A Comparison Based on Speed, Range and Capacity
802.11ac is the current generation wireless network design replacing 802.11n. But those that still use the older wireless network technology need not worry. 802.11ac is fully backward compatible so this means devices like routers, laptops, smartphones, tablets, televisions and much more that use the current gen can still work with 802.11n networks. And if you have just recently purchased an electronic device that still supports 802.11n you don’t have to rush back to where you have purchased your device. There is still time to enjoy your investment because 802.11ac networks will still take previous gen devices. But why switch to the new 802.11ac when 802.11n is still good?
The two wireless network technologies have been compared based on speed, capacity and range to help you understand why a new Wi-Fi standard is at hand.
802.11ac is technically faster with more bandwidth so that everyone connected to the network can enjoy fast speeds. The next generation Wi-Fi 802.11ac will have 1.3Gpbs bandwidth which is 3x the bandwidth available in 802.11n network. And of course, speeds rely on many variables like device capabilities, distance from the source and more. Therefore when it comes to speeds, 802.11ac is a complete overhaul from the previous 802.11n.
802.11ac offers improved client capacity because it can accommodate as many as 100 clients or users as compared to the 802.11n that can only take up to 40 clients for optimal performance. The reason for this limitation is not because of hardware but because of limitations according to bandwidth.
Wireless users share the bandwidth on an AP system and therefore each user will only get a portion of the shared bandwidth. For example 802.11n AP has 450Mbps to distribute to 50 clients and therefore each client or user can get 9Mbps. And when you consider spectrum interference and other factors that can affect bandwidth, the actual total bandwidth may be less.
But despite being able to handle only up to 40 clients on the 802.11n network, if 25 clients were to share bandwidth then each one would have 18Mbps which is certainly better than having only 9Mbps. 802.11ac offers more bandwidth for clients with improved ways to distribute this so that access point is much better compared to the 802.11n wireless network technology.
Another stellar quality of the new 802.11ac is range. Consider two users both 75 feet away from their wireless network access points. The client on the 802.11ac will get 200Mbps while the client on the 802.11ac can net 400Mbps. Even clients who have an 802.11n compatible device connects to an 802.11ac network will see improvements in speeds.
Preparing for an 802.11ac compatible network
The 802.11n network will be phased out on 2018 and this is only a few months’ time to prepare. Here are ways to prepare for the AC migration:
1. Gigabit switching
The first phase of the 802.11ac network switch will be the introduction of 600Mbps to 1.3Ghz bandwidth. This will demand that the switching infrastructure keep up with the new technology data flow. The old 10/100 switching will just not take these speeds So if you are going to upgrade from an 802.11n to an 802.11ac expect up to 600Mbps. A 10/100 edge switch port could only slow down your wireless network.
2. Use 10Gb from the edge to the core
Edge switch uplinks need 10Gb interfaces to your data core. Your uplinks must also support a link aggregation protocol such as Ether Channel or LACP. This can supply 2, 3 or 4Gbps to the core to improve performance than a 1Gbps link. With each AP at 600Mbps to 13Gbps of bandwidth, multiple APs can oversaturate your link on a single switch.
3. Core switches at 10Gbps
Aggregation switches must have 10Gbps links to take uplinks from the edge switching infrastructure. Core switches should also be upgraded to 10Gbps interfaces. This is important to support the links from the aggregation switches as well as for connecting with wireless controllers. Latest wireless controllers are ready for 802.11ac with four 10Gbps interfaces that allow up to 40Gbps of throughput.
4. Make sure that switches support 802.3at PoE+ capable
802.11n use up to 15mw if PoE and in 802.11ac it’s totally different. This new wireless technology can use up to 20 to 25mw range which regular PoE cannot support. Your switches need to support 802.3at PoE+. At this rate your switches will be good to go for 802.11ac.
5. RF network designs must consider a 5GHz design perspective
802.11ac has the highest bandwidth at 5Ghz. 2.4Ghz will still be supported via access points but the speeds would just be according to 802.11n.
5Ghz spectrum wavelength is shorter and will attenuate better than 2.4Ghz through building materials and therefore AP density will be higher in the new 802.11ac. However, most manufacturers have already known of this change and have maintained 5Ghz as the preferred band. Therefore most WLAN RF system designs have been ready for the big change for quite some time.
To sum it all up, pitting 802.11n with 802.11ac is a no-brainer. The new system will be implemented soon and there is no turning back. But there are no reasons to fret for average users and system administrators because the switch will be for the better.
802.11ac will replace 802.11n entirely come 2018 and it has been estimated that almost all smartphones shipped this year will have 802.11ac. It was estimated in 2014 that 70% of smartphones have the latest wireless network by 2015.
802.11ac is faster at 1.3Gbps max and this is three times faster than the 802.11n at 450Mbps maximum speeds. When it comes to capacities, the 802.11ac can accommodate as many as 90 to 100 users at optimum speeds while 802.11n can accommodate only 30 to 40 clients at optimum performance. And when it comes to range, 802.11ac is twice as fast as 802.11n at the same distance from the access point. Preparing for this great change will surely be a good investment.
Recommended 802.11ac Router
Zyxel Armor Z2 AC2600 – One of the best 802.11ac wireless routers that has fast connection, easy to setup and use with ONE Connect App. This router will allows you to enjoy the latest 802.11ac wireless standard speeds.
– Easy to setup and use
– Intuitive interface
– Ideal entry-level price
– Fast connection
– ONE Connect App