The Professional Installer’s Guide to IP Networking
This is the final segment of this five-part series. We’ve previously discussed the basic components of an IP network and the functions of those components in segments one and two. We then took a closer look at routers and switches in segments three and four. In this installment we’ll discuss wireless networking, with a focus on wireless access points (AP).
Before diving into what to look for in a Wireless AP, let’s first discuss the alphabet soup nomenclature that makes up 802.11 wireless networking:
802.11 Wireless Standards (a, b, g, n, ac)
• 802.11a: The first version of wireless networking designed for common use. Because support was limited to 5GHz bands, it was not widely adopted until more recently. 802.11a offers a maximum speed of 54Mbps.
• 802.11b: Designed for 2.4GHz bands and mass markets, 802.11b quickly became much more popular than its 5GHz predecessor. 802.11b has a maximum speed of 11Mbps.
• 802.11g: A 2.4GHz upgrade to 802.11b that improves maximum speeds to 54Mbps while also adding better wireless security.
• 802.11n: The current standard that offers the widest range of support. Although 802.11n is currently most commonly used for 2.4GHz networking, it can also operate in the less crowded 5GHz ranges. This being the case, “dual-band” wireless devices are becoming more popular. 802.11n supports Multiple Input Multiple Output (MIMO) technology, which essentially means that there are multiple simultaneous data streams in operation, increasing the data throughput rates. With 802.11n, each data stream offers a maximum of 150Mbps. So, a three-stream 2.4GHz only AP has a maximum speed of 450Mbps, while a dual-band AP with three streams on each band offers a maximum speed of 900Mbps.
• 802.11ac: The newest revision to wireless networking is 802.11ac, with the IEEE standard still yet to be ratified. 802.11ac is designed specifically for 5GHz and offers even higher maximum speeds that can exceed 1Gbps. A dual-band 802.11ac router can currently reach maximum speeds of 1750Mbps.