Apple’s 2013 Macs may sport ultra-fast Wi-Fi thanks to the inclusion of support for 802.11ac wireless networking, according to sources speaking with The Next Web Wednesday. Apple has reportedly reached a deal with Broadcom to include 802.11ac chips in future Macs, which can theoretically support connection speeds of up to 1.3 Gbps.
Apple’s current line of Macs include 802.11n support, which has a theoretical maximum speed of 450 Mbps. Nearly all user networks operate at speeds lower than the maximums, but the speed advantage of 802.11ac will result in a noticeable performance improvement over 802.11n and its predecessors.
Apple was rumored in early 2012 to adopt 802.11ac technology during the year but the company failed to do so, sticking with 802.11n and support for older b/g standards. As a result, Apple was not the first company to release 802.11ac products, with several manufacturers introducing routers and accessories for the standard throughout 2012.
The first such device was the Buffalo AirStation, which The Mac Observer’s Dave Hamilton reviewed in May. While real-world speeds did not come close to the standard’s theoretical maximum, the transfer speeds with a multiple antenna configuration were significantly faster than a similar 5 GHz 802.11n setup.
Despite the relatively good performance of the AirStation, 802.11ac is still in its commercial infancy, with few manufacturers (including Broadcom) and a small number of chip options for various devices. Current rumors about Apple’s use for the technology indicate that it will arrive in Macs first, without any indication thus far about the timeline for adoption in other Apple products, including iDevices, the Apple TV, and Time Capsule.
802.11ac requires new hardware, however, so it is almost certain that Apple will update its Airport Extreme to support it if and when the feature arrives on Macs. Otherwise, Apple customers would be forced to use a third-party router to take advantage of the new wireless interface, something Apple is not likely to encourage.
Teaser graphic made with help from Shutterstock.