802.11ac Wi-Fi to hit 1 billion shipments by 2015

The growth of wireless devices has been astronomical, but if market watcher In-Stat's figures prove true the airwaves are about to get a lot busier with the adoption of 802.11ac.

According to a report published by the company this week, devices based on the new Wi-Fi standard - which is designed as a direct replacement to the current 802.11n specification - will ship almost one billion units by 2015.

802.11ac increases the performance of Wi-Fi networking to near-gigabit speeds, making wireless networks that can truly compete with wired networking in terms of speed for the first time. Although the standard has yet to be finalised, the technology behind it already has the industry excited.

A draft standard, which may see some manufacturers producing 'pre-ac' compatible devices as with the draft release of 802.11n, is expected to be completed by the end of the year, with mass-market products appearing in 2012. By 2015, In-Stat predicts, 802.11ac will be the dominant standard in the wireless networking marketplace.

"The technology behind 802.11ac has not been finalised," In-Stat vice president Frank Dickson admitted in a statement. Despite this, his company is sticking to its forecasts for the technology.

The near-billion devices are, unsurprisingly, expected to be made up largely of mobile devices. Smartphones in particular will make up the bulk of shipments, thanks to their high churn rate compared with other Wi-Fi equipped devices such as laptops: by 2015, In-Stat's research predicts over 800 million 802.11ac-equipped smartphones will have shipped into the market.

With such a large number of wireless devices due to hit the market, it's no surprise that the Internet is full - and the planned move to IPv6 clearly can't come soon enough.