Every few years a new generation of wireless technology is released. The current generation (fourth generation) is 802.11n, and it has been the standard since 2009. Each generation brings better range, faster speeds, and more powerful networking technology. 802.11ac (I will refer to it as AC from now on) is the latest generation of WiFi that is just about to go mainstream. Read on to find out how to make your business ready for this latest advancement.
What Makes 802.11ac Better?
AC brings several things to the table: firstly, it switches the broadcast frequency of the wireless router to 5 GHz by default, compared to 2.4 GHz that is common in most wireless routers today. By running at 5 GHz the wireless signal will encounter less disruption from other devices that emit radio waves, such as a cordless phone or a microwave. Therefore, you will have a more stable connection. Secondly, AC is considerably faster than previous generations. The current N wireless specification operates at speeds between 54 Mbits/s to 600 Mbits/s. AC will operate between 500 Mbits/s and 1 Gbits/s, this will give speed increases of 70% to 1000% over the current generation.
Let’s compare the maximum speed of the wireless generations:
As you can see AC is a large leap over its predecessors, but may not seem to be as revolutionary as some previous jumps.
Let’s take a look at another test however. This test is transferring a 1 GB file between two computers on a network.
As shown by the graph, this is where AC really shines. Its average time to complete the file transfer is around 7x faster than the previous generation, and there is less difference between the fastest and slowest times, meaning it offers more consistent speeds. N had a very fast maximum speed, but that speed is almost never reached. AC on the other hand operates an average of 7x faster than N.
What Does this Mean for Your Business?
The implications of AC are obvious in a business setting. This wireless technology is many times faster than previous generations. I believe the speed increase is finally getting to the point where wired connections may finally become a thing of the past. Instead of waiting minutes for a transfer to finish, the times are now down to seconds, and even though a wired connection is many times faster than AC on paper, the average time saved by using a cable in a normal environment will only be a second or two, compared to the minutes or hours in the past.
The cost of wiring up an entire building, and providing wired access to every computer could be avoided, thus AC saves money, while offering increased portability.
AC is expected to be mainstream in 2015, but already manufacturers are creating devices to take advantage of it. HTC is releasing a phone on March 15, which will take advantage of the new AC speeds, and Broadcom, Qualcomm, and Redpine Signals are all offering routers that broadcast on the AC frequency. Expect laptops and tablets to be released with support for AC in the coming months.
All AC routers are backwards compatible with N devices, so I recommend equipping your business with an AC router as soon as able. Starting in the second half of 2013 many of the user devices being released will be AC compatible, so ensure that any smartphone, tablet, and laptop purchases support AC. The increase in speed and portability from AC will increase productivity in every business environment.
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