With all the electronic devices connecting us to every part of the world every day, they need to transfer communications through a network. We wirelessly access the network on these devices through wireless routers. Shopping for the right wireless router can create a lot of questions, like which type is right for you and your family? Why do these routers say B, G, N and AC on them and what does it mean? Which one is faster? Is one newer or safer to use? How can I tell which one is right for me?
First, let’s take a look at routers and go over some basic specifications of each to give you some basic knowledge to make an educated decision on the right wireless router for your network.
THE IEEE AND WLAN STANDARDS
The IEEE, or Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, is an organization which defines and creates technology industry standards of compliance for WiFi and Wireless technologies. The IEEEE introduced the 802.11 wireless network standard in 1997, and was the standard to which all wireless routers and devices were designed to operate within. At the time the 802.11 standard was released, letter designations for wireless routers and their technology didn’t exist.
Due to the huge drawback of the 802.11 standard being deemed too slow for effective transfer rates (at an approximate speed of 2Mbps or, Megabits per second), modifications, or enhancements were made to improve upon the fundamentals of the 802.11 standard. Improvements were developed and, eventually, wireless routers based upon the 802.11 standard stopped being manufactured. They were, instead, replaced by new routers utilizing technology designed around the enhanced versions of the 802.11 standard, distinguishable by the letter designation assigned to it.
ENHANCEMENTS AND IMPROVEMENTS IMPLEMENTED TO THE 802.11 STANDARD
Wireless routers B, G, N and AC are the most commonly found and popular extensions of the 802.11 standard today. There are other routers that exist, like the wireless A router, but they are much less common and more expensive to produce with minimal improvements over the others. If still interested, you can find out more about these other standards here.
WIRELESS B ROUTERS – 802.11B
It is important to note that, where newer routers still support wireless B signals and functionality, routers and devices designed around the 802.11b extension have stopped being produced. Since the technology still exists and is supported by newer devices and routers, however, knowing about wireless B routers and technology is somewhat important. Theoretically, a wireless B router could achieve maximum data transfer speeds of up to 1 Mbps over a wireless network. The range, or distance in a radius around the router using wireless B technology was reported to be 150 feet. Wireless B routers had a drawback as well, however.
The wireless B routers operate on a frequency range of 2.4 GHz. This wouldn’t normally be a problem except that most household appliances operate on the same frequencies. Appliances like your microwave oven, or a cordless phone, or even your son’s remote controlled Mustang GT operate within the 2.4 GHz frequency range, potentially causing radio interference with your wireless routers inbound and outbound network signals. Placing the router in a remote location of the house, of a safe distance away from these devices should prevent any interference issues.
WIRELESS G ROUTERS – 802.11G
Like wireless B router technology, wireless G routers can theoretically pass data transfers at an accelerated 54 Mbps. However, wireless G routers also operate within the 2.4 GHz frequency range. Wireless G is backwards compatible with wireless B devices meaning that a wireless G router can transmit and receive data and information to and from a wireless B developed device. Wireless G is the obvious choice for compatibility with previous technology at faster transfer speeds.
WIRELESS N ROUTERS – 802.11N
Wireless N routers take the other two extensions and brings them to a new level, increasing the data transfer rates to a theoretical maximum speed of 300 Mbps to a device with two antennas, or 450 Mbps to a device with 3 antennas. However, it’s a lot more common and practical to find a home network using wireless N technology achieving network transfer speeds of 130 Mbps or less due to configuration conditions not being met. Wireless N routers, unlike its predecessors, operates on 2 frequency ranges, the 2.4 GHz frequency range and 5 GHz ranges.
When discussing wireless N technology, a common term to hear is MIMO, or Multiple-in, Multiple-out. This refers to wireless N network cards and adapters with 2 or 3 antennas capable of receiving multiple inbound or outbound network transmissions through multiple channels simultaneously. This technology also assists in the increase in range and power over the wireless G technology.
WIRELESS AC ROUTERS – 802.11AC
The latest development in router technology is the 802.11ac standard. There is an increasing number of wireless AC routers becoming available on the market. This router is often called Gigabit Wifi due to it having 1 Gbps speeds. This router operates exclusively on the 5 GHz band. If you are looking for the fastest wireless router currently available, this router should then be considered.
Now then, we’ve discussed each type of router, and you have some ideas with which you can compare certain features of each type. That having been said, when it comes to a choice between wireless N, AC or G technologies, the safer choice is to purchase a wireless G router due to the support compatibility with 802.11b wireless technologies and devices which are still commonly found today. However, with the increasing support of newer technologies, there are some cases where a wireless N or AC router would be the suitable choice. These are discussed below.
WHEN TO CONSIDER A WIRELESS G ROUTER
Consumers should consider the purchase of a wireless G router when they have 1 to 3 PC’s in the home connecting to the same network, or the internet is primarily being used to check emails, blogs and checking up on the news. Also, if online PC or console gaming is taking place over your network, either a PS3 or Xbox360, a wireless G router would be a good fit.
WHEN TO CONSIDER A WIRELESS N ROUTER
If you have a PS4 or Xbox One and play online or regularly watch and stream videos from high-bandwidth websites, such as Netflix, YouTube, Hulu Plus, or Crackle, you might want to consider a wireless N router being your router of choice.
The consumer should always double-check with all of their devices to make sure each one will be able to connect to the same router using a given technology. Take printers for example. Not all printers support wifi, so even if you have a router and your wifi connection is all setup you still won’t be able to connect your printer to the wifi. This is why you have to consider your needs and make sure your chosen devices can meet those needs.
WHEN TO CONSIDER A WIRELESS AC ROUTER
A wireless AC router should be considered if you are living in an area that is highly populated, such as an apartment, and you regularly stream content and play online using entertainment consoles like the PS4 or Xbox One. The reason for this is that wireless AC routers operate solely on the 5 GHz band and, since it is newer technology, far fewer people use that frequency at the moment.
As with the wireless N router, you need to check and make sure that your devices are compatible with AC technology before deciding on this router.