802.11ac wireless networking: What it is and why you want it

“With everyone gushing over iOS 7 and the new Macs, it was easy to miss the relatively low key announcement that Apple has added support for 802.11ac Wi-Fi to two key hardware products: the MacBook Air and the Airport Extreme,” Christina Bonnington reports for Wired.

“802.11ac is the next generation of WiFi — the fifth, to be specific — and it’s not even officially a standard yet. But 802.11ac is poised to benefit our wireless experience with even faster throughput and more stable connection,” Bonnington reports. “It’s designed to offer wireless speeds of up to 1.3 Gigabits per second. That’s more than double the bandwidth of the current standard, 802.11n.”

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Bonnington reports, “Both Apple’s new Airport Extreme base station and the 2013 MacBook Airs feature 802.11ac support. So if you’re in the market for one of those new MacBook Airs we saw at WWDC last week, consider spending the extra $200 to upgrade your Airport Express as well. The speed boost will be worth it… Also, we can bet Apple’s next iPhone and iPad will get in on the 802.11ac game, too.”

Read more in the full article here.

Related articles:
Teardown: Apple’s new AirPort Extreme is extremely easy to disassemble – June 12, 2013
Apple brings all day battery life to MacBook Air – June 10, 2013


  1. I have the latest iMac 27-inch and I upgraded to the new AirPort Extreme Base Station. It seems that websites now load in half the time and it’s a much snappier experience. From my experiences with the new product, it was a worthy upgrade.

    1. The 2012 27″ iMac doesn’t have the hardware to support/access/utilize the 802.11ac frequency. It would still operate at 802.11n or lower. So how did this wifi “upgrade” help your computer???

    2. While I think the AC update is cool technology your bottleneck to the internet is not your 802.11N connection but rather your WAN link which is (likely) many times slower and has far greater latency than your wireless LAN does.

      1. Look, that’s a stupid point.
        This is not about your WAN-speed. This is about LAN-speed. Two different things. AC will set off a major upgrade cycle in the WiFi-business according to Companies like Aruba and Meru. Schools, hotels, resorts, corporations, hospitals. Everyone will upgrade to this. It will really make the WiFi experience so much better ad its nit just the speed that is better with this standard.

  2. Yeah, that’s great but the Internet’s still the weakest link. It’ll be great for file transfers on you wireless LAN, but until telcos boost the speed of connections even more, it’s a bit irrelevant.

    1. Is surfing the Internet the only thing you use your computer for? That bandwidth is great for anything dealing with moving data between machines. Means that having multiple Apple TV’s in use at one time and still having bandwidth for using the Internet and having you laptop backing up to your Time Capsule.

  3. It’s not about the internet, it’s about file sharing and transfer in the home. I keep all my stuff on a Diskstation NAS, and could always use faster transfer between my laptop and it wirelessly

  4. Anyone in need of tin hats can buy one or some off me! My latest design looks like a motorbike helmet, I call it the Bi-Polar Inverter® It inverts a bi-polar person into a mono-pole and so they only hear one voice….MINE:-)

  5. Finally i can have the first time machine backup (or restore) in less than 1 day.

    Great job, Apple. Including the fantastic new design for Airport hw.

  6. The article mixes the two types of Airport boxes from Apple: Airport Extreme and Airport Express.

    Apple has upgraded the Airport Extreme (the typical Airport base station and router) to 802.11ac.

    Apple has NOT upgraded the Airport Express (the typical Airport extender most often used in bridge rather than router mode in order to extend a wireless network). The Airport Express is still 802.11n.

    Will Apple upgrade its Airport Express to 802.11ac? Likely, but not certain. With the new Airport Express able to do beam forming for extended range, you might not need an Airport Express. Apple might upgrade the Airport Express or drop it all together.

  7. I replaced an older Airport Extreme with a new Airport Extreme ac last week. The beam-forming ability makes all the difference; places in the house which had virtually no signal now have full-scale signal, and the entire network has significantly faster thruput. Bravo Apple.

  8. LOL! The linked article (or rather, MDN’s rendition of it) has no spaces between words! I couldn’t force myself to read it all. Anyway…

    When they test these routers do they place each router under test in the EXACT same location? And do they have each person in the room (the fewer the better) stand motionless in the same spot? Do they check to insure that nothing has been moved between tests, like a van that has pulled up right outside the room? Things like that. Things that can alter reception quality due to reflections. I’ve tested low power radios before, and where you stand can make a difference. Even small crazy things can make a difference.

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