Why Use Wireless AC Routers
If you follow routers at all, you should have gotten the idea that 802.11ac support is a pretty big deal in the present market. The less immediately obvious thing, though, is exactly why that’s the case!
Why should you use Wireless-AC routers? What does the term mean to you?
Buzzwords are a dime a dozen; what you want to know is what these mean to you.
You’re paying money for a Wireless-AC router, after all; the last thing you want to do is make that commitment without even understanding why you’re doing it.
So, let’s look into exactly what 802.11ac is, and why you should care.
Why Use Wireless-AC Routers? Speed
Let’s open up with some numbers. The official 802.11ac specification boasts single-link throughput of no less than 500Mbps, and can easily push to 1Gbps or more.
These figures are theoretical limits of the protocol, not real-world results – but they’re still pretty notable. 802.11n was limited to 300Mbps on a single link, and 600Mbps at maximum; 802.11ac provides just a bit shy of twice that much throughput.
Performance will, naturally, vary from router to router – but the proportions are relevant; you’re looking at a fairly sizable step up compared to Wireless-N.
With a good 802.11ac-compatible router, you can easily perform tasks which, traditionally, would be downright painful to perform over wireless.
Why Use Wireless-AC Routers? Future-Proofing
Most of the past iterations of the WiFi standard broadcast on the 2.4GHz band.
This was a problem, because the 2.4GHz frequency band was “it” for unlicensed radio broadcasting; everything from garage door openers to automobile keyfobs used that same fairly small part of the spectrum, and the result was that it became quite crowded.
Throughput was handicapped by the amount of interference…
…that any given system needed to be designed around; this was a considerable bottleneck on what could be done.
802.11n prepared for WiFi broadcasting to transition to the 5GHz band, which – while still available for unlicensed broadcasting, of course – isn’t nearly as common due to its higher power requirements.
Still, Wireless-N was hardly a clean break from 2.4GHz broadcasting; many of the early routers only broadcast on the 2.4GHz band, and throughput on the 5GHz band wasn’t substantially higher.
802.11ac (faster) marks the abandonment of the 2.4GHz band, and the cleaner patch of spectrum it uses allows for the performance improvements on display.
The result is a faster, longer-range
More consistent signal; future versions of the WiFi specification will build on this platform, but Wireless-AC is less about iteration and more of a clean break from legacy aspects of the technology.
As time goes on, it’s likely that 2.4GHz equipment will disappear from many devices; with more and more WiFi networks broadcasting on the 5GHz band alongside more and more devices capable of using these networks, there won’t be much reason to keep paying for the inclusion of that hardware.
802.11ac is the new platform on which further developments will take place.
Why Use Wireless-AC Routers? Market Saturation
These points bring us to one that isn’t so dramatic.
The strong selling points held by 802.11ac devices has led most of the high end of the market to be made of them, since it provides one more bullet point you can put on your advertising material.
Increasingly larger parts of the lower sections of the market are following suit; 802.11ac is becoming a “normal” feature in most good routers.
Even if you don’t need this functionality right now, if you want a relatively high-end router you’ll more likely than not wind up with an 802.11ac-compliant one.
That’s not a bad thing, mind you – even if you genuinely have no use for the throughput or range benefits on offer, you will require an 802.11ac or later device sooner or later, and having the router on hand when that day comes spares you an upgrade.
Still, the fact remains that this is no longer considered an optional feature in better routers.
The marketing literature does a poor job of telling you why to use Wireless-AC routers, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have legitimate advantages at all.
The 802.11ac specification is a massive upgrade to past iterations of WiFi, and it lays the necessary groundwork to allow still further development.
You can use a wireless network for tasks that would’ve been the province of the wired LAN before. All in all, it’s not just a common characteristic – it’s one worth actively looking for, if needed.