TP-Link unveils world’s first 802.11ad WiGig router

TP-Link logoTP-Link has unveiled the world's first 802.11ad (aka WiGig) router: the rather unique looking Talon AD7200. The router is on the show floor at CES in Las Vegas and will be available to buy "in early 2016." No word on price, but I doubt it'll be less than £200/$250.

The Talon AD7200 isn't just a WiGig router: it also supports the usual 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi protocols, from 4x4 802.11ac all the way down to a/b/g/n. The idea is that when you're in range for WiGig, it'll use WiGig—otherwise it'll fall back to the slower (but hardier) links. The Talon is capable of up to 800Mbps on 2.4GHz, 1733Mbps on 5GHz, and 4600Mbps on 60GHz (WiGig). Add those together and you get roughly 7200—the name of the router.

As you'd expect from a bleeding-edge router, it has plenty of other high-end features as well. There are eight fold-flat antennas for some sweet beamforming MU-MIMO action (i.e. even if multiple people are in the same room on the same router, you should get a decently fast connection); four Gigabit Ethernet ports on the back; two USB 3.0 ports; and the usual fancy management software that most modern routers have. I'm not entirely sure why the antennas can be folded flat; for storage, perhaps?

TP-Link Talon AD7200

The TP-Link press release suggests that the AD7200 uses two Qualcomm Atheros solutions: one for 802.11ac and below, and another for 802.11ad. Qualcomm appears to be the first to market with an 802.11ad solution, probably aided by the fact that it acquired Wilocity in 2014. Wilocity was one of the first companies to demo a working WiGig setup, way back at CES 2012. (Fun bit of trivia for you: Wilocity was founded by ex-Intel engineers who previously worked on the original Centrino project.)

If you haven't heard much about 802.11ad/WiGig before, here's the basic gist of it. Despite it sounding like the successor to 802.11ac, it is nothing of the sort. While 802.11ac wants to provide house-wide wireless LAN connectivity, 802.11ad is all about short-range interconnectivity between devices—say, between a laptop and a docking station, or a smartphone and a 4K TV. 802.11ad uses a big ol' swath of 60GHz spectrum, which allows for some crazy connection speeds (4.6Gbps to begin with), but at the expense of range: WiGig has range of just a few metres, and those tight 60GHz signals are attenuated by anything thicker than a sheet of paper.

So, at least for now, 802.11ad is somewhat of a niche technology. It may prove to be somewhat useful as we move towards very-high-bitrate media, or if people decide that they prefer wireless docking over a big ol' reliable Thunderbolt cable.

The 802.11ad ecosystem is fairly small at the moment. Lenovo's new X1 laptops have WiGig, and there's also a WiGig Lenovo docking station. Acer announced a laptop at CES that supports WiGig (the TravelMate P648), also based on the Qualcomm Atheros 802.11ad solution, too. I'd expect some WiGig-enabled TVs and docking stations to be announced over the next year, too.

Source: Ars Technica

Tags: Wi-Fi

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