There are already consumer-focused access points, routers and adapters based on the existing 11ac draft, which is not expected to change much by the final IEEE ratification in late 2013 or early 2014. And some analysts are forecasting very rapid 802.11ac adoption by client devices. ABI Research recently forecast that in 2015, 70% of smartphones shipping will have 802.11ac radios.
To achieve its high data rates, 802.11ac uses several techniques. One is bigger channels, up to 80MHz wide compared to the maximum 40MHz for 802.11n. A new modulation scheme essentially packs more information in the radio signal. Beamforming is a mandated feature instead of an option as in 802.11n: it optimizes the signal between the access point and each connected client.
But the actual performance will depend on a range of variables: how many data streams the radio supports (a maximum of eight for 11ac), range from the access point or hot spot, the number of other clients associated, the kind of applications being used, and so on. [See "11ac will be faster, but how much faster really?"]