The average American household connects to the Internet at a rate of 10 megabits per second. Not bad, but also not fantastic — by way of comparison, a single HD Netflix stream takes up 5.8 Mbps of bandwidth. Now with that as our baseline, consider the speeds of the country's fastest Internet connections today: 1 Gbps, or a gigabit per second. That's equivalent to 1,000 Mbps, or roughly 100 times faster than the national average.
But if you thought that was fast, wait until you hear about a new WiFi router that's coming next year. It's capable of 10 Gbps — 10 gigabits per second. That's a thousand times the rate of the average American broadband connection. It's mindboggling. You could theoretically stream 1,724 Netflix movies, all in HD, all at the same time and not see any lag. And the manufacturer, Quantenna, says its 10-gigabit WiFi router will be shipping next year, though it offered no word on its price tag.
The new device is being announced just a year after the standards body responsible for WiFi put the stamp on 802.11ac, the technical protocol that provides for 1 Gbps WiFi. To see a 10x jump so soon on top of that announcement is pretty crazy.
Let's pause for a second. This doesn't necessarily mean your Internet service is going to get faster; if you've subscribed to a 50 Mbps plan, for instance, that's what you'll continue to get from your Internet provider. What we're talking about is the rate at which your WiFi router passes data from your Internet provider to your PC. If you have a 1 Gbps fiber optic connection but a really old router, your router will prevent you from getting the most of your subscription because the data is being bottlenecked when it reaches your home. You need the right equipment for the right job.
Since the average household Web connection is still lagging at 10 Mbps, it'll be hard for most people to take advantage of the 10-gig router right away. They simply don't consume enough data to need the giant pipes provided by this new technology. But it's still an awesome indicator of where the future may be headed.