samsung||Galaxy Alpha||September 7, 2014||E702A7|
|Apple||iPhone 6/Plus||September 19, 2014||BCM4345||First 802.11ac-enabled iOS devices|
|Motorola||Nexus 6||October 16, 2014||BCM4356|
|Samsung||Galaxy Note 4||October 10, 2014||BCM4358|
|Samsung||Galaxy Note 5||August 21, 2015||BCM4359 |
|Microsoft||Surface Pro 3||June 20, 2014||Avastar 88W8897||802.11ac-enabled touchscreen computing device|
|Apple||iPad Air 2||October 24, 2014||Broadcom BCM4350||First 802.11ac-enabled iOS tablet device|
|Nexus 9||November 3, 2014||Nvidia Tegra K1||2x2 MIMO|
|Qualcomm||QCA9892||2||tablets, PtP Links|
|Qualcomm||4||enterprise access points|
|Qualcomm||QCA9992||3||enterprise access points|
|MediaTek||MT7610||1||?||?||?||PC (PCIe or USB)|
|MediaTek||MT7612E||2||laptops (PCIe 2.0)|
|MediaTek||2||laptops (USB 3.0)|
|Realtek||RTL8811AU||1||?||?||?||adapter (USB 2.0)|
|Realtek||RTL8812AU||2||?||?||?||adapter (USB 3.0)|
- MCS 9 is not applicable to all channel width/spatial stream combinations.
- A second stream doubles the theoretical data rate, a third one triples it, etc.
- 802.11ac only specifies operation in the 5 GHz band. Operation in the 2.4 GHz band is specified by 802.11n.
- With 802.11n, 600 Mbit/s in the 2.4 GHz band can be achieved by using four spatial streams at 150 Mbit/s each. As of December 2014[update], commercially available devices that achieve 600 Mbit/s in the 2.4 GHz band use 3 spatial streams at 200 Mbit/s each. This requires the use of 256-QAM modulation, which is not compliant with 802.11n and can be considered a proprietary extension.
- With proprietary extension to 802.11n, using 40MHz channel in 2.4GHz, 400ns guard interval, 1024-QAM, and 4 spatial streams.
- As of December 2014[update], commercially available AC3200 devices use two separate radios with 1,300 Mbit/s each to achieve 2,600 Mbit/s total in the 5 GHz band.
- "Official IEEE 802.11 Working Group Project Timelines". 2012-11-03.
- Kelly, Vivian (2014-01-07). "New IEEE 802.11ac™ Specification Driven by Evolving Market Need for Higher, Multi-User Throughput in Wireless LANs". IEEE. Retrieved 2014-01-11.
- Wi-Fi Alliance® introduces Wi-Fi 6
- Here come Wi-Fi 4, 5 and 6 in plan to simplify 802.11 networking names
- Kassner, Michael (2013-06-18). "Cheat sheet: What you need to know about 802.11ac". TechRepublic. Retrieved 2013-06-20.
- "802.11ac: A Survival Guide". Chimera.labs.oreilly.com. Archived from the original on 2017-07-03. Retrieved 2014-04-17.
- 802.11AC WAVE 2 A XIRRUS WHITE PAPER
- 802.11ac Wi-Fi Part 2: Wave 1 and Wave 2 Products
- 802.11ac: The Fifth Generation of Wi-Fi Technical White Paper, March 2014, Cisco
- Wi-Fi Alliance launches 802.11ac Wave 2 certification
- "6 things you need to know about 802.11ac Wave 2". techrepublic.com. 2016-07-13. Retrieved 2018-07-26.
- "IEEE 802.11ac: from channelization to multi-user MIMO". IEEExplore. 2013-10-08. Retrieved 2018-06-19.
- de Vegt, Rolf (2008-11-10). "802.11ac Usage Models Document".
- "ASUS RT-AC56U & USB-AC56 802.11AC Review". Hardwarecanucks.com. Retrieved 2014-04-24.
- "IEEE Std 802.11ac™-2013 - 22.5 Parameters for VHT-MCSs" (PDF). IEEE. 2013-12-11. pp. 323–339. Retrieved 2015-04-13.
- "AC580 USB Wireless Adapter Roundup". SmallNetBuilder.com. 2014-11-04. Retrieved 2018-01-02.
- "Linksys WUMC710 Wireless-AC Universal Media Connector Reviewed". SmallNetBuilder.com. 2014-01-28. Retrieved 2016-08-08.
- "Archer C59". TP-LINK.com. 2017-03-19. Retrieved 2017-03-19.
- Ganesh, T S (2014-09-02). "Netgear R7500 Nighthawk X4 Integrates Quantenna 4x4 ac Radio and Qualcomm IPQ8064 SoC". anandtech.com. Retrieved 2014-09-08.
