Practical Technology

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Getting the most from 802.11n


Given a choice between fast, 802.11b; faster, 802.11g; and fastest, 802.11n, most people will pick the fastest every time. But, while the IEEE 802.11n Wi-Fi standard, with its up to 300Mbps burst speeds, is easily the fastest wireless networking protocol, until recently it’s never been a standard. Thus, a Wi-Fi access point (AP) using a draft 802.11n protocol from one vendor was unlikely to deliver its full potential speed to a laptop with an 802.11n chipset from another maker.

It wasn’t supposed to be that way. But, for years, the Wi-Fi hardware OEMs puppies fought over the 802.11n protocol like it was a chew toy. The result was that we’ve had to wait for over five-years before 802.11n finally became a real standard on September 11, 2009. The delay was never over the technology. The technical tricks that give 802.11n its 100Mbps to 140Mbps steady connection speeds have been well-known for years. The reason why is it’s only recently that we’re able to use 802.11n at its full potential.

So, you’re ready to go with just buying a new 802.11n AP right? Not so fast tiger. While it’s true that 802.11n can leave 802.11g at the starting line and even leave some older Ethernet routers eating its dust, it’s still all too possible to set it up so that you can’t get all the speed out of 802.11n you paid for.

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