Wireless 802.11 ac Wave 2 Explained

It seems like the onward march of Wireless technology can not be stopped. I mean we keep flinging more and more stuff through the airwaves, at such a rate that it’s gotten to the point, where wireless routers and adaptors lose their value, the same way as a new car bein driven off the lot.

But even so, the latest device is beginning to hit the market, feature a number of bells and whistles that could make the long term solutions for even the heaviest users. I am talking of course about wireless ac wave 2. Wireless ac were just came out at the time of wave 2 release.

Compare to Wireless ac Wave 1

Wireless ac Wave 1 gear is not bad, it brought a number of improvements over older standards like 802.11n and 802.11g like doing away with 2.4 GHz and dramatically improving speeds.But they were stuck in the past in one very crucial way. A wave 1 router or access point can only communicate with one device at a time.

Well, hold on a second, my old router at home has like 12 things connected to it at a time and they all work. So, how can this be correct? Well, routers and access points prior to wave 2, have to communicate with all of those devices sequentially assuming that it is only operating on one band.

You can find out more about that in my blog on Tri-Band Wi-Fi here => Tri-Band Wireless Router Explained

This can lead to network slowdowns and possibly wasted bandwidth. Wave 1 devices support up to 3 streams and what this essentially means is that you have three antennas coming off the router and each one has a certain bandwidth that is 433 Mbps.

If your client device has three streams, lets say  desktop rid with a PCI Express Wi-Fi adapter with three antennas on it, then you could actually triple that speed and get up to 1300 Mbps. But most people’s ac devices are more likely to be consumer electronics, like smartphones.

Which typically only support one stream and because wave 1 routers can only connect to them sequentially that means a full two-third (66.66%) of your router’s bandwidth could be left unused at any given moment.

MUMIMO Technology

What wave 2 does instead is use a new technology called MUMIMO, which stands for Multi-User Multiple-Input Multiple-Output. This allows the router to connect to multiple devices all at once.

So if you have a four stream router and say two stream laptop, a one stream phone and a one stream tablet, you can use all of your routers bandwidth meaning fewer slowdowns, which is especially important for public Wi-Fi hotspots with a ton of devices connected at once.

And yeah, a four stream router, which is also a new wave 2 feature, if you connect to a four stream client, you can actually have a maximum theoretical speed of nearly 3.5 Gbps, more than 250% faster than wave 1. Since wave 2 can now leverage up to 160 MHz wide channels, so that is double the bandwidth of wave 1, effectively meaning more room for your data to flow.

Compatibility and Limits

But hold on a second before you rush out and buy a shiny new wave 2 router, there are a few limitations and caveats, both your router and your device have to support wave 2 to take advantage of the faster speeds and MUMIMO. Older devices will still work as wave 2 is backwards compatible not just with ac wave 1 but also wireless n.

But you won’t see the benefits in action and keep in mind too that while those wicked fast speeds with a 160 MHz wide data superhighways might sound great for wireless 4K video streaming, which the could do.

The practical limits of the technology will actually be lower in crowded areas with many access points and clients like in apartments, where users of 2.4 GHz are already experiencing, what it is like to have many access points competing for airtime where each of them takes up a full third of the available spectrum.

Which setting your AP to 160 MHz would do on 5 GHz, I mean it wouldn’t be your problem I guess, but your neighbour wouldn’t like it very much. Leave your queries and suggestions for next blogs in comments.


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