- Higgins, Tim (2013-10-08). "AC1900: Innovation or 3D Wi-Fi?". smallnetbuilder.com. Retrieved 2014-09-08.
- Ngo, Dong. "Netgear R8500 Nighthawk X8 AC5300 Smart WiFi Router review". CNET.com. Retrieved 2016-08-08.
- "Quantenna Launches World's First 802.11ac Gigabit-Wireless Solution for Retail Wi-Fi Routers and Consumer Electronics" (Press release). Quantenna. 2011-11-15.
- "Redpine Signals Releases First Ultra Low Power 802.11ac Technology for Smartphone Application Processors" (Press release). Redpine Signals. 2011-12-14. Retrieved 2013-03-15.
- "Broadcom Launches First Gigabit Speed 802.11ac Chips - Opens 2012 CES with 5th Generation (5G) Wi-Fi Breakthrough" (Press release). Broadcom. 2012-01-05. Retrieved 2013-03-15.
- "Netgear's R6300 router is first to use Broadcom 802.11ac chipset, will ship next month for $200". Engadget. Retrieved 10 September 2014.
- "Buffalo's 802.11ac Wireless Solutions Available Now" (Press release). Austin, Texas: Buffalo Technology (via PRNewswire). May 14, 2012. Retrieved 2013-03-15.
- "Huawei Announces Commercial Availability of Industry's First Enterprise-level 802.11ac Access Point". Huawei. 6 December 2012.
- "Motorola Modular Access Points Performance Review". broadbandlanding.com. Retrieved 2017-03-02.
- "HP Launches the HP 560 802.11ac Access Point". HP. 2014-03-31.
- "Asus gaming notebook first to feature full 802.11ac". Electronista. 2012-06-07. Retrieved 2013-03-15.
- "Apple unveils new MacBook Air lineup with all-day battery life, 802.11ac Wi-Fi". AppleInsider. 2013-06-11. Retrieved 2013-06-11.
- "Apple - Macbook Air". Apple.com. Retrieved 10 September 2014.
- "MacBook Pro with Retina display - Technical Specifications". Apple. Retrieved 10 January 2014.
- "Mac Pro - Technical Specifications". Apple. Retrieved 10 January 2014.
- "HP ENVY TouchSmart 17-j043cl Notebook PC Product Specifications HP ENVY TouchSmart 17-j043cl Notebook PC". HP Support. Archived from the original on 2014-02-21. Retrieved 2014-04-17.
- "HTC One Teardown". iFixit.com. Retrieved 2016-08-08.
- "HTC One M8 | HTC United States | HTC United States". Htc.com. Retrieved 2016-08-08.
- "Inside the Samsung Galaxy S4 - Recent Teardowns". 27 April 2013. Archived from the original on 27 April 2013. Retrieved 15 May 2018.
- "Cellular, WiFi, Speaker & Noise Rejection - Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Review". Anandtech.com. Retrieved 2016-08-08.
- "LG Nexus 5 - Full phone specifications". Gsmarena.com. Retrieved 2016-08-08.
- "Nexus 5 Teardown". iFixit.com. Retrieved 2016-08-08.
- "Nokia Lumia 1520 Specifications - Microsoft - USA". Microsoft.com. 2014-07-23. Retrieved 2016-08-08.
- "Nokia Lumia Icon". Nokia. Retrieved 2014-11-10.
- "HTC One (M8) Teardown". iFixit.com. Retrieved 2016-08-08.
- "Samsung Galaxy S5 Hits Stores, Chock Full of Broadcom Tech - Broadcom Connected". 22 April 2014. Archived from the original on 22 April 2014. Retrieved 15 May 2018.
- "LG Electronics G2 Powered by ANADIGICS 802.11ac WiFi FEIC" (Press release). ANADIGICS. 2013-08-15. Archived from the original on 2014-03-04.
- "First Look: LG G3 Teardown – uBreakiFix Blog". Ubreakifix.com. 2014-05-30. Retrieved 2016-08-08.
- "Amazon Fire Phone - 13MP Camera, 32GB - Shop Now". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2016-08-08.
- "Amazon Fire Phone Teardown". iFixit.com. Retrieved 2016-08-08.
- "Samsung Note 4 & Alpha Teardown". Techinsights.com. 2014-09-10. Retrieved 2016-08-08.
- "Exclusive Video Teardown: Apple iPhone 6 | Electronics360". Electronics360.globalspec.com. 2014-09-23. Retrieved 2016-08-08.
- "Nexus 6 Teardown". iFixit.com. Retrieved 2016-08-08.
- "WiFi Performance, GNSS, Misc. - The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Review". Anandtech.com. Retrieved 2016-08-08.
- "Video Performance, WiFi Performance, and GNSS Performance - The Samsung Galaxy Note5 and Galaxy S6 edge+ Review". Anandtech.com. Retrieved 2016-08-08.