Published on March 4th, 2013 | by Staff Writer2
Wireless N: What Is It, And What Is It For?
If you have a wireless router manufactured in the last four years or so, it’s most likely a wireless N model–but what does that mean? A single letter certainly isn’t very explanatory. The letter N in fact designates the speed with which your device can transfer data between itself and another device. Wireless N is the latest and fastest designation for wireless data transmission, as determined by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, or IEEE.
The IEEE is the authority when it comes to determining data transmission standards. To be more specific, the IEEE Standards Association (IEEE-SA) is a sub-organization with international participation from experts in several fields relating to data transmission and other relevant areas of computer science. The Wi-Fi standards are headed under the IEEE 802.11 standard, which covers data transmissions operating at specific frequencies.
There have been several previous IEEE 802.11 standards, all designated with a letter: A, B, and G. (You may remember seeing Wireless G devices before the year 2009, as it was the standard immediately preceding Wireless N.) As various technologies become more advanced and efficient, data can be transmitted more quickly and effectively, and each successive designation transmits more quickly than before. I.E. Wireless B is faster and more efficient than A, and G moreso than B. Wireless N, being the most recent, outstrips all previous standards by far.
The reason for this is the introduction of Multiple In, Multiple Out technology, also known as MIMO. This somewhat whimsical (and quite possibly confusing) acronym refers to a relatively simple idea: instead of having a single piece of data moving at a time, MIMO-enabled devices move several pieces at once. Wireless N devices are the first IEEE standard to use this astounding technology.
To give a concrete example of just how much faster N is than G, for example, compare these numbers: Wireless G’s fasted transfer speed was 54 Megabits per second, while Wireless N’s is 150 Megabits per second. As you can see, this is nearly a 200% increase in transmission speed, due largely to the use of MIMO technology, although the advancement of other technologies also plays a part.
So what does all of this mean for you, as an average Wi-Fi user? Several things, as it turns out: more devices can be connected to a single access point; transmission speed is faster going to and from the access point; data is more secure as it travels. With any luck, your Wireless N device works so well that you don’t even notice it’s there. (Many would agree that if you had a Wireless G router, you would definitely know it was there.)
As wireless data transmission technology continues to advance, consumers may see further increase in the number of data streams per device, resulting in even faster transmission speeds and allowing even more devices to be connected to the access point with no noticeable drop in efficiency.