To help our customers get to grips with the latest networking terms and acronyms, Westbase Technology released a “Networking 101: A Glossary of Terms” help guide. To provide even more insight into the networking industry, we also run a regular “What Is” blog series.
In this week’s edition we look at 802.11ac Wave 2 WiFi.
What is 802.11ac Wave 2 WiFi?
802.11ac Wave 2 is, put simply, the latest commercial WiFi standard. As its name suggests, it is the successor to the first generation 802.11ac, which is now widely recognised and used. To understand 802.11ac Wave 2 though, an understanding of WiFi standards are needed as a whole.
What are WiFi standards?
WiFi standards are a set of media access control and physical layer specifications for implementing wireless local area networks. They are created and approved by an organisation known as the WiFi Alliance, an association of companies interested in promoting common standards for wireless Internet connections.
To date, there have been many WiFi standards created although some of these are no longer in use:
802.11: Now defunct, the original WiFi standard was created in 1997.
802.11a: Created in 1999, this was the first WiFi version to work on the 5GHz band.
802.11b: The standard which determined WiFi’s popularity, also created in 1999 but works on the 2.4GHz band.
802.11g: Increased maximum data rates to 54 Mbps in 2003, leading to widespread adoption of WiFi and remains common even today.
802.11n: Introduced in 2009, this is one of the most common WiFi standards today. It supports multi-channel usage and data rates up to 150 Mbps.
802.11ac: The latest WiFi standard and now commonly adopted, it allows data rates in the multi-gigabit range.
In addition to these, 802.11ah has also been announced by the WiFi Alliance and named “HaLow“. This standard, expected in 2018, has been designed specifically for connecting the Internet of Things and focuses on low-power, long range solutions.
The importance of 802.11ac
Announced in 2011, the 802.11ac standard was a WiFi game changer. It brought several key advantages such as higher capacity, improved power management and lower latency for an overall higher performance network; ideal for both consumers and businesses alike. Enabling users to do more, more quickly, meant that WiFi 802.11ac has rapidly become a leading WiFi standard.
The next-generation of WiFi
802.11ac Wave 2 WiFi continues to build on the success of the first generation standard and introduces some additional benefits:
Supports up to 2.3 Gbps (up from 1.3Gbps): Nearly doubling the throughput of wave one 802.11ac, this latest standard is the fastest yet.
First standard to support multiuser MiMo: MU-MiMo enables concurrent downstream communications to multiple wireless devices for efficient spectrum use. To put it simply, think of it as adding more lanes to the motorway which means that more cars can use it at one time with less congestion; it allows client devices to get on and off the network faster.
Adds the option of using the 160-MHz channels: Enables the theoretical capacity of 2.3 Gbps, ideal for transferring large files.
Supports up to four spatial streams: By supporting up to 4 transmitting and receiving antennas, performance is improved even further.
Can run in additional 5GHz bands as they become available: Increases bandwidth and flexibility for RF to move channels, thereby reducing interference.
The increased performance of 802.11ac Wave 2 WiFi is therefore particularly beneficial for supporting latency-sensitive video and voice traffic, as well as high density WiFi; applications of which are in high demand today already. The wider availability of this latest standard is therefore set to enable businesses to run even more advanced applications over WiFi, extending its use in both fixed and mobile locations.