When it comes to Technology Performance Evaluation, nothing is more critical in the home or office than the wireless connection. When I am Skyping in from Naples, I am often frustrated with the inconsistent performance of my conferencing partner’s broadband access, speed, and reliability. Any technology evaluation, therefore, should begin with the wireless router.
A great wireless router [installed, programmed, and positioned properly] can make a more significant improvement to someone’s technology performance than any other component in the chain.
I see the wireless router in much the same context as the phono cartridge back in the day. If you didn’t start with a great signal from your phono cartridge, it really didn’t matter how great your tape deck or speakers were – it just wasn’t going to sound good. Similarly, without a great broadband connection, you are SOL right out of the gate. Add in all of the security and use considerations, and the wireless router becomes even more valuable. But, much like the phono cartridge, very few people understand the value or the actual performance criteria of the wireless router. I want us to change all that.
We need to focus on wireless routers. We need to evaluate, recommend, install, and manage the performance of the appropriate wireless routers for all of our customers’ homes and businesses.
Note: The below comments on wireless routers were cobbled together and edited from these three reliable and informative sources [my apologies to their well-written and thoughtful prose]:
http://www.techradar.com/news/networking/wi-fi/802-11ac-what-you-need-to-know-1059194 by Gary Marshall
http://compnetworking.about.com/od/wirelessrouters/f/bestwifirange.htm by Bradley Mitchell
http://reviews.cnet.com/best-wireless-routers/ by Dong Ngo
Routers are the unsung heroes of the Internet. The latest wireless router on the market doesn’t generate as much hype as the latest smartphone or tablet, but your router is an absolutely critical part of your home or business network.
Since it connects the rest of your gadgets to one another and the Internet, the wireless router is arguably the most important piece of computer equipment in your home or business.
Not only does it give you wireless access, but it allows the Internet into your private and very vulnerable internal network. In many users’ homes or business, the router is the primary sentry against security threats. A good router can help protect against a range of threats from identity to stolen bandwidth [provided the router is secured properly.
Additionally, Wi-Fi routers perform other useful tasks such as allowing you to set up guest access for guests or employees to connect to your wireless network and use your Internet service [without giving them access to resources like files and printers, or you can at least limit that access]. You can also use a router’s Quality of Service [QoS] feature to give priority to the type of network traffic most important to you, be it Voice over IP [VoIP], video, or even file-sharing.
So, although a Wi-Fi router’s main function is delivering Internet [or WAN] access to your private network devices and gives those device wireless access, it can do much more; some can police what your employees or children at home access on the Internet, and just about all can restrict which devices can connect to your network via a feature called MAC filtering.
A wireless router’s antenna technology generally determines its Wi-Fi signal strength and hence its range. Generally speaking, 802.11g wireless routers offer better Wi-Fi range than comparable 802.11b units due to improved antennas.
In general, wireless routers currently offering the best Wi-Fi signal range, however, are 802.11n [sometimes called “wireless N”] units. Where standard 802.11b and 802.11g routers contain just one Wi-Fi radio and antenna, wireless N routers contain two or three radios specifically designed to maximize Wi-Fi range. The actual range and performance of any wireless router, however, varies substantially depending on conditions of the environment such as obstructions and radio interference.
If, however, you thought Wi-Fi couldn’t get much faster than 802.11n, think again. 802.11ac, dubbed 5G Wi-Fi, promises ridiculously fast wireless connections, better range, improved reliability, and improved power consumption.
802.11ac is the latest evolution of Wi-Fi, and it should be particularly good for gaming and HD video streaming.
So, how does 802.11ac work, does it live up to the hype?
Your 802.11ac speed could break the gigabit barrier. The fastest current 802.11n Wi-Fi connections max out at around 150Mbps with one antenna, 300Mbps with two, and 450Mbps with three antennas. 802.11ac connections will be roughly three times faster – so that’s 450Mbps, 900Mbps, and 1.3Gbps respectively.
802.11ac routers will use “beamforming” technology. Wi-Fi is omnidirectional, but 802.11ac routers will be able to use directional transmission and reception technology dubbed “beamforming”. The router will be able to identify the rough location of the device it’s talking to and strengthen the appropriate antenna(s) accordingly. The idea is to reduce interference.
802.11ac Wi-Fi uses the 5GHz frequency band. Older wireless kit uses the 2.4GHz frequency band, which is fairly crowded: your kit is potentially sharing radio frequency with next door’s baby monitor, your cordless phone and even your microwave. Like high performance 802.11n kit, 802.11ac routers will use the less cluttered 5GHz band where there’s considerably more room for data transmission. 802.11ac hardware will use two kinds of channels in that range: 80GHz ones and 160GHz ones.