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Wireless Routers Revisited & What’s New!

Wireless router technology has evolved since the last time we discussed it on the blog, so we thought it would be a good time to revisit the topic. We’ll cover what has changed and what you should be looking for in a new wireless router purchase.

Flashback (The Basics)

First let’s define what a router is. In geek-speak, a router passes traffic between two dissimilar networks. To put it very simply, a router is an electronic device that takes an incoming Internet or network signal, and distributes that signal to connected devices (i.e computers, laptops, printers, etc.) via ethernet cables. In other words it takes the data that is coming into the router and makes that data accessible to whatever is connected to it. A wireless router takes that operation a step further. Not only can you connect devices to it via ethernet cables, but you also connect to it wirelessly with mobile devices like laptops, smartphones, tablets, etc. (See original post)

What’s New?

The biggest improvement in WiFi technology has been in data speeds. To keep up with our growing Internet usage, Wi-Fi routers have steadily increased their wireless speed and range. Starting with 11 megabits per second in 1999/2000, up to 1.3 gigabits today. Over 1,000 times faster! The following charts the development of wireless standards:

 

Year Designation Speed Frequency

1997 802.11 1.2Mbits 2.4Ghz

1999 802.11a 54Mbits 5.8Ghz

1999 802.11b 11Mbits 2.4Ghz

2003 802.11g 54Mbits 2.4Ghz

2009 802.11n 150Mbits 2.4 & 5Ghz

2013 802.11ac 800Mbits 5Ghz

 

802.11n & 802.11ac also feature the use of MIMO antennas for higher parallel throughput. MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) is an antenna technology for wireless communications in which multiple antennas are used for both the source (transmitter) and the destination (receiver). The antennas are combined to minimize errors and optimize data speed. This allowed for significant increases in data without the need for higher bandwidth or transmit power.

The Future

One exciting upcoming technology are Wireless Mesh Networks. Gone is the past where you had to purchase Wi-Fi extenders in addition to wireless routers for installation throughout the house. Wireless mesh systems are the future. In a wireless mesh network, only one node needs to be physically wired to a network connection like a DSL Internet modem. That node then shares its Internet connection wirelessly with all other nodes in its vicinity. Those nodes then share the connection wirelessly with the nodes closest to them. The more nodes, the further the connection spreads, creating connectivity that can serve a small office or a large company.

Evolution

802.11ac speeds of 1300 Mbps are incredibly fast. What’s even more incredible is that they already stand to be surpassed! It’s successor? 802.11ax! 802.11ax should deliver real-world speeds above 2Gbps. The simplest way to think of 802.11ax is to start with 802.11ac (which allows for up to four different spatial streams (MIMO)) and then to massively increase the max throughput of each stream. 802.11ax operates in the 5GHz band, where there’s a lot more space for wide (80MHz and 160MHz) channels.

 

When 802.11ax arrives, you can use it for day-to-day things like:

 

  • Streaming movies and TV shows in 4K, Ultra-HD.
  • Quickly downloading large files.
  • Playing games online without experiencing the dreaded, game-ruining “lag.”
  • Seamlessly using your entire collection of smart devices without noticeable speed decreases, since 802.11ax is designed for Wi-Fi-dense environments.
  • Keeping all your smart home devices running 24-7 with maximum Wi-Fi coverage.

 

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers doesn’t expect to approve the new 802.11ax standard until late 2017. So don’t plan on seeing any “ax” routers until 2018 at the earliest.

What Should You Buy?

There are many reasons to think about buying a wireless router. The most obvious would be that your existing router isn’t working. Other reasons include:

 

  1. You don’t want to continue to buy or rent a router from your service provider.
  2. You already have a broadband modem directly connected to a single computer, but want to be able to go online with multiple devices.
  3. Your router has only wired connectivity, but you want to go online with wireless devices, such as a laptop or tablet.
  4. Your existing router is too slow or its wireless range is too short to reach important places in your home.

 

But which one do you need? First of all you definitely want to buy one which uses the latest protocol (802.11ac) to ensure you are taking full advantage of your broadband connection. Then you need to determine the environment the router will be used in. For example, if the router is going to be used in a small apartment where the router won’t be more than a room away, then you would need a router that excels in throughput speeds at “near” or “mid” ranges. If the router is going to be used in a larger house or office (with many rooms and/or more than one floor), you’ll want a router that’s rated for “long distance” and strong data throughput. Another consideration – do you frequently have guests that will want to use your WiFi? Make sure the router has “guest network” capabilities. Lastly, security. You want a router that has WPA2 encryption. Security is paramount, especially if you live in close proximity to others, such as in an apartment complex or an urban area.

 

Geek Easy Computers

Thinking about upgrading your WiFi router? Or adding a new one? Or just not happy with your current WiFi setup? Talk to one of our wireless experts. We can develop a wireless solution for your home or business that will satisfy your needs! Stop in or give us a call at 269-548-TECH(8324). We want to make your wireless computing easier!

 

Adonis Pointer is a photographer, a collector of vintage razors, and a certified technology geek!

Adonis has been involved in computer technology since well, a LONG time! He has been involved in nearly every aspect of the industry from sales to repair to training to consulting. As the Social Media Manager he writes the majority of the posts on the Geek Easy Computers blog.

 

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