WiFi Turns 20 + Why Bad Apples Will No Longer Spoil the Bunch
It may seem like a lifetime ago, but WiFi will be celebrating its 20th Anniversary this year. With the release of each WiFi generation, there are significant improvements, but also a learning curve. IT administrators not only needed the latest WiFi to keep pace with client adoption rates, but also needed to understand the impacts of mixing different protocols.
When IT administrators first moved from 802.11b to 802.11g or 802.11n, there were promises of higher speeds for everyone. This would have been true, but one bad apple spoils the whole bunch! If there were (20) 802.11g wireless clients associated to the same access point—their average bandwidth would be around 24Mbps. Not too bad, but if Joe from accounting walks in with his old 802.11b laptop—he ruins the WiFi party. Joe’s laptop will bring the average bandwidth of his 20 colleagues down to 2Mbps. IT administrators used to have to worry about people like Joe; not only did they need to upgrade the wireless infrastructure, but needed to upgrade wireless clients as well to take full advantage of the new technologies for everyone.
Luckily, IEEE learned their lesson and this is no longer the case. The 802.11n and 802.11ac protocols were designed with compatibility in mind. In fact, 802.11ac builds so well upon 802.11n, that there is no need to worry about a bad apple situation. While still possible for an 802.11n client to bring average bandwidth down for 802.11ac clients on the same access point—the effect is negligible. With 802.11ac building so well upon its predecessor, the WiFi party can still go strong.
Alex Zeltmann is an ABS veteran and a rockstar Infrastructure Engineering Manager. With over 10 years of experience in networking technology, he leads ABS’ team of implementation engineers as they integrate the latest technologies for ABS clients.