Among the new products being unveiled Monday at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas is D-Link's new line of ultra-fast Wi-Fi routers, one of which supports wireless connection speeds of up to 5.3 gigabits per second. The routers would seem to fit under the "if you build it, they will come" category, as those kinds of Internet speeds are pretty much not available anywhere in the world.
The new Ultra Performance Series of 11AC routers are already grabbing attention not only for their purported speeds but for their sci-fi-like stylishness. Designed with a sleek red finish, the devices sport a shape that is more star-fighter- than router-like in appearance.
Daniel Kelley, D-Link Systems' Vice President of Marketing, said the Ultras "set the bar for how a Wi-Fi router should look and perform." The AC3200 ULTRA router -- with a top speed of 3.2 GBPS -- is available now from NewEgg.com for $309.99, while the 5.3 GBPS AC5300 and the 3.1 GBPS AC3100 -- prices yet to be announced -- are expected to hit the market sometime in the second quarter of this year.
802.11ac Wireless Beamforming
D-Link's Ultra series of routers use 802.11ac wireless beamforming to boost both signal strength and throughput. Beamforming increases real-time performance by directing stronger wireless signals to the specific location of each connected device. The new routers also feature Smart Connect technology to "automatically assign clients to the wireless band providing the best bandwidth."
In addition to their Wi-FI capabilities, the new D-Link routers also feature WAN/LAN Ethernet ports for high-speed wired connectivity. The routers feature several antennas -- four on the AC3100, six on the AC3200 and eight on the AC5300 -- to maximize range and optimize coverage.
The AC3100 and AC5300 both also offer multi-user MIMO technology to support simultaneous signal transmission to groups of clients. All three of the routers offer interfaces that let users control their networks from smartphones or tablets.
GBPS and TBPS Dreams
For now, anyone with an Ultra router will find it hard to push the device anywhere close to its high-speed limits, whether that's 3.1 GBPS, 3.2 GBPS or 5.3 GBPS. That's because -- as SpeedTest company Ookla's Net Index shows -- broadband connections globally average just 21.8 MBPS (download speeds).
The average broadband connection in the U.S. is around 31.8 MBPS. Even the country with the fastest peak connectivity -- Hong Kong, with 73.9 MBPS, according to the most recent "State of the Internet" report from Akamai -- doesn't come close to matching the capacity of the Ultra series.
While companies like Google have begun rolling out higher-speed fiber -- around 1 GBPS -- in parts of the U.S., most Internet surfers will only be able to dream of such speeds for the time being. And the only connection that could challenge the speed claims of the Ultra series is that delivered in tests early last year by BT and Alcatel-Lucent: an eye-popping 1.4 terabytes per second, which is enough to stream 44 uncompressed HD movies in just one second.