Apr 05, 2011

Is 802.11n the last important wireless LAN standard?

Should I install it now or wait for whatever's next?

Hi beatrix1,

This article gives a brief peek at what may be next. It's up to you to decide if you want to wait for it though. ;)



"In the future we may see a 802.11ac and/or 802.11ad.

802.11ac (theoretically) will support speeds from 600 Mbps to 1Gbps. It will utilize <6 GHz frequencies.

802.11ad (theoretically) will support speeds up to 2.5Gbps. It will utilize the 60 GHz frequency band (typically 57-66 GHz)."

It's tempting to think that the IEEE 802.11n standard will be the last in a long line of WLAN standards, which go back to the original 1997 1 and 2 Mbps standard, and proceeded through 802.11b (11 Mbps in the 2.5 GHz. band), 802.11a (54 Mbps in the 5 GHz. bands), and 802.11g (54 Mbps in the 2.4 GHz. band). After all, 300 Mbps is today quite common in products based on 802.11n (although one needs to be aware that some products operate only in the 2.4 GHz. band, not a good idea in many cases, and some at only at up to 150 Mbps), with 450 Mbps and 600 Mbps now beginning to appear. For essentially all enterprise settings, there's no reason to wait for any future standards; 300-600 Mbps should be plenty for almost all applications, assuming a reasonably dense network of APs so as to provision sufficient capacity and enable optimal throughput. No, don't wait - our usual recommendation is to install 802.11n initially in the 5 GHz. bands using 40 MHz. channels, and leave the typical 3- or 4-channel 2.4 GHz. 802.11g deployment alone. Gradually replace the .11g APs with .11n APs running in .11g mode (again, using 20-MHz. channels), and maybe, eventually, as the client base turns over, move those 20 Mhz. channels to 802.11n. This allows non-disruptive improvements in throughput and capacity at the lowest possible cost.


And, yes, there are other standards in development now. IEEE 802.11ac will provision >1 Gbps in the 5 GHz. bands, and 802.11ad will do the same at 60 GHz.  But neither of these will supercede .11n in the same way that it has replaced all of the standards that came before it. .11n has a long and happy life ahead of it, and will be providing excellent service for many years into the future.

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