Should you move customers to 802.11n?

802.11n has been ratified. And best of all, the release contains no incompatibility with the draft versions. Many laptops and other network devices have implemented 802.11n draft for the past couple of years. So should you upgrade any remaining 802.11g or 802.11b devices in customer networks?

I would suggest that if you have the ability to upgrade, you should do it. For small numbers of laptop users predominantly accessing the Internet there will not be any advantage (the network bottleneck is elsewhere), but as soon as the same laptop users need to access and exchange large amounts of data with other users on the network, they will see an immediate increase in network throughput when using 802.11n

However, with 802.11n, there is a chance to do better than upgrade. Because 802.11n can use a separate frequency band (5Ghz) rather than the 2.4Ghz shared with 802.11b/g networks, it is possible to set up an entirely new wireless network only for your 802.11n devices. This will give them the maximum benefit of the new standard: the increased throughput and range, whilst using the second frequency band removes any potential interference from 802.11b/g networks in the vicinity – interference that significantly reduces throughput. Sharing 802.11n/g/b together on 2.4Ghz also leads to throughput reductions when compared to an n-only network.

Setting up 802.11n in this way gives you the maximum advantages of the standard, means you have no changes on the existing wireless network, and allows for the smooth removal of that existing network as it becomes obsolete.

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