What are the latest technology improvements in Wireless access points and WLAN technologies? What does the future hold? Why should a company want to install one today instead of waiting?
The newest edition to the wireless family is 802.11ac, which uses the 5ghz band. 802.11ac networks are a substantial improvement in throughput from its predecessors and have a max realistic speed of 1.7-2.5gbps, though theoretically can reach just under 7gbps. Wireless AC access points use MIMO technology. This means that the AC access points will have multiple antennas that can support up to 8 spatial streams, compared to 4 on 802.11n. Each spatial stream can transmit data simultaneously to client devices. This technology also is enhanced by Multipath, which slowed transmission speeds in previous 802.11 standards. 802.11ac also uses 256-QAM modulation, up from 64-QAM in 802.11n. This uses 256 different signals over the same frequency by shifting and twisting each into a slightly different phase. In theory, that quadruples the spectral efficiency of 802.11ac over 802.11n. The future will see even further improvements on this technology, increasing throughput to even higher levels. Security and encryption techniques will also become more and more secure.
What are common problems with wireless networks to avoid?
Sometimes businesses will purchase the most expensive wireless access points available on the market thinking this will increase their throughput. Though this may be true in some environments, it definitely isn’t in most. The newer 802.11n standard will support devices in the 2.4ghz band as well as the 5ghz band. However, the advertised speeds are only obtainable if all connected devices are also 802.11n. The newer 802.11ac standard only works in the 5ghz band, and like the 802.11n standard will only obtain advertised speeds if all devices are designed to work with 802.11ac networks.
For example: If the client population is built primarily of 802.11b devices but the customer purchases 802.11n access points, the access points will be in Protection Mode and only be able to provide throughput based on the 802.11b standard, 11mbps. This is why it is extremely important to know your client population first, and then purchase equipment that best meets your needs.