February 24, 2010

Wireless Internet communication is something that most of us use at some point. You may have heard terms such as 802.11 followed by a letter such as a,b,g or n. 802.11 simply refers to a set of wireless protocols for carrying out wireless transmission. The letter refers to a particular type, generation or version of wireless transmission and offers improvements over the preceding generation. We will examine the latest, 802.11n and determine if it makes sense for you.router

When wireless started becoming popular in many households, most people purchased a wireless b or wireless g router, which are backwards compatible with each other. It has only been recently (in the last 2 years or so) that wireless-n routers have been released and started to make their presence known. Wireless-n routers have some improvements over the older versions, but are they worth the additional cost?

Wireless-n routers transmit data at faster speeds than wireless g or b routers. However, the speed at which you browse the Internet is also limited by your Internet connection. Since your Internet connection is going to be a lot slower than the high speeds that data can be transmitted through your wireless router, if you are trying to speed up the use of your Internet, it really doesn’t matter that wireless-n routers can transmit data faster because you are still going to only browse websites at a maximum speed of your Internet connection. All types of wireless routers are still limited by Internet connection speed. If you are moving files around your local network, then wireless-n will not be limited by the speed of your Internet connection. For example, if you have a media center setup at home then a wireless-n network would be very useful for moving large videos around. Also, wireless-n routers can transmit up to 220 feet vs. 120 feet of wireless b or g routers. So if you need to have a wireless connection in a large home or even a small office, then a wireless-n router is advantageous.

Having said that, there is one issue with wireless-n routers to keep in mind: they require n-capable adapters to work at their top speed. This means if you have a laptop that doesn’t come with a built in n-capable wireless adapter, you can still connect to a wireless-n router but you won’t be able to get the full benefits of it. In order to use the benefits of a wireless-n router you have to upgrade the hardware in your laptops, computers, video game systems and portable devices as well. This can be an expensive process if you have multiple wireless devices that need upgrading. Having said that, you do not have to upgrade everything at the same time. As devices get old and are replaced, you will probably be replacing them with a device that supports the newer, faster technology right out of the box.

The bottom line is that for most people, wireless-n routers are not very cost effective unless you are in need of a new wireless device already. If you don’t have n-capable devices in your computers (which most people don’t), the benefit of wireless-n is not worth the cost of replacing all your older wireless devices. Additionally, even though wireless-n routers can transmit at faster speeds it won’t speed up most people’s Internet usage because the speed that matters is limited by your Internet connection. Unless you have a need to transmit wireless data over longer distances, or are moving large files between local computers, don’t worry about upgrading to a wireless-n device until your current equipment is up for replacement. In other words, don’t go out and buy a wireless-n router just for the sake of upgrading, rather wait until you have devices that support it and are in need of an upgrade, then buy a wireless-n router. If you don’t have a wireless router at all and are going to buy one, then it would be wise to purchase a wireless-n router.

If you are looking at buying a wireless-n router or need assistance setting one one, Emerson Technologies would be happy to help. Just call our office at 651-454-7729 or send an email to help@emersontech.net and we will assist you.


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