When looking to buy a wireless router, home and business owners sometimes get confused by the different Wi-Fi standards available in the market. There are usually letters and numbers listed on the label or the specifications sheet of the router. But, many of us don’t bother learning what they mean as understanding them doesn’t impact the router’s basic functionality. However, when the speed and performance of your connection don’t meet your expectations, you’ll regret your purchase decision.
To make the most of your new router, you need to educate yourself about the different Wi-Fi standards and which will serve your purpose best. In this blog, we’ll talk about the different standards and their pros and cons.
The Different Wi-Fi Standards Available in the Market
The Wi-Fi standard was created by a group of engineers at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) in 1997. This standard was called 802.11 and it’s what all wireless routers follow. This standard connectivity had a speed of only 2 Mbps. At the time, no letters were designated to the routers. The letters were added to mark their enhancements as the standards evolved over the years.
Today, the common Wi-Fi standards available are – 802.11b (Wireless B), 802.11g (Wireless G), 802.11n (Wireless N) and 802.11 ac (Wireless AC).
- What is Wireless B?
Created in 1999, this wireless standard works on 2.4 GHz band (radio signaling frequency) and theoretically can achieve a speed of 11 Mbps, a speed comparable to traditional Ethernet. It’s one of the earliest enhancements, the other one being Wireless A or 802.11a which was released during the same time. But it was Wireless B that gained popularity in the home market because of its lower pricing and usability. 802.11b is no longer manufactured.
However, the radio signaling frequency was unregulated like the original standard version of 802.11. This means Wireless B routers can receive interference from other appliances like micro ovens, cordless phones, etc. using the same frequency range if placed nearby.
- What is Wireless G?
This enhanced version came with an improvement in speed while still working on the same 2.4 GHz band. It was released in 2003 with the maximum speed at 54 Mbps. It combined the best features of 802.11a and 802.11b. Compatible with the wireless 802.11b network adapters, wireless G still remains popular today because of its speed and lower signal interference. They are also less expensive.
If you use a single/few computers and your main purpose is to read news/blogs, check emails, watch YouTube or Netflix on a single computer at a time, then Wireless G fits your needs. You can also play games on the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 against people online.
- What is Wireless N?
Introduced in the market in 2009, Wireless N or 802.11n routers are now commonly found in most laptops and routers. It works on both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz band. Wireless N routers also support multi-channels offering a maximum speed of 150 Mbps for each channel. It offers better range and is also compatible with the older Wi-Fi standards. It’s more resistant to interference and costs more than Wireless G.
Wireless N is ideal for if you want good speed while playing games on Xbox One or PlayStation 4 against other people online. It’s also a good choice if you use YouTube or Netflix (both use high bandwidth) on several computers at the same time in your home or download large files often.
- What is Wireless AC?
This is the latest standard and it’s often called the Gigabit Wi-Fi because it has a speed of 1 Gbps. Introduced in 2013, it has a greater range than Wireless N. If you reside in a large house and want connectivity in all the rooms, then you should opt for Wireless AC. It’s also an ideal choice if you reside in an apartment and there are lots of other Wi-Fi users. It’s a new technology meaning fewer people will be using 5 GHz band for their home network, thereby minimizing chances of competition for the same signal. So, you’ll be getting a great advantage in speed.
With Wireless AC, you can use PlayStation 4 or Xbox One and stream videos in other computers simultaneously in your home without compromising on performance.
Sticking to the older standards may deprive you of speed, security, and usability with new devices. Upgrading to the latest versions like the Wireless AC can be a major upgrade in experience for you. However, remember that not all devices support each of these Wi-Fi technologies. Before you buy one, check the specs of your laptop, computer, smartphones or other devices to find out which type of connectivity they support.