Wireless networks ( wifi or wi-fi) are everywhere these days with more and more people coming to depend on having an available signal for their laptops and portable devices such as smart phones and iType devices, but with this proliferation comes some issues that people need to be aware of. While it is admirable to want to share your wireless internet access with others, doing so caries a legal risk. Government and law enforcement tend to hold the owner of the internet connection responsible for what is transmitted over it and as such, if your neighbors are using your wireless to illegally download songs, movies or other material that is illegal, it is your door that gets pounded on by the law, putting you in the position of having to prove it wasn’t you. A quite simple solution is to ensure that you have wireless security enabled on your router (if you are unsure of how to do this, you can visit the manufacturers website of your router and check out their support section for directions, or talk to your local computer expert).
Then of course their is the initial purchase of the wireless hardware needed for your network. Wireless a, Wireless b, Wireless g, Wireless N, Wireless super G, MIMO, bgn, abg, dual band, multi band etc etc – it can get kind of confusing. A quick history on the wireless types as well as their basic specifications and uses:
Wireless a (802.11a) came out in 1999 and is one of the lesser used types of wireless due to the it’s higher initial price and the fact that its signal generally cannot penetrate as far as wireless b/g/n devices and its signals are abosobed more by walls and other objects. This type of wireless operates in the 5 GHz band with a data rate of 54 Mbit/s (realistically about 20 Mbit/s) which gives a big advantage when it comes to interference as the 5 GHz band is much less crowded than the 2.4 GHz band which is used by many other devices.
Wireless b (802.11b) came out in 199 as well and was the first widely adopted kind of wireless router device. With speeds of 11 Mbit/s (real world about 6 Mbit/s) and a typical indoor range of about 100 ft at the rated 11 Mbit/s speed and about 300 ft at 1 Mbit, wireless b was a great choice for early home and small office environments. Unfortunately, wireless b operates in the 2.4 GHz range which causes it to suffer from interference from other devices such as microwaves, bluetooth, older cordless telephones, baby monitors and of course other wireless routers that operate in this range. This kind of interference can get quite bad in populated areas and can cause a lot of frustration from dropped and poor quality wireless signals.
Wireless g (802.11g) came out in 2003 and operates in the same 2.4 GHz spectrum as wirelss b, but with a higher rated speed of 54 Mbit/s (around 20 Mbit/s real world). It is fully backward compatible with wireless b devices, however using mixed wireless g and wireless b devices will significantly reduce the overall speed of the wireless g network. Wireless g unfortunately also suffers from the crowded 2.4 GHz spectrum and is prone to interference issues in areas with other devices which operate in the same frequency. *Note: Super G wireless is a term that refers to a wireless device which uses to wireless g channels to achieve a rated speed of up to 108 Mbit/s, however these devices also have the potential to cause more interference.
Wireless n (802.11n) was released in its approved form in 2009, though many devices were sold before then as ‘pre-n’ devices. Wireless n has significantly higher potential data rates (up to 600 Mbit/s) and is backward compatible with previous wireless a, b, and g devices. Wireless N can operate on both the 2.4 GHz and 5GHz ranges, although it is quickest when operating in ‘pure’ wireless n mode at the 5 GHz mode (‘pure’ n mode being where there are only wireless n devices hooked into the network). Wireless n uses MIMO (technology which uses multiple antennas) to achieve greater data rates over greater distances. There are also now a number of Wireless n routers which offer multi-channel broadcasting which allows the router to actually have 2 wireless networks – one for legacy 2.4 GHz devices and one for 5 GHz devices.
So what does all this mean in a practical sense when trying to figure out what kind of equipment to get? While generally the older wireless b and g devices are cheaper by a few bucks, they are also much more prone to interference so it is recommended to go with wireless n devices whenever possible. Also, if you have an older laptop (or desktop) that is using a wireless b or g card, if you have a newer wireless n router, you might consider upgrading the wireless b and g devices with a wireless n card (you can easily install a wireless n usb dongle on either a laptop or desktop that is currently using wireless b or g, and then just disable the older device through your device manager). Be aware that wireless N devices come in many configurations and different speed ratings (some are rated at the a lower 150 Mbit/s while others are rated at 300 Mbit/s)>
So for a quick recap: If you are setting up your wireless network, or thinking about upgrading it, consider going with the newer wireless n devices. When setting up your wireless network, be sure to enable wireless security to ensure that only allowed people are using your wireless signal. For questions, or help setting up your home or office wireless network here in Pensacola FL, contact Pensacola Computers