Wi-Fi Speeds are Changing, Are You Keeping Up?

Wi-Fi speeds are faster today then ever before and are ready for business users to take advantage of its capacity. With several wireless routers available on the market, Compulite’s network management team has a look at the past, present and future of Wi-Fi speed protocols to see how your business can take advantage of the fastest speeds available.

In, 1997, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) created the standard that all wireless routers follow, the standard 802.11. Several extensions to the protocol have been created since then which can make purchasing the right wireless router for your business requirements a daunting task.

Business vs. Consumer Grade Routers

To make the most our of your Wi-Fi connection, you will need to select a router. The requirements your wireless router should meet will vary depending on how you operate, and while the prices of consumer-grade products may be attractive, small business owners should be aware of the differences in capacity and security features business grade routers offer.

  • Consumer Grade routers typically target speed, streaming capabilities and security. A wireless router of quality should have the following features:
    • The ability to prioritize the types of data traffic (commonly referred to as Quality of Service).
    • Parental controls to limit and dictate user access.
    • Guest Network that can be set up to allow the guests in your home access your network while blocking access to your own computers or printers.
    • Security mechanism like a firewall that will prevent intruder’s access to your network.
  • Business Grade Routers will have stronger security features while allowing more flexibility in accessing your network from remote locations, and the ability to scale as your business grows.
    • Speed is important but even more so is the support of a large number of users.
    • Content filtering similar to parental controls that limits employees access to specific websites.
    • Virtual networks (VLANs) that can segregate internal traffic. For example, contain the accounting department and its data to its own network.

Wi-Fi Protocol Summary

Wireless routers on the market today are based on the 802.11 standard. Routers (or access points) and the Wi-Fi speed that are capable of reaching, can greatly vary. Speeds your wireless routers can achieve depend on distance, the amount of interference, the number of antennas, noise cancelling features and even the type of wireless security can alter or contribute to their output. Each 802.11 extension comes with its own enhancements; a summary of the most recent protocols are outlined here:

wi-fi protocol

Wi-Fi 802.11n

Most businesses and their users are still using the Wi-Fi protocol 802.11n that has been around since 2007. While this is sufficient for a small network of devices that use moderately high bandwidth, it won’t be long before this commonly used protocol will serve less of a purpose.

Wireless networks are now a core productivity tool that needs to meet your business demands.  With daily business functions heavily relying on video conferencing, collaboration and data-intensive applications, as well as the incorporation of BYOD (bring- your-own-device) policies, a move to 802.11ac may be necessary to maximize your network’s performance.

Wi-Fi 802.11ac

802.11ac is the current standard for Wi-Fi and will soon be a part of every major smartphone, laptop, desktop and smart television. Approximately 3 times faster than 802.11n, more and more devices are being made to support the speed. The iPhone 6 is capable of handling the speed, which is why users will notice little to no buffering when streaming HD videos or gaming. Mobile devices will also notice an improvement in their battery life of connected devices because it takes less time to complete data transfers.

Using a technology called beam-forming, 802.11ac will transmit radio signals in a way that they are directed to a specific device. This kind of “smart signal” can detect where your connected devices are and increase the signal strength specifically in their direction.

Business that are looking for faster Wi-Fi performance will want to consider migrating to 802.11ac. If your network shares large files, or has several devices connecting and streaming you need a more powerful router equipped with this latest Wi-Fi technology. But it is not just the speed of ac that will be its selling point, it is the speed at long range that will eventually make Ethernet networking a thing of the past among client devices. While you may notice an increase in prices of routers that follow the latest 802.11ac standard, the increase in capacity will be worth the expense.

Wi-Fi 802.11ax

While not much has been said yet about Wi-Fi ax, we can anticipate that the interference and congestion will be even further reduced and data transferred between devices will obviously be faster with the ax protocol. But more than just a simple speed upgrade, Wi-Fi ax will more importantly be more efficient. Targeted at high density Wi-Fi deployments, Wi-Fi ax will have the ability to improve connections and stay active even with heavy interference.

Things To Consider

When migrating your business’ network to a new Wi-Fi protocol, the full impact on operations must be considered. Determine which applications need to be supported, the number of users and their locations that need coverage and the type of devices that will being using Wi-Fi. With a site audit of your current office location to determine the capacity requirements, your organization will be able to take advantage of reliability and speed the newest Wi-Fi standards have to offer.

(image via flickr)