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There is a new wireless networking standard out that gives impressive improvements over the older technology. The standard is called 802.11ac. With all the new multimedia uses of wireless networks demanding more and more data be streamed in real time the speed increase could not come fast enough. We have moved beyond the days of simply viewing static websites with some images on them. More and more people are watching YouTube videos, listening to audio streams from Pandora, Spotify, or Apple Music, or watching movies and television shows on things like Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime. Gamers want low latency connections for real time gaming too. The new 802.11ac wireless networking can affordably bring this to you.
802.11ac works in the 5 GHz frequency. This allows for faster throughput. It is also fully backward compatible with the earlier 802.11n and 802.11g technology. The 802.11n specification had a maximum theoretical throughput of 300 Mps. The newer 802.11ac will go from 433 Mpbs up to several gigabits per second. This means that 802.11ac networking is faster than a USB 2.0 connection, and potentially just as fast as a USB 3.0 connection. Now wireless access to NAS, or network attached storage, can be just as fast as a wired connection to those same hard drives. As people move more and more from using desktop computers to laptop computers NAS storage becomes more and more useful. You can be anywhere in your home or office and have access to massive amounts of storage that is also very fast to access.
How 802.11ac Works
So how do they pull off all of this magic? Well first 802.11ac works exclusively in the 5GHz spectrum. The 2.4 GHz spectrum is way overcrowded with all sorts of wireless devices from baby monitors to security cameras, as well as older standard wireless networking. And even 802.11n used both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. So the engineers realized they needed to stay exclusively on the more wide open road of 5 GHz to push all that data over.
Second, 802.11ac uses up to eight spatial streams (MiMO technology). 802.11n only was able to use up to 4. So this allows a much wider footprint to push all that data through. The channel width for 802.11n was 40 MHz wide. The 802.11ac standard is 80 MHz and those can be doubled to 160 MHz. So you are looking at a difference of 4x40MHz compared to 8x160MHz.
Third, 802.11ac implements beamforming. The 802.11n standard had it but it was not standardized between vendors. What beamforming does basically is allows the router to focus where it is transmitting the power so that more of it gets to your device. It basically looks for your device and focuses the energy your way. This can boost throughput and improve signal quality.
Obviously to make use of the new standard you will need a new 802.11ac router. Your networked devices will also need to support the 802.11ac standard. For desktop computers you can simply replace the existing network interface card. For laptops you would need to get some sort of USB attached network adapter. You would have to research about if there is a way to upgrade other devices on your network. Rest assured that newer devices will be coming out that support 802.11ac wireless networking. If you are buying new network attached devices you should make sure to ask if they support 802.11ac wireless networking!
I am truly a geeks geek. I have worked in computers for over three decades. I have worked on mainframes, Unix systems, Linux before almost anyone knew what it was, and many other systems. I love computers, and love making them do things people think is impossible.