New standards in wireless communications are leapfrogging previous standards, increasing connectivity performance and improving battery life to keep you always on
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the smart people who came up with the idea of wireless communications. I can’t live without it. In fact, I can’t remember the last time that I hard-wired my PC to our modem at home so that I could connect to the Internet. Until recently, I even docked my PC at work with an Ethernet connection, but today I’m all wireless all the time.
Technology has evolved at mind boggling speeds, and today we have a variety of wireless connectivity options available to us—4G, Bluetooth, WiDi, NFC, RFID, and the list continues to grow. But not all wireless technologies are created equal.
FASTER by D Petzold Photography via Flickr
Though I’m not all that interested in how it works, I do care that I have the latest technology to make my life the most efficient and use my devices most effectively. That’s why I got excited by the news at COMPUTEX 2012 last week in Taiwan where computing manufacturers showed off a few new devices that take advantage of the latest evolution of wireless technology.
What is Wi-Fi?
Wi-Fi (or Wireless Fidelity) is a connectivity technology using variations of the 802.11 technology standard to connect devices, including personal computers, tablets and video game consoles, but also smartphones and other specialty entertainment devices that stream TV, movies and music. With a range of up to 100 feet indoors and up to 200 feet outdoors, a Wi-Fi device connects to a local wireless router, which translates data into a radio signal, transmitting it to the device using its built-in, often hidden, antenna.
Now, here’s a little alphabet soup, so stay with me because it’s worth knowing. Wi-Fi is available in several different standards providing varying degrees of data transfer per second. The most popular Wi-Fi standard used by device manufacturers today is 802.11n, but previous standards are still used, like 802.11b (first commonly used spec) and 802.11a. You’ll be safe with any device using 802.11n in terms of its compatibility, but you might also see 802.11g, which theoretically transmits data just as fast and efficient, though often slowed down by network congestion (from microwave ovens, wireless phones and even Bluetooth devices). The 802.11n has improved speed and range over other versions and supports multiple streaming devices, reaching speeds that can be as much as twice as fast as other standards.
Next-Gen Speeds Will Blow You Away
But now there’s a new standard in town, promising to make all the previous standards whither in its shadow. Watch for devices hitting the market later this year with 802.11ac (commonly called 5G Wi-Fi), which is the next step after 802.11n. This new standard is expected to be about three times faster than previous standards. Unless you’re a tech enthusiast living in your mom’s basement, you won’t need to hear about the bits and bytes. Just trust me. This new standard is crazy fast.
So what all this tech mumbo-jumbo means is more performance from your devices. To put it in perspective, the new 5G Wi-Fi will deliver instant playback of multiple high-def movies simultaneously to all your household TVs while your kids play Fruit Ninja or your husband bangs away on his keyboard with the latest Adele album streaming in the background. Before 5G, this would have been a painful, sluggish experience. And because of these speeds and multiple playback capabilities, this new standard increases the efficiency of your devices, thereby improving battery life significantly.
Do I Need to Upgrade AGAIN?
Though this new evolution is exciting (ok, so maybe I’m the only the one excited!), your current router is probably doing you just fine, so there is no need to rush out there and get a new router. But, if you’re in the market for the latest, hold out for the new 5G…even if you don’t have devices yet to support it—they’re coming and you’ll be glad you made the investment.
Let me know what you think. Are you ready for unimaginable data speeds? Do you need it in your home today? Let us know in the comments below.
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