802.11n: Heir to the 2.4 GHz band

If 802.11b, then 802.11a, then 802.11g and all the bastardized variations of 11g weren't already confusing enough, a new generation of 802.

If 802.11b, then 802.11a, then 802.11g and all the bastardized variations of 11g weren't already confusing enough, a new generation of 802.11 is on the horizon. Fortunately, it appears that this new member of the 802.11 family may truly deliver on the goods.

Here are the benefits of 802.11n:

  • Superior throughput
  • Superior range
  • Penalty free backwards compatibility to 802.11 b and g

When it comes to speed, 802.11n not only delivers on to real world sustainable throughput, but it does so without massacring the 2.4 GHz spectrum. The nonstandard "Turbo G" or "Super G" solutions offered by the major vendors delivered minor throughput gains while eating up the majority of the 2.4 GHz band. 802.11n, on the other hand, only uses a single channel in the 2.4 GHz band and current tests show sustained throughput of over 40 mbits/sec, which is almost a 90% boost on existing 802.11g devices. That is more than sufficient for the wireless delivery of high-definition television on demand for home entertainment or business applications -- and it won't make you a spectrum hog.>

anks to enhanced radio sensitivity, 802.11n delivers more than double the range. This huge umbrella of coverage makes 802.11n significantly easier to deploy. It also makes it possible to provide overlapping coverage, so that any failure of a single access point doesn't mean a service outage. With this type of architecture, load balancing capability in a wireless infrastructure becomes more important than ever.

Backwards compatibility is nothing new in the 802.11 family since 802.11g already provides this capability by inter-operating with the popular 802.11b protocol. However, 802.11g achieves this at a severe performance penalty because everyone must drop down to 802.11b mode to accommodate a single 802.11b client. In most environments, this limitation forces an 802.11g access point to spend most of its time as an 802.11b access point. To illustrate how dramatic this effect is, an 802.11g client could be humming along at 22 mbits/sec, yet if an 802.11b client starts transmitting data, both clients operate in b mode and they each end up crawling at 3 mbits/sec. An 802.11n access point has no such limitation, and can serve both 802.11b and 802.11g clients without forcing the 802.11n clients into legacy b mode. This guarantees enhanced throughput for 802.11n clients at all times regardless of whether any legacy b or g clients are transmitting data.

802.11n is such a significant leap forward that, once it becomes ratified, 802.11b, 802.11g and all of their nonstandard variations will be cast aside. The only existing 802.11 technology that will be spared obsolescence is 802.11a because it uses the less congested 5 GHz band and it has many more non-overlapping channels. The future of wireless Ethernet belongs to 802.11 "a" and "n".