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What To Know About Upgrading To 802.11 AC

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802.11 AC routerIn just the past couple of years the number of devices that connect to the Internet through WiFi that people have in their homes has exploded. Once not so long ago there may have been a laptop computer maybe a couple on WiFi in most homes. Today there are multiple smartphones, tablets, smart TV's and BluRay players as well as video game systems. Having so many devices can choke many WiFi networks to a stand still.

It's not just an increase in the number of devices that poses problems with WiFi networks these days, newer higher speed Internet services using docsis 3.0 technology from cable companies and direct fiber optic to the home offered by telephone companies provide so much bandwidth that today's home WiFi networking equipment creates a bottleneck.  People subscribing these new broadband technologies won't get the full speed they are paying for due to having outdated WiFi. 

The demand of having more WiFi devices and the new faster broadband services have prompted network equipment manufacturers to create a new proposed standard and have already started selling new routers and PC adapters.  The new proposed WiFi standard dubbed as 802.11ac

801.11ac operates in the 5 GHz band in order to avoid interference with existing WiFi networks, cordless phones, baby monitors and other consumer devices. The 802.11ac routers that are on the market will also operate on the 2.4GHz band to maintain compatibility with current WiFi equipped devices. 

At present only PC's and Macs are upgradable to 802.11ac other devices such as video game consolrs, smart TV's and BluRay player could be upgradable with a USB adapter from device manufacturers.  Things like handheld video game systems, smartphones and tablets have no options for an upgrade.

Compatibility with existing WiFi devices will not the only factor that determines if you can upgrade to 802.11ac WiFi.  If your Internet service provider makes you an integrated modem and wireless router than you will have no option for upgrading to 802.11 AC.  The only way to make the upgrade is to replace the modem/router with a plain modem and add your own 802.11 AC router.

One compelling motive for some still running a B or G WiFi networks will be the need to get ready for the coming of the new addressing system being implemented on the Internet.  The current IP addressing system also known as IPv4 needs to be replaced because the world is running out of IP addresses.  IPv6 the new system of assigning addresses to devices connected to the Internet is in the process of being implemented. Adapting data originating on IPv6 to move through an IPv4 device requires a process called network address translation or NAT. The problem with NAT is that it introduces latency to your Internet connection which slows down online transmissions.  An IPv6 compatible home router will be able to deliver better performance for applications that are high bandwidth dependent such as online gaming, video streaming and Internet telephony. 

Deciciding if an upgrade to 802.11 AC is worthwhile depends on not just the compatibility with your current devices or the speed of your existing broadband service, but also if you feel the cost is worth it.  A basic 802.11 AC router will cos a little over a hundred dollars.  An 802.11 AC router with the most advanced features such as gigabit Ethernet for fast hardwired networking vital for online and LAN gaming, USB ports for hooking up external hard drives and printers to provide shared storage and printing will run well over 200 dollars. 

The cost of upgrading of upgrading to 802.11 AC may provide few benefits now but as time goes along Internet technology improves and more devices add AC wireless networking the benefits become greater and greater.  Owners of 802.11 B and G WiFi networks will see better performance right away, anybody using 802.11 N may want to hold off for a while especially if they are not using high bandwidth applications.


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