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Tech News 12th April 2012 2413

Fifth-generation Wi-Fi technology promises to deliver faster-than-cable speed - without the cables

Wi-Fi has become an essential part of our lives. For most of us, it’s second nature to tap into wireless Internet from our homes and offices, and we’re all too familiar with the “where can I get free Wi-Fi without having to buy something?” dance when out and about. For both traditional notebook computers and mobile devices like phones, gaming devices, and and tablets, Wi-Fi has revolutionized the way we access the Internet. In most homes, it has even replaced the need for wired networks: Why bother with Ethernet, hubs, and complicated cabling when so much can be handled via Wi-Fi? Desktop computers, televisions, game consoles, set-top boxes — even thermostats often rely on Wi-Fi.

These days, most Wi-Fi is 802.11n, technology which started to roll out in 2007 and theoretically offers wireless throughput of up to 300 megabits per second per stream. However, Wi-Fi is about to get an upgrade in the form of 802.11ac, which will not only offer a boost in bandwidth (up to 433 or 867 megabits per second per stream, depending on channel width) but should offer more reliable connections.

802.11ac Wi-Fi promises to be an improvement on the same scale as the transition from 802.11g to today’s nearly ubiquitous 802.11n Wi-Fi. This basically means, 802.11ac should offer about four times the bandwidth of todays’ 802.11n Wi-Fi. That means faster downloads, and that could translate directly to better use of battery power, since devices’ Wi-Fi radios will be able to process more data in less time.

Folks who have embraced 802.11n Wi-Fi won’t have to throw anything away: 802.11ac is backward compatible with 802.11n. Those relying on 802.11n won’t see any improvements, but bringing 802.11ac devices or base stations into the mix won’t be disruptive.

Looking a little bit deeper, 802.11ac Wi-Fi offers some major improvements over 802.11n that will help networks support a larger number of high-bandwidth devices as well as make connections more reliable.

  • Less interference
  • More speed
  • Improved stream management

 Does faster Wi-Fi mean faster Internet?

So, if you have read this far you are probably wondering if 802.11ac means Wi-Fi devices will have faster Internet, right? Well, not necessarily — and for most home users, the answer is probably “no.”

Although 802.11ac Wi-Fi may be able to tick along at speeds approaching (or in excess) of gigabit Ethernet, most users’ home Internet connections don’t run at anywhere near that capacity. Even top-tier home Internet services can deliver up to 100Mbps or 150Mbps in bandwidth. That’s about one fifth to one tenth of the bandwidth 802.11ac can handle. In other words, even the fastest home broadband connections will be a bottleneck to an 802.11ac network. Data from the Internet isn’t going to reach 802.11ac Wi-Fi devices appreciably faster than it reaches 802.11n (or even 802.11g) devices.

However, 802.11ac does mean users will be able to push data around their home networks faster — particularly if (any) wired portions of that network use gigabit Ethernet. That means arduous tasks like backing up your entire media collection will take substantially less time; it also means that synchronizing data, offloading photos and videos from mobile devices to a computer, and even streaming video to set-top boxes and game consoles will be much smoother, and more of that activity can happen at the same time without stutters or hiccups.

For businesses, schools, and organizations that have gone to the trouble to install high-capacity networks and major Internet bandwidth at their sites, 802.11ac technology could very well yield a significant improvement in overall Internet performance.

Here to help

Here at PC PAL, we understand that technical talk like above can be daunting and confusing! Please don't worry though, our engineers are fully trained as well as having extensive knowledge and a love of the technical world! If you want to know more information, why not book an engineer to visit you or your business find out if 802.11ac WiFi could benefit you.

PC PAL Team

PC PAL is the UK's award winning Computer, Laptop, Mac & Smartphone support specialists, with experienced, qualified & local Computer Engineers based in your area. We are a name that local people have come to recognise and trust.

Please take a moment to read our feedback from our loyal customers, or find your local PC PAL Engineer.

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