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Wi-Fi is about to get a lot better, thanks to a new wave of 802.11ac features

Linksys EA7500
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends
Multi-gigabyte speeds, direct signals for all devices instead, and 160 megahertz channels are all now part of the 802.11ac standard. That’s according to a release from the Wi-Fi Alliance, the industry group that sets the standards for local wireless networking.

You might not realize it, especially if you’ve stuck with whatever router your ISP gave you, but Wi-Fi keeps getting better. The Wi-Fi standard keeps offering more and more power, and the new “wave 2” features of 802.11ac go a long way at making what were exclusive features become standard, Ars Technica is reporting.

A notable feature is MU-MIMO, or multi-user multi-input and multi-output. This technology allows routers to communicate with different devices much more efficiently, by creating direct links between the router and individual devices.

Until this technology came around, routers would constantly switch between devices, meaning if you were watching a movie on your tablet while playing a game on your laptop the signal would essentially alternate between the two. MU-MIMO changes that, by communicating directly with individual devices.

MU-MIMO is already offered on advanced routers, such as the outrageously powerful Linksys EA9500. However, the feature wasn’t an official part of the Wi-Fi standard until now.

Another new feature doubles the maximum channel bandwidth, from 80 MHz all the way to 160MHz. This is staggering. That kind of spectrum space offers bandwidth of up to 866 megabits per second, which is fast. This means any router offering two bands can provide well over a gigabit of speed.

Finally, the new standard uses more channels on the 5GHz spectrum. This should help alleviate problems in densely populated areas, where competing routers overlapping with each other can slow down connections.

It’s really excited to see the Wi-Fi 802.11ac standard catch up with some of the great things router makers were already implementing. And if you’ve been waiting to buy a new router, now might be a good time. Some of the higher-end devices out there will blow your mind.

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Justin Pot
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Justin's always had a passion for trying out new software, asking questions, and explaining things – tech journalism is the…
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