Source: A New Age of Wireless: 802.11ac and How it Will Change your Business

“Will this make my wireless faster?” 

I turn toward the client, his work computer was running slowly due to malicious software, and I was there to remove it. 

“Well… No, this won’t make your wireless faster, but it will make your computer faster.”

I could see that this answer was not the answer he was looking for. A mix of frustration and disappointment spread across his face.  He nodded and left me to complete my work. 

If you have worked in the information technology field for any length of time it is very likely you have had to answer a question like this. As our devices demand more bandwidth and become more prevalent so do the speed demands that are being asked of our wireless networks. The average number of devices per employee is 3, and it’s easy to quickly overload your network. Speed and connection stability are two of the biggest factors that leads to increased employee productivity, and luckily, the newest wireless technology 802.11ac has this in spades. 

Before we move on to why 802.11ac will help make your business better, let us discuss what 802.11n and 802.11ac are. In its simplest form 802.11 is a suite of protocols created by the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers.) 802.11n and 802.11ac are both protocols that happen to define how wireless works. One of the most important things detailed in each protocol is how fast it allows wireless communication. 802.11n has a theoretical maximum speed of 450 Mbps (Megabits per second.) 802.11ac has a theoretical maximum speed of 1300 Mbps, nearly 3 times faster than its predecessor 802.11n. 

Now there are a few things to note about wireless speeds. One, you will never reach the theoretical speeds stated above. Two, you may say to yourself “Both those speeds are a lot faster than my internet coming in.” Yes this is true, but there are many factor that bring that theoretical number back down to earth. Unless you have upgraded your network in the last year or so your wireless network uses 802.11n.

So how would switching from 802.11n to 802.11ac affect your business? First off, yes, there’s an expense involved to upgrade to 802.11ac, but not as much as one might think. On average the cost of 802.11ac equipment, compared to 802.11n, is around 10% more. Not bad to have a network that runs nearly 3x faster! Beyond that there are many other reasons to consider the upgrade to 802.11ac.

 One of the biggest improvements from 802.11n to 802.11ac is its increased ability to handle multiple users at one time. This advancement is known as MU-MIMO (Multi-user multiple input multiple output.) MU-MIMO helps keep the integrity of everyone’s connections, especially when there are many users all connected to one access point. Another improvement comes in the form of more reliable long range communication.  802.11ac uses advanced beamforming techniques to increase the stability of wireless connections to users on the edge of its signal range. With 802.11n the wireless signal propagates from the access point in all directions equally, similar to the waves and ripples created when dropping a rock into a puddle of water. 802.11ac does things slightly differently. It also radiates wireless signal in all direction, but once you connect to the network the Access point will send more signal in your direction. This increases the stability and speed of the connection. This advancement in beamforming also allows signal to propagate through more physical obstructions, which in turn means you have to buy less equipment then a network with 802.11n equipment. 

Upgrading your network is a big decision that can affect your business in so many ways, and there are many factors to consider before upgrading. Whether you are thinking of upgrading now or down the road a little, one thing’s for sure- upgrading from 802.11n to 802.11ac will make your wireless faster.