802.11ad and 60GHz Wi-Fi - Do You Really Care?


Samsung made a big deal this week about developing a way to offer reliable Wi-Fi devices using the 802.11ad standard over the 60GHz band. The issue has always been the fragile nature of these radio waves as well as the amount of power required by devices to utilize the band. But apparently Samsung has solved these problems and will begin introducing 802.11ad devices capable of achieving Wi-Fi speeds of 4.6Gbps sometime next year. Whoa! Did I really just say 4.6Gbps??? The thought conjures up images of Doc Brown exclaiming, "1.21 JIGGA-Watts!!!" Outdated pop-culture references aside, I'm left wondering if Samsung's innovation really matters at all.

With the introduction of the iPhone 6, 802.11ac devices and wireless access points are just starting to get a foothold in the market on the more coverage friendly 5GHz band. The 802.11ac standard will eventually take throughputs to 866Mbps. Is there some reason to believe that this won't satisfy the needs of customers in the near term? On top of that, 802.11ax is hot on the heels of ac, which has the potential to take speeds up to 3.5Gbps over 5GHz.

So what is Samsung thinking? It's got to be in the use cases, however, they are not telling us what they are. But if I had to guess, I would say it had something to do with the Internet of Things…"Samsung things" to be more precise. I imagine Samsung appliances in the kitchen all communicating with each other and relaying rich culinary data back to your Galaxy smartphone when you enter the room. Or in the living room, Samsung smart TVs, set top boxes, lighting systems and other devices all beaming video and other instructions to each other. Or in the hospital room with Samsung medical devices all collaborating at hyper-speed, in real-time in order to provide doctors powerful patient analytics when they walk into the room.

Sounds interesting, but will it be profitable? According to Clayton Christensen's theory of disruptive innovation…probably not. Samsung's plans would be described as a "sustaining innovation" that outpaces customer's ability to actually use it in a practical way. Therefore, the masses won't go for it. Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see how it all materializes. If you have any opinions on this, I'd love to hear them!