The news is out. 802.11ac is worlds faster than 802.11n. Or is it?
There are many things to understand about the hype of 802.11ac. One thing to know is that the lab tested increase in WiFi speed is real. The real-world application of this same speed is not as amazing as it sounds. While the math states that 802.11ac can reach speeds up to 7Gbps, the actual increase of speed looks to be around 1.7Gbps to 2.5Gbps. Now this is still attractive because the theoretical speed of 802.11n is only 600Mbps.
The next thing is to understand the range or potentially the lack of range on the 802.11ac. In theory, the 802.11ac has the same range or potentially better when working on 5GHz band but when it drops down to the over-used 2.4GHz, there isn’t enough spectral bandwidth for the gigabit-level speeds of the 802.11ac. 802.11n can use both 5GHz band and 2.4GHz band with the lower being able to travel farther distances. The reason why you may not be able to see much of a difference in the comparable range on the 802.11ac is because it uses 5GHz. 2.4GHz is used by just about everything so when switching to 5GHz there is less interference which results in a clearer signal.
Beamforming is also something that helps with range as well as speeds in the 802.11ac. 802.11n sends out signals equally like a ripple effect or the typical symbol for WiFi.
802.11ac uses beamforming also known as “smart signals” to direct its signal to the location of the device receiving the signal. This allows for greater use of WiFi on 802.11ac devices than the standard “spray and pray” WiFi of 802.11n.
One more thing to understand is that 802.11ac is completely backwards compatible. This means it will work with any 802.11 APs that were ever created even the 802.11a created back in 1999. The caveat here is that though it is backwards compatible, you can only use the standards of the older version. If you purchase 802.11ac but have a ton of older devices you will be running 802.11g speeds. The only way to use the increased speeds and compacity of the 802.11ac is if you have 802.11ac APs going to 802.11ac devices.
So now the real question, is it time to invest?
To learn about the cautions and benefits to investing in 802.11ac please check out our blog on 802.11ac: Is it Time to Invest?
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