Two gigs on the LAN are worth an ax in the bush

12 October 2018

Paul Routledge, UK&I country manager, D-Link

Paul Routledge, UK&I country manager, D-Link

Should we say a polite ‘no thanks’ to Wave 2 because there’s a better Wi-Fi standard due soon?

Wireless LAN buying decisions are a bit like trains at the moment. You have an agonising decision to make as you hang around the platform looking for signs of hope. Wave 2 has arrived and people are moving down the platform. But you’ve heard that a much more powerful, spacious and fast vehicle – the 802.11ax – is coming.

The new 802.11ac Wave 2 standard (to give its full name) is a case in point. It builds on Wave 1, whose performance on power, bandwidth and speed were a revelation when launched back in 2011. Wave 2 makes a significant improvement because it distributes data much more powerfully. It’s like the semi-fast train that’s in the station right now.

But should you hold your nerve for the promise of a much faster locomotive with luxurious carriage options? The only nagging doubt is that there’s no confirmed time of arrival. If it all goes according to the timetable, the 802.11ax will arrive in 2019 and offer the experience of ‘up to’ a ten times throughput.

So do you opt for Wave 2’s one gig in the hand now, or gamble in case you get many times that speed from the ax in the bush?

Okay, so Wave 2 is a small advance on Wave 1. By contrast, ax ups the ante significantly with its OFDMA (orthogonal frequency division multiple ) which chops each channel into hundreds of smaller sub channels with different frequencies. So up to 30 clients can share a channel rather than having to take turns broadcasting and listening on each.

Wave 2’s channels widths have doubled to 160MHz so it can stream data at 866 Mbps for a single 802.11ac – but that pales against ax’s promised data streams which will race at 3.5Gbps.

Technically that’s impressive. But who really needs that sort of performance? What are you, a crypto currency business? Why pay for something you don‘t need?