The why of Wi-Fi

Thought the Draft N 2.0 (Wireless-N) is not yet ratified, consumers should have no worries buying Wi-Fi certified Wireless-N routers.

CNET readers and my friends often ask me if they should upgrade their home network to a Wireless-N (802.11n) router or wait till the current Draft N 2.0 specification is ratified by the IEEE.

The logo you should look for on a router. Wi-Fi Alliance

The answer is: there's no reason to wait, and here's why.

Wireless-N routers offer much better throughput performance than Wireless-G routers (up to 300Mps as opposed to 54Mbps). They are also offer significantly longer range and better signal stability. Most importantly, they are backward compatible with existing wireless adapters.

What you should make sure, though, is that the router has the Wi-Fi certification, a sign that it has been tested and certified by the Wi-Fi Alliance for interoperability.

To be certified, a wireless network device has to go through hundreds of tests to make sure that it offers security, protocol, and performance adherence. This means it will not have any problem working well with any other Wi-Fi-certified products, from any vendor.

So far, the Wi-Fi Alliance has tested and certified over 5000 products. According to the organization, the majority of wireless network equipment on the market is now Wi-Fi certified, and about 50 percent of those are based on Draft N 2.0 specifications.

It's rumored that the final 802.11n standard will be ratified by mid-2009 or early 2010, though personally, I wouldn't bank on this. By that time, it's highly likely that existing Wi-Fi-certified routers will be upgradable to the final specification via a firmware upgrade.

Last but not least, Wireless-N routers are also much more affordable than they were a year ago. You can get one for less than $100. Go check out our Top 5 Wireless-N routers and transform your wireless network.

About the author

CNET editor Dong Ngo has been involved with technology since 2000, starting with testing gadgets and writing code for CNET Labs' benchmarks. He now manages CNET San Francisco Labs, reviews networking and storage products, and also writes about other topics from online security to new gadgets and how technology impacts the life of people around the world.

 

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