Skip to main content

Apple's next-gen Macs to ship with 5G Wi-Fi?

Apple's next line-up of Macs due out this year will feature so-called 5G wireless networking chips from Broadcom that deliver up to three times the Wi-Fi speed as the company's current laptops and desktops, according to The Next Web.

Apple has reportedly "struck a deal" with Broadcom to use the chip manufacturer's 802.11ac chipsets, which would provide not just a significant boost to wireless throughput but also provide energy efficiency advantages over current 802.11n parts, the tech site reported, quoting unnamed sources.

If you recall, Broadcom was touting its new 5G products a year ago at the Consumer Electronics Show. Those Wi-Fi chipsets are three times as fast and up to six times more power efficient than equivalent 802.11n solutions. The power consumption savings conferred should be particularly useful in laptops like Apple's next-gen MacBook Pros, obviously.

How fast is fast? Broadcom's BCM4360 chip implements three-stream 802.11ac specifications to reach speeds of up to 1.3 Gbps. That, or a part very much like it, may well be the chipset Apple is eyeing for the 2013 Mac line-up. The Next Web specifically references three-antenna configurations in its report.

What's more, as the site reminds us, "Apple began including three send and receive antennas in its Thunderbolt-ready MacBook Pro and iMac computers" in 2011. The BCM4360 supports PCI Express, a must for a laptop/desktop chip.

However, The Next Web report also states that the Broadcom chip Apple is planning to use "isn't currently available and is still in development," so while it might resemble the BCM4360 part pretty closely, we'd hardly be surprised if the firm has commissioned its own custom-built version.

It should be noted that throughput of 1.3 Gbps isn't always achievable, but at last year's CES, we saw a chip that consistently hit the 1 Gbps mark at the Broadcom booth.

Other 802.11ac chips in Broadcom's portfolio include the two-stream BCM4352 chip, which also supports PCI Express and can hit 867 Mbps, and a pair of parts built to USB specs, the two-stream BCM43526 (at 867 Mbps) and single-stream BCM43516 (433 Mbps).

All of Broadcom's 5G chips have 80 MHz channel bandwidth, which is twice as wide as what you'll get with current 802.11n parts. The next-generation Wi-Fi chips utilise transmit and receive beamforming, low-density parity check (LDPC) codes, and space-time block codes (STBC). Those technologies help direct content toward the intended receiving device, making 5G chips more reliable than earlier-generation hardware and extending Wi-Fi range.

For the most part, 802.11ac chipsets have yet to find their way into mainstream laptops, though as The Next Web points out, a few companies, like Asus, have released 5G-enabled products. The next-gen wireless networking technology has been utilised in a fair number of currently available mobile devices and routers, however.

Image Credit: Flickr (nicolasnova)