Aug 102012

802.11AC is the latest standard and has five major improvements over 802.11n that result in much higher throughputs:

  • Uses 5GHz band only, which is much less congested than 2.4GHz
  • 80MHz channel:  2x the width of   802.11n
  • 256QAM:  This provides a 1/3 increase in throughput
  • MU-MIMO:  Multi-user MIMO functions like a switch, whereas 802.11n functions like a hub.
  • 802.11ac uses 8×8 MIMO vs. 802.11n’s maximum of 4×4 MIMO (most 802.11n uses 2×2 MIMO in 2015:  That is to say, 802.11ac has 8 spacial streams, whereas 802.11n has a maximum of 4:  8×8 MIMO is double the throughput of 4×4 MIMO.

You will attain all of these benefits only if all the APs and devices in the network are 802.11ac.  Otherwise, you would have the same performance with 802.11ac as with 802.11n

Each mode-type has it’s own advantages.

Streaming media on a local-area network:   802.11ac is best choice because of the much higher thorughput.

802.11n wireless adapters only work optimally when connecting to a 802.11n that’s operating in 802.11n mode.

Connecting to a 802.11G network?  Then an 802.11G wireless USB adapter will perform better than an 802.11n USB adapter

Frequency Ranges of the 802.11 network-types:

802.11b and 802.11g:  2.4GHz only:  Operate only in the 2.4GHz frequency band

802.11n:  2.4GHz & 5GHz bands:   802.11n equipment is made for either 2.4GHz or 5.8 frequency band:  5.8 is typically much less cluttered with signal-traffic

802.11a:  The Key Advantages:

  • It uses the frequency range 5.2 to 5.8GHz:  This range of frequencies is much less used than 2.4GHz
  • It allows for use of so many channels that you don’t have to worry about interference between access points.   In the U.S., 802.11a offers eight non-overlapping channels vs. three channels shared by 802.11b and 802.11g. If the company or department next door (or upstairs or downstairs) has an 802.11a network, more channels makes it easier to configure your 802.11a network to avoid interference.  In dense installations, extra channels can make 802.11a networks up to 14 times faster than 802.11b networks.

The following may be outdated in 2015:

If your purpose is internet connectivity only – trying to reach a distant or weak network signal for internet access:   

  1. 802.11b will provide better range/distance than 802.11g – and –
  2. 802.11b provides plenty of bandwidth for broadband-speed internet access:  Read more
  3. 802.11g cards automatically select 802.11b mode for long-distance connection

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