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Want to know more about Wi-Fi?
PUBLISHED: Oct 25, 2013

A brief history.  http://inventors.about.com/od/wstartinventions/a/WiFi.htm

The standards continue to evolve to improve reliability and throughput.  Keep in mind it’s not just the speed at the router, but also what your device can handle that determines your net speed.  Here is a chart that shows how WiFi has evolved. 


Standard

Year

Speed (Mbit/s)

802.11

1997

2

802.11a

1999

11

802.11b

1999

54

802.11n

2002

54

802.11g

2009

100

802.11ac

2012

500

The speeds vary with some standards, but these are a good rule of thumb.  For example 802.11ac is marketed as 1Gbit/s, but you don’t always see that.  

Speed is not the only consideration.  There is also range, wall penetration, and susceptibility to interference.   Indoor and outdoor range can vary by an order of magnitude.  Walls can contain metal or other materials that attenuate the signal.  The airways around us continue to be full of other RFI. Some standards allow for reduced throughput to compensate for loss of signal strength.  

At home we typically have a router with a WiFi antenna.  In an office or campus environment WiFi is deployed with WiFi access points (AP) and controllers. The controller is a device on the LAN that manages multiple WiFi access points in a hub and spoke configuration.  The controller balances the traffic among the access points.  Since speed decreases if your device is further from the antenna, access points are placed in a grid for better coverage and throughput (think cell phone towers).  When deploying organization wide WiFi an assessment can be done to help determine the number and location of access points to meet your objectives.  

The demand for wireless (WLAN) bandwidth will continue to grow as PCs, phones, tablets, WiFi devices of all sorts, and high bandwidth applications want more and faster data.  Perhaps a wireless plan is needed to keep up.



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