Now Get Gigabit Speeds With 5G Wi-Fi

By | May 22, 2012

Wireless networks have always lagged one step behind wired Ethernet in terms of speed. Even smaller businesses often have to transmit large files or large amounts of data across their networks. When wireless is much slower, they run the cables. This may now change, with 5G Wi-Fi. The first next-generation Wi-Fi router is available, and a second is waiting in the wings. They operate under the new 802.11ac standard, which specifies speeds in the Gigabit range, catching up to Gigabit Ethernet speeds only recently achieved for wired networks.

A PC World article introduces the Buffalo Technology model WZR-D1800H 802.11ac router and says a similarly high-speed model from Netgear is on the way. Netgear claims similar performance for its model R6300, and Cisco and D-link say they'll launch their own 802.11ac products this summer.

The new 5G Wi-Fi gear uses the 5 GHz band to achieve higher speeds at greater transmission distances. In theory, the signals in this band should not have an increased range over the older routers working on 2.4 GHz, but the new routers have increased power and bandwidth, compared to the older types. Where the standard limited the previous generation 802.11n routers to 40 MHz, the new standard allows 80 MHz.

More sophisticated models will have beam-forming capabilities, with several antennas detecting the direction of the router's clients and focusing the transmissions accordingly. Adding these features together theoretically results in a better range than the previous generation of routers, with fewer dead spots at the outer edges of the range.

In addition to allowing company networks rapid transmission of large files, the new standards are specifically aimed at streaming high-definition and other media files. Equipment using the new technology will require less buffering and performance will be similar to wired Gigabit connections for the first time. This means that the IT departments of midsize businesses can avoid the cost of running Ethernet cables wherever the company requires high transmission speeds. If they regularly have to send large files or stream multimedia to clients or staff, they can now use wireless networking. The technology even impacts less demanding network functions like file sharing and email, as the higher speeds increase efficiency. New functions such as the video conferencing available in Google+ work better as well.

The models currently available will not immediately transmit data at 1.3 Gbps in real world use. In addition to network overhead and congestion on real networks, they are backwards compatible and may have to slow down to work with older equipment on the same system. Once all gear on a network is 802.11ac capable, speeds around the Gigabit level should be attained. Whether expectations with regard to both speed and increased range are met with real-world 5G Wi-Fi models remains to be seen, but it is certain that the new routers can deliver greatly increased transmission speeds for wireless networks.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.