The 802.11n standard's performance and compatibility with older gear make it a no-brainer upgrade.
world of wireless communications changed, quietly, about two years ago. That
was when the WiFi Alliance announced that it was issuing a draft of the 802.11n
wireless standard that device makers could use until the final standard was
released in 2009. Well, 2009 came and the standard was ratified (in September).
11n Wi-Fi is real.
why is this a seemingly non-event? Because the draft standard worked and because
the standard has been adopted in piecemeal fashion.
that the standard has been ratified, what does it have to offer organizations
that are still a Wi-Fi generation behind? And is 802.11n an all-or-nothing
802.11n is a lot faster than previous standards-it will transmit data at speeds
of up to 160M bps over short distances-it offers other improvements, as well.
These include a better method of encoding packets, making delivery more
reliable; support for QOS (quality of service); and support for MIMO (multiple
input, multiple output), which allows the radios in wireless devices to use
multiple antennas to improve reception. Last but certainly not least, 802.11n
devices operate on both the 5GHz and 2.4GHz bands.
say 802.11n should trump all other Wi-Fi iterations.
is the only technology that matters," said Craig Mathias, principal at Farpoint
Group. "If you're going to buy wireless technology, then buy 11n. We're there
now, and there's no reason to wait."
said that because 11n-based new devices are compatible with previous versions
of Wi-Fi, there's no risk-everything will just work better as portions of your
network move to 802.11n.
reality, though, there's a lot more to 802.11n Wi-Fi than just compatibility.
thing that makes 11n so compelling, besides the performance profile, is the
explosion of dual-band support," said Kelly Davis-Felner, marketing director
for the WiFi Alliance. "It's very easy to have a network where you have people
segregated on 5GHz and 2.4GHz. You get similar performance out of both
frequency bands, and a lot of products work on both."
addition to working on two frequency bands, 802.11n supports QOS tagging, which
means that data requiring priority, such as audio and video, works a lot better
in an 802.11n environment. This leads to, for example, the ability to deliver high-definition
television over Wi-Fi-something that was never really feasible before.
in the real world of most enterprises, streaming HDTV is
probably not a major consideration for moving to the new standard. Instead,
it's lower operational costs, higher reliability and easier management. "A lot
of vendors will tell you about video," Mathias noted. "I don't think anyone is
buying it exclusively for video."
you have more capacity and more control, according to Davis-Felner. "All the
things that you've heard in terms of capacity, range and throughput are true-11n
is truly an Ethernet replacement. There isn't a reason why you'd want to go to
a wired alternative."
Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazine's Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.
He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.