More on Why 802.11n is Essential for Your Home Wi-Fi


In a post I did the other day titled The Time is Now to Go to 802.11n Wi-Fi, I made the point that many people who aren’t switching to Draft-N Wi-Fi because the standard isn’t ratified yet should go ahead and do so, because performance is much better and the upgrade costs very little. Several readers weighed in disagreeing, saying that what most people do on a home network doesn’t come close to saturating an 802.11g router, and the speed of your Internet connection is the real performance generator, so there’s no point.

In this post, I’ll cover in more depth why I’ve found the upgrade so worthwhile, and cover some other points worth remembering about getting the best possible performance from your home wireless network.

The proposed 802.11n standard, and Draft-N products, introduce an entirely new approach to how the antennas work in Wi-Fi routers and access points: Mutliple Input, Multiple Output (MIMO) antennas. MIMO allows the use of multiple antennas at both the transmission end and receiver end of wireless communications. In performance tests done by numerous labs, MIMO antennas provide both higher data throughput and improved range as compared to previous generation antennas.

Now, I can see the point some readers make about how many web workers aren’t involved with applications that are going to call for maximum throughput, but some of us are. For example, many web workers increasingly work with video while roaming on a home network, and that’s where I can really tell the performance difference between 802.11n and 802.11g.

Also, radio is inherently weird technology,and some readers here have probably had the experience of slightly adjusting the location of a router or access point, and then noticed the performance difference after the slight adjustment. The range you get with MIMO antennas is unquestionably better than what the 802.11g-based antennas provided. I know this from doing simple tests like taking my wireless notebook outside and moving in and out of range.

Finally, in a previous post I did on home Wi-Fi networks, I was surprised by how many readers use only a router for their wireless networks. In most cases, you can buy an access point to go with your router for about $60, it requires essentially no setup, and acts as a useful repeater that extends your range and improves your performance. If you’re not using 802.11n, and you’re using just a router, I think you’ll be surprised by how much better your Wi-Fi network works if you make a couple of inexpensive upgrades.

Have you noticed a performance difference after switching from 802.11g to 802.11n?



You make the comment about some web workers needing more throughput because of video content. What type of video? Are you having to edit video, video conferencing, YouTube? Are you referring to accessing video content via the internet or on a LAN?

If you are talking about accessing residential internet via an “N” network you can still only access the data at the maximum capacity of your broadband connection which is likely to consume 10% of your bandwith on an “N” network and 20% of a “G” network assuming a generous 10Mbps internet connection. “G” is cheaper, ubiquitous and standardized in this type of usage.

I guess I am just not clear on the whole “many web workers increasingly work with video” example as a reason for going to “N”.

You also state that you are “surprised by how many readers use only a router for their wireless networks” and that an access point can be purchased to extend range.

Are you referring adding an access point along with a wireless router? Really, for most consumers, as Peter points out, unless you have above average square footage in your home, this isn’t required. Also, adding an access point in this type of scenario would possibly require stringing cable through walls and floors which is what typical wireless customers were trying to avoid in the first place.

If you referring to adding wireless capacity to a network that has a router that is not wireless capable then that would make more sense. But as you point out and access point is $60, a wireless router with wired and wireless capability can be had for $40. In any case, it would be cheaper to get a wireless router (which can also act as an access point) and replace the current non-wireless router.

“you can buy an access point to go with your router for about $60, it requires essentially no setup”
I disagree. You still have to setup the access point as an extension to your existing wireless router. Other setup includes channels, security, IP and so on. Pretty much any settings you have for the wireless portion of your wireless router with the added bonus of setting up hopping smoothly between you wireless router and your access point. In some cases you have to configure your wireless card on your computer to make this work correctly.

Lee, as far as mainstream products in this area, we’re talking about video cameras, some elements of security and DVR. There has been a lot of noise about other wireless integrated smart home robot blah blah blah. But really, all the promises are vapor.

Niranjan, don’t change a thing. “G” is 54 megabits per second, which you might have. Your internet connection is 1.5 megabits per second. If you have the “G” card in your laptop, you already have 30+ time more capacity than your connection. Even if you have a “B” card (11 Megabits per second) your wireless card is still 8 times faster than you internet connection. If you have no wireless in your home, just get a “G” wireless router. If you’re saying you have a laptop with no wireless card at all and no wireless router and have the cash, get a new laptop with a “G” card and a “G” wireless router.

Brian Carnell

I switched all my computers over to wireless.N a few months ago, and have been very happy.

OTOH, I think the 802.11g AP claim misses the mark. I always got good coverage throughout my house and out to the road, so what’s the point of adding an AP? The connection was already slow enough that I didn’t use it for large file transfers, and I rarely saw the bandwidth fall below what my cable provider was giving me.

Now I have a friend who had 20/2 access and did find that happening. I don’t have access to such nice speeds yet, however.


I have the same experience as flabbygums. I have a Netgear 802.11 g router with 802.11 g in my laptop too. Even when I place my laptop one foot away from the router, I don’t get the same speed as I get using a cat5 cable.

My broadband connection is only 2Mbps and I can still see a significant increase in speed using a cat5 cable over wireless


I have a Netgear 802.11 b/g not far from my pc also and although it usually said I had an ‘excellent’ 5-bar connection, I gain an avg. 1.5 – 2 Mbps using a hard-wired cat5 to the router. For me, wireless was leaking bandwidth somehow.


well the problem with “draft” is that one company thinks it should work one way, another company thinks it should work another way.

case in point – visiting my in-laws, they have a netgear 802.11n router using WEP. my macbook pro connects to it, and certain websites *just don’t work*. in fact, if i craft custom ICMP packets, as soon as i go over a certain packet size, everything dies.

solution? use WPA instead (which everybody should anyway) but the point remains – “draft” means “no guarantees that stuff works across manufacturers.”

if you have known-compatible hardware, then fine. go for it. but don’t blindly buy whatever is cheapest or convenient and expect it to work 100%. do your homework!


I ditched a Linksys wireless G for a Netgear wireless N (the bridge set actually). My devices love it. The file transfer speeds are great, but the transfer on large files also seems far more stable. So the speed’s been great, mostly for media; and the stability is device-dependant, but it’s been better for me as wel.


Not switched for the reason that I do not have 802.11n adapter in my laptop.

I should get a new laptop and router
get a new router and USB dongle for the laptop.

But my internet connection is max 1.5 Mbps. How will that be helpful if I use draft N that is what I am thinking about the most.


In the past, home wireless network speeds did not need to be extremely fast as the speed of connecting to the network for the casual home user was always slower than the wireless connection to a users machine. This will probably always be the case. However, there are a number of changes taking place within the home network that will benefit from the N protocol. NAS devices (network attached storage, aka a bunch of disks) are being attached to home networks specifically to share music files, video files, large work files, games and other digital media. This sharing WITHIN the home network is where 802.11N really shines. In addition, N has better range than 802.11b/g AND has the added benefit of not down-grading to the speed of the slowest device that joins the wireless network, which does affect b/g (depending on vendor). Soon, all of our home devices will connect to one another and the internet. As the average American home doesn’t have Cat5 cable in the walls, a fast wireless network connection between devices will become increasingly important, especially with the McMansion’s that have 3 and 4 floors of living space.


I guess I must live in a really small house. I have a standard Linksys G router on the lower floor and I have complete coverage with good speed in the whole house and out in the yard.
The rest of you must either live in mansions or houses made of tinfoil :)

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