Wi-Fi — What You Should Know About the New 802.11ac Version


Did you know that the average U.S. household has five internet-connected devices? Personally, I had no idea, so I wondered just how many internet-ready devices does my household of 2 adults (and one very iPad savvy toddler) have?  With 2 laptops, 1 desktop, 2 iPads and 2 smart phones, we have racked up a total of 7 Wi-Fi compatible, ready to connect to the world at the touch of a button or swipe of the finger devices! That’s a total of 3.5 gadgets per person (not including the toddler of course).  Just imagine if I had two teenagers in the house? I can only assume that this number would jump from 7 to at least 11 with the addition of 2 more smart phones and 2 more personal laptops or tablets.

What is surprising is how fast we (as a generation) arrived here. Fewer than 4 years ago, the number of Wi-Fi ready devices in my house was just 2. We had one desktop and one laptop.  Our phones were simple feature phones or email-only blackberrys. Apple iPads and Kindles were not even on the market yet.  Since the initial release of the very first iPhone in 2007, smartphone, tablet and e-reader sales have taken off like wildfire.  Staying connected 24/7 seems to be the “norm” these days, and what was first considered a luxury to own is now relatively standard.

You may or may not know that there is a new Wi-Fi connection coming to a device near you in 2014, mainly due to the increased number households that are running 3 or more Wi-Fi connected devices at any given moment.  But is it worth all of the hype? Here’s what you should know about Wi-Fi 802.11ac before you consider upgrading your devices:

Wi-Fi 802.11ac will officially be known as the new standard Wi-Fi service which is scheduled to be released next year.  The new connection will more than double the theoretical speed at which broadband signals travel between current 802.11n Wi-Fi enabled devices.  The word “theoretical” is thrown in there because when it comes to pure speed, you will not see much of a difference between versions. What you will experience is an increased bandwidth capacity in which data & intensive applications will flows through and will create a better user experience. For non-techy folks like me, this simply means that you can watch a high definition quality movie stream with fewer delays and better quality when beamed around a network, according to the Wi-Fi Alliance (www.wi-fi.org)

So back to my initial question, is it worth upgrading your router or device to be compliant with the 802.11ac version of Wi-Fi? Unless you are a speed freak, probably not.  If your home network is slow, it may possibly be your broadband provider that is to blame.  If you do take the plunge and upgrade to the 802.11ac, keep in mind that your network is still only as fast as the device connected to it. In layman’s terms: if you have a laptop with an 802.11n adapter in it and you purchase an 802.11ac router, your laptop will still only get 802.11n speeds.

To sum it up, if your current router takes its last breath…then yes, buy one that is 802.11ac compatible, because the next device that you purchase will most likely be 802.11ac compliant. Your existing Wi-Fi compatible device will work with a new 802.11ac router even if the speed isn’t quite there.  And just like with any new release in technology, the 802.11ac will be a higher investment initially, but will eventually taper off and have be a comparable cost to the 802.11n routers that are on the market today.  And remember, our IT Networking staff at Brave River Solutions can assess your current Wi-Fi enabled devices and work with your broadband provider to deliver Internet services and speeds that will suit all of your business needs. Call us today at 1-888-828-8911 for more information.

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