802.11n approved; Not 'new' and hardly groundbreaking

802.11n approved; Not 'new' and hardly groundbreaking

Summary: With 802.11n now a ratified standard, it offers better range and faster speeds. But somehow, I don't see the long-term benefits for those with an existing infrastructure. Artcile


The next generation wireless network technology has finally been approved today by the IEEE who ratifies new wireless standards. Even though it has been in "draft" in devices for years, the final standard will still work fully with existing devices.

So - considering that 802.11n is now roughly seven years old, why aren't we as excited as we should be? It isn't a new technology and hasn't been for many years, and the cost of an n-router is considerably more than a standard b/g-router.

In relation to 802.11a/b compared to 802.11n, yes there is a clear difference and those adopting should be very happy. But for the home consumer, such as myself, and the university student - oh yeah, such as myself - I am failed to be overly enthusiastic about the new standard.

I bought a Netgear Wireless-N ADSL2+ DGN2000 router only a few weeks ago to get myself a true Media Center experience. My house, unlike many student houses, is built of brick internally so having wireless signals from the top floor to the other was somewhat difficult.

I quickly realised that it wouldn't give me a full 802.11n experience because the wireless encryption wouldn't support it. It seems even the manufacturers agree, yet I disagree in that I believe it has nothing to do with the fact, at the time, it wasn't a ratified standard. From my router setup I see:

  • None - can't be done, the neighbours next door will nick it.
  • WEP - only available on b/g wireless modes.
  • WPA-PSK - only available on b/g wireless modes.
  • WPA2-PSK - only available on b/g wireless modes, or if I have a "high performance client" such as a WN511B I would be able to get maximum performance, ie. 802.11n speeds.
  • WPA-802.1x - basically Radius authentication, can't have that.

So even though I select the "up to 270mbps" option in the wireless network section, it will attempt to push to those very high speeds over the network, but will never reach it as the authentication doesn't support it.

Perhaps I've done something hideously wrong and actually it can all work just fine. But somehow, I am not holding my breath for this new technology.

And with universities offering wireless network across campuses and offices, buildings and companies doing the same, will they adopt to 802.11n technology?

Well, probably not just yet, no. Unless they have a wireless infrastructure in place already, I find it difficult to justify the spending of so much money in removing existing 802.11b/g routers, and then buying new 802.11n routers - even though I'd be buying less of them due to the higher ranges.

The draft specification and both the now ratified standard will have backwards compatibility, but it's just not cost effective. If you have no wireless network at your establishment, then go with 802.11n to keep the techies happy. But for my university, switching to 802.11n is unlikely as the money spent will last them. The coverage is good enough and will last for a good few years yet.

For my house, the 802.11n router was the only standard powerful enough to blast signals from one side of my house to the other. For that, I am thankful. However, with WiMAX being taken on by universities now, I cannot get too excited over a standard which offers slightly faster local-only speeds and slightly better coverage indoors.

But then again, it is a rainy Monday morning here, and even the birds chirping outside are starting to annoy me. What about you, do you think 802.11n will really take off now it is a ratified standard?

Topics: Mobility, Networking, Wi-Fi

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  • I'm moving to it

    Well, if all you do is check email and write blog posts all day - then yeah, g is fine.

    BUT - if you ever intend on watching high-def video or play games, then even g is not enough. You'll want n.

    WiMAX is interesting, BUT:

    -No computer we have supports it. New cards/dongles would be needed for everybody.

    -It looks very much like it'll get bogged down when too many people are on it. The city-sized radius means there's a single point that has to handle all of the traffic.

    So - yeah, we're moving to N, and to gigabit ethernet for my gaming machine (no, I don't game on wireless, thanks).

    "WPA-PSK - only available on b/g wireless modes."

    That's strange - my n router (Netgear) supports all encryption modes on all speeds. I'd say it's not the standard as much as it is the manufacturer.
    • Same here...

      [i]"WPA-PSK - only available on b/g wireless modes."

      That's strange - my n router (Netgear) supports all encryption modes on all speeds. I'd say it's not the standard as much as it is the manufacturer. [/i]

      I've got a Dlink dir-615 paired with (I think) dwl-g520m, and I run "N only" and I can use wpa-psk, wpa2-psk, wpa-aes, and wpa2-aes.
      • Same with Apple's Airport lineup....


        Use an Airport Extreme and add a Express to
        extend your network... You'll have full
        strength throughout the entire house with any
        security you want. You can also plug in a usb
        printer (to either one) and have a wireless
        printing and you can run the express to any
        stereo and stream your itunes to the home
        stereo (not to mention the built in hard drive
        in the extreme). It's a very sweet setup.
      • Dlink dir-615

        I have one of these too with four clients (actually 3 wireless and one wired), all running 802.11g (I replaced the 802.11b adapter on one client to use WPA security). The router drops the wireless clients frequently, as often as 1 - 2 days. The client "loses connectivity" (per Microsfot speak) and the router will not grant a new IP address to the client - even when using the "Repair" command on the Microsoft wireless application. The router needs to be disconnected from my cable modem and powered down, then powered up and reconnected in order to grant IP addresses to the clients. Do you have this problem?
  • RE: 802.11n approved; Not 'new' and hardly groundbreaking

    I set up my $99 NetGear WNR3500 6 months ago. Use WPA2-PSK. Laptops hookup around 100 to 144Mbps almost anywhere in the house. Never had a problem.
  • So how is the "Final Standard" that different?


    OK, I have some Linksys routers based on Draft-N, so what makes the final standard that different and wonderful?

    As long as Linksys updates the firmware via download, I could really care less at this point.

    It's pathetic that it took this long! The IEEE and it's members should be ashamed.

    Hope that USB 3.0 does not go down the same path.

  • You're soaking in it!

    Yes, I'm already using N (draft) and no worries. Airlink 101 brand.

    I get 300 mbps on an internal PCI card with diversity antennas, and 270 mbps on a USB dongle.

    Bought the whole setup cheap back last year when it was on sale at Frys. (Not sure but I think it was only $19.99 for the card or dongle, and only $29.99 for the router)

    Handles encryption no problem.
  • Why the excitement?

    Even though high-throughput network connectivity has been out for a long time (Gigabit LAN, 802.11n, Fiberlink, etc.), the average home user won't be able to even utilize nearly that full bandwidth, even whith sharing multimedia and high-speed internet downloading across the whole appartment.

    Although, certianly, these wireless N routers are capable of better throughput than their predesessors, the biggest noticable difference is range, and that you can connect more computers to a single wireless access point. For instance, at my site, I have 11 N-routers set up as access points across this concrete/metal building, serving small, reliable cells where multiple laptops may be and often are connecting at once.

    However, if you were to look at the network usage meter in Taskmanager while copying files over the network or while doing heavy P2P file sharing, you'd see that most users would never max out the meter on a 100Mbps LAN connection, as there are other "links" in the chain that would slow it down (processor, RAM, HDD speed [especially on older computers], internet speed, etc.).

    This is not to say that you couldn't make full use of this speed. I happen to do some pretty heavy networking myself. However, aside from better overall range, most home users wouldn't have a need to get too excited over this. I can understand the vendor's need to sell this stuff and make more money, but when they advertize "multimedia experience", they mean "heavy multimedia". If you just to internet and a little bit of sharing, a b/g will still be just fine.