Faster, more reliable Wi-Fi on its way

Providers of wireless access points and other equipment have started to release products that conform with a next-generation standard, called “gigabit Wi-Fi,” that has the potential to be up to four times as fast as the current 802.11n technology.

Faster web speeds could have a lasting impact on campuses.

The new technology, 802.11ac, is designed to relieve network congestion by increasing speed limits to more than 1 gigabit per second and moving to a new highway, from the congested lanes of the 2.4-gigahertz frequency band to a more open 5-gigahertz spectrum.

The changes should mean that wireless routers and access points will be able to accommodate more devices at one time and provide better coverage throughout a school building or office space. In areas crowded with other electronics, the 5 GHz spectrum also offers the promise of less interference, meaning connections shouldn’t randomly drop.

“We expect that the users will see a significant increase in the performance of their applications,” said Greg Ennis, technical director of the Wi-Fi Alliance.

The trade association owns the Wi-Fi trademark, and it must say that a product works correctly with other Wi-Fi certified products before a device can carry the official Wi-Fi seal. The alliance began certifying 802.11ac products over the summer.

Everything that’s certified as 802.11ac will work with older gadgets.

But to take advantage of the faster speeds and wider bandwidth, both ends of a transmission must have the new technology. Older computers can be upgraded using an 802.11ac USB adapter.

Aerohive Networks introduced two access points in October that support the 802.11ac standard.