802.11ac Wave 2 – The Business Enabler [Part 1]

802.11ac is a revolutionary wireless standard which brings several key advantages over its predecessor [802.11n] such as higher capacity, improved power management and lower latency. It facilitates an overall higher performance network enabling users to do more, quickly. This is perfect for businesses and consumers as well, as more devices are being connected online. I’ve discussed more about the technology here.

Time to go deeper. There’s more to 802.11ac than meets the eye. Ready?

802.11ac comes in two releases, Wave 1 and Wave 2, where the latter is an improvement of the former, in terms of functionality i.e. PHY Rate, MIMO, Spatial Streaming and Frequency Bands. To better understand these functional differences between Wave 1 and Wave 2, it is important to understand all the jargon involved.

Let’s get to it, shall we?

PHY Rate

This is the maximum speed that data can move across a wireless link between a wireless client and a wireless router. This happens between the physical devices involved in communication. It should not be confused with normal browsing speeds, which are typically much lower.

The PHY Rate is dependent on a number of factors namely;

-Wireless standards/modes [a/b/g/n/ac]

-Distance between the devices

-Noise levels [level of interference from other wireless transmissions]

MIMO – Multiple In Multiple Out

This is a wireless technology that uses multiple transmitters and receivers to transfer more data at the same time. Practically speaking, it is a technique for sending and receiving more than one data signal simultaneously over the same radio channel by exploiting multipath propagation. This is when transmitted information bounces off walls, ceilings, and other objects, reaching the receiving antenna multiple times at different angles and slightly different times. With multipath, MIMO technology uses multiple smart transmitters and receivers increasing performance in terms of speed and range, eliminating lag on an overcrowded network.

In traditional antenna technologies, wireless network gear could only send OR receive to one device at a time, and had to switch around from device to device sending OR receiving their packets, while others are put on a shared waitlist, slowing down a network. With MIMO, [pay attention] devices can send AND receive data at a time. Get it?

MIMO comes in 2 variations;

Single User-MIMO [SU-MIMO] >> A single device can send AND receive packets at a time

Multi User-MIMO [MU-MIMO] >> Multiple devices can send AND receive data at a time.

MU MIMO is the latest wireless antenna technology. It has a significant impact in a wireless network, especially when multiple devices are sending and receiving multiple streams of data. MU-MIMO obviously creates a more efficient mode of communication compared to SU-MIMO.

Spatial Streaming

This is transmission technique used in MIMO technology, to transmit independent and separately coded data signals, called spatial streams.

Get it? No? Ok, let me break it down for you…

In a MIMO environment, multiple antennas are used. In order to transmit and receive various signals simultaneously, we implement a common technique called multiplexing. Simply put, multiplexing is a way of sending multiple signals or streams of information at the same time in the form of a single signal.

When we transmit wireless signals simultaneously from different antennae, there is a high likelihood that signals will collide, affecting performance. To avoid this, the signals being transmitted by the various antennae are multiplexed [combined into one] by using different spaces. These spaces are known as spatial streams.

In MIMO technology, Spatial Streaming comes in different forms;

1×1 MIMO – A single antenna device, able to communicate via a single stream

2×2 MIMO – A dual antenna device, able to communicate via two streams

3×3 MIMO – A three-antenna device, able to communicate via three streams

The more the number of spatial streams, the higher the communication bandwidth hence, more speed….and speed is good my fren.

Frequency Bands

A frequency band is basically a space where wireless devices are allowed to communicate with each other over radio signals. This space is demarcated by a ‘from here to here’ boundary, known as a range. Beyond that boundary, devices won’t be able to communicate with each other.

In Wi-Fi technology, there are two frequency bands, 2.4GHz and 5GHz. The fundamental difference between these two bands is the range of their boundaries. The 5GHz band has a wider range than the 2.4GHz band. This means that more devices can be accommodated in the 5GHz band, with minimal signal interference from each other. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the 5GHz frequency band is ultimately superior to the 2.4 GHz band. Both have unique advantages and disadvantages over each other, which we shall have a look at in another forum. Interesting, right? To give the best of both worlds, most 802.11ac hardware incorporate both 5GHz and 2.4GHz radios in one access point, a technique called Dual Band.

Alright! Enough of the jargon now. I hope that you’ve understood it all. Having done that, it would be safe to explore the fundamental differences between 802.11ac Wave 1 and Wave 2, so as to have a better understanding of this evolution, and why it is good for you. Trust me, there’s an outcome to this.

Continue to Part 2

Do contact us for deeper insight into this technology. We are not box movers; We are solution providers.

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