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WiFi Network Standards Compared: 802.11ac, 802.11n, 802.11g, 802.11b and 802.11a

802.11ac is the latest WiFi standard and uses the 5.8GHz frequency band.  Older standards 802.11n and earlier used 2.4GHz as its frequency band.

Advantages of 802.11ac over 802.11n

802.11AC is the latest standard and has six major improvements over 802.11n that result in much higher throughputs:

  1. Uses 5GHz band only, which is much less congested than 2.4GHz:  802.11n runs on the heavily overused 2.4GHz which is prone to interference from the many devices on this spectrum. Although it has less penetrating power, the 5GHz band is free from high noise and congestion. A quality Wi-Fi antenna fitted to a 5GHz router improves its range within usable distances.
  2. 80MHz channel:  2x the width of   802.11n:  802.11n can only support a 4X40MHz bandwidth compared to 802.11ac’s 8X160Mhz. the high-density modulation allows 256 different signals to be transmitted over the same frequency by phase shifting each signal; this improves the spectral efficiency up to 4 times over 802.11n.
  3. 256QAM:  This provides a 1/3 increase in throughput
  4. MU-MIMO:  Multi-user MIMO functions like a switch, whereas 802.11n functions like a hub.
  5. 802.11ac uses 8x8 MIMO vs. 802.11n's maximum of 4x4 MIMO (most 802.11n uses 2x2 MIMO in 2015:  That is to say, 802.11ac has 8 spacial streams, whereas 802.11n has a maximum of 4:  8x8 MIMO is double the throughput of 4x4 MIMO.
  6. Beamforming: 802.11ac also introduces standardized beamforming transmission technology. Beamforming transmits only the required signal to the specific user. This makes transmission more efficient, consistent and saves on the power cost of transmission.

All of the advantages combined result in 802.11ac having a combined multiple-station throughput of at least 1Gbs and a singular throughput of at least 500Mbs through a single link. 802.11ac features a wider bandwidth of 160MHz, up to 8 MIMO special streams, higher density modulation of 256 QAM, and up to 4 simultaneous downlink users.

You will attain all of these benefits only if all the APs and devices in the network are 802.11ac. Otherwise, you would have the same performance with 802.11ac as with 802.11n.

Despite the significant differences between the two standards, 802.11ac is fully backward compatible with 802.11n. devices that feature a dual frequency receiver can easily switch between the two standards.

The IEEE 802.11ac is a wireless Wi-Fi standard developed within 2008-2013 to provide high-throughput connectivity across the 5GHZ band. The standard is an improvement on the earlier 802.11n wireless standard transmitting via the 2.4GHz frequency band.

Application-Specific Advantages:

Streaming media on a local-area network: 802.11ac is best choice because of the much higher throughput.

802.11n wireless adapters only work optimally when connecting to a 802.11n that's operating in 802.11n mode.

802.11N: Also called Wireless-N 

WIRELESS-N (802.11n) is the previous generation of wireless networking technology - prior to 802.11ac. 802.11n enables speeds up to 300Mbps and is backward compatible with 802.11g & 802.11b.

802.11n built upon the previous 802.11G standard by adding two new technologies:

  • Frame Aggregation technology: Increases throughput by sending two or more data frames in a single transmission.
  • MIMO (click tab MIMO above)

11n products have one of the following: "3 TX + 3 RX" , "2TX + 2RX" and "1TX + 1RX" ~ all of them using MIMO technology. "1TX + 1RX", products only have one antenna.

802.11N is mostly in the 2.4GHz frequency band. 5GHz is an optional component that most manufacturers ignore in favor of the cheaper, and much more congested 2.4GHz.

We offer a dual-band antenna for 2.4 GHz band and 5.x GHz band

Frequency Ranges of the 802.11 network-types:

  • 802.11ac: 5GHz band
  • 802.11n: 2.4GHz & 5GHz bands: 802.11n equipment is made for either 2.4GHz or 5.8 frequency band: 5.8 is typically much less cluttered with signal-traffic.
  • 802.11a: 5GHz band
  • 802.11b and 802.11g: 2.4GHz only: Operate only in the 2.4GHz frequency band.  802.11G is from 2004 and 802.11B was the first WiFi standard: 1990s to 2004.

802.11a uses the frequency range 5.2 to 5.8GHz

This range of frequencies is much less used than 2.4GHz

802.11a allows for use of so many channels that you don't have to worry about interference between access points. In the U.S., 802.11a offers eight non-overlapping channels vs. three channels shared by 802.11b and 802.11g. If the company or department next door (or upstairs or downstairs) has an 802.11a network, more channels makes it easier to configure your 802.11a network to avoid interference. In dense installations, extra channels can make 802.11a networks up to 14 times faster than 802.11b networks.

If you operate a wireless adapter that's made for wireless-N, on a 802.11B/G network, will have lesser performance/signal strength than a 802.11G adapter of similar standards

We reached these conclusions based in part by comparing the Alfa 1000mw G version and the Alfa 2000mw N version. AWUS036H is the G version; AWUS036NH is the N version

Connecting to a 802.11G network? Then an 802.11G wireless USB adapter will perform better than an 802.11n USB adapter

802.11b will provide better range/distance than 802.11g

802.11g cards automatically select 802.11b mode for long-distance connection

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