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Summary:

If you’re like many a web worker with a wireless home network, you’re still using 802.11g wireless technology. While some Macintosh users with Apple’s Airport Extreme router have automatically moved to next-generation 802.11n technology, the majority of home Wi-Fi networks are still 802.11g-based. That’s a shame, […]

If you’re like many a web worker with a wireless home network, you’re still using 802.11g wireless technology. While some Macintosh users with Apple’s Airport Extreme router have automatically moved to next-generation 802.11n technology, the majority of home Wi-Fi networks are still 802.11g-based. That’s a shame, because the Draft-n products you can get now are a huge improvement on 802.11g products, and you can put what you need in for a few hundred dollars.

The official 802.11n Wi-Fi standard won’t be ratified until next year, which is what is causing many people to wait. They fear that they may be painted into a corner in terms of having their products be incompatible with the final standard. But that’s not so likely to happen and even if it does, the Draft-n products are so cheap at this point that it’s worth upgrading now anyway. In this post, I’ll go over how simple it is to upgrade.

First of all, how much faster are the draft 802.11n routers, access points and other products compared to 802.11g products? Plenty. You can easily get better than 100Mbit/sec speeds—several times faster than 802.11g speeds. You really notice the speed increase when you do things like roam around a home with a wireless notebook streaming video or audio.

In a previous post I put together an Ultimate Guide to Wi-Fi and most of the information you’ll find there on setting up and securing a Wi-Fi network is exactly the same for 802.11n routers, access points and other products. One of the main differences between 802.11g and 802.11n Wi-Fi networks is the the Draft-n products use MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) antennas. However, this is transparent to you during installation. To set up your network, simply follow the steps in the link provided above.

You should have a CD included with your Draft-n router, which will walk you through each step in installation. Don’t forget to follow the steps there on securing your network. WPA2 is the security standard of choice to select during installation.

In the link provided above, you’ll also find instructions on how to optimize the placement of your router and any access points you choose to put around your house, and then test your speeds with free software. Access points repeat the router’s radio signal, and can give you better coverage and faster speeds around the home. However, in the comments to a couple of posts I’ve done on Wi-Fi, many readers of this blog report that they just use a router—no access points.

Among the popular choices for routers and access points, you’ll find lots of Draft-n routers, access points and adapter cards in the $50 to $150 range from Belkin, Linksys, Netgear, and D-Link. If you choose to install access points, make sure they are the same brand as your router.

And what if the final 802.11n standard turns out not to be compatible with your Draft-in products? In the worst case, you would be out a few hundred dollars, but you’re likely to be able to upgrade with an easy firmware swap, and you’ll be working much faster in the meantime. This is easily one of the most worthwhile upgrades you can do.

Do you have any good tips on 802.11n or other Wi-Fi technologies?

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  1. I can’t believe you didn’t mention the airport extreme. it is a little more expensive that these other models but has built in USB so you don’t have to buy extra equipment. the other major plus is even my mom can set one up.

    My mom is soooo awesome!

  2. Hi Josh, I like the Airport Extreme too. I mentioned it in the first paragraph.

    Sam

  3. Will you really notice that much of a difference between g and n unless you’re trying to stream something like a DVD from one computer on your network to another?

    I mean, my pipe to the internet is only 6Mb/s…so I definitely don’t need wireless-n to speed up streaming video from websites.

  4. “I mean, my pipe to the internet is only 6Mb/s…so I definitely don’t need wireless-n to speed up streaming video from websites.”

    If all you’re using wireless Internet, 802.11g is fine. You’ll notice this most if you’re doing other things on your network, like say streaming music from one computer to another, copying files to a server, etc.

  5. It is important to let your readers know that not all routers have been ability to share g and n connections at the same time. Many routers will downgrade their whole connection to g if any client connecting to it is g…and thus, regardless of whether you are using an n client or not, you will still be downgraded to g.

  6. Good point E.T. Cook, but the n products are so cheap now–from adapter cards to routers–and so much faster, that I think many people can benefit from upgrading their whole set of connected devices now. The speed increase is remarkable and palpable if you do a lot of wireless roaming around a home office or office. It’s ridiculous, in my opinion, that some people are not upgrading just because there is no official standard yet. The products are cheap, and plenty faster. My $.02.

    Sam

  7. I have Comcast’s cable internet at my place and that only has a limited bandwidth so even if you buy a n router or access point, all that traffic has to go out via that comcast cable, which i dont think can take anything more than its bandwidth so wheres the advantage?

  8. @Maverick….again, the point of wireless-N is not to speed up your access to the Internet…rather it is to speed up activities *within* your home network.

  9. Web Worker Daily » Archive Six Tech Predictions for 2008 « Thursday, December 13, 2007

    [...] Technology. Many people, especially those using Macs, have already adapted next-generation, Draft 802.11n Wi-Fi technology, which offers much faster wireless speeds. The proposed standard is supposed to be ratified in [...]

  10. Web Worker Daily » Archive Easy Ways to Speed Up and Lock Down Your Wi-Fi Network « Monday, December 17, 2007

    [...] be until 2008. The Draft-n products are more than worth upgrading to now, though, as described in a previous post. Also, even if the ratified standard does mean that your draft products aren’t compatible, [...]

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