WiFi to the N-th degree
It may have taken three years, but the I.E.E.E. 802.11n Task Group has finally approved this next generation wireless networking protocol. While the equipment has been out for years, it’s now official and along with it the ability to mix and match devices without fears of incompatibility issues. In other words, it’s finally time to unwire the school for data with 802.11n.
What does 802.11n give you? On top of better security than either 802.11 b or g, the n version of WiFi pushes more data through the air. It also provides the ability to put two data radios in the router, one running at 2.4GHz and the other at 5GHz. Together they can deliver up to 600Mbps to a client, more than enough to stream high definition video to students. Unfortunately, to get top speed data you’ll need to use an 802.11n receiver, but many notebooks and desktop PCs are already equipped with them.
Unlike other introductions, the formalization of the 802.11n protocol is almost a let-down. It’s different because most of the equipment has been on the market for some time, although some might require a software upgrade to bring it into compliance with the now-approved standard. Here’re three of my favorites that can help keep everyone connected.
WNDR3700 router offers top throughput possible under the 802.11n protocol with a 680MHz processor and a pair of data transmitters, bringing audio, video and all sorts of data into any classroom. The system has four gigabit wired connections as well as the ability to connect with dozens of wireless clients at a time. For those who like a clean design, the WNDR3700 hides its 8 antennas inside. On top of a broadband meter that tracks online usage, at any time, you can adjust which type of data gets the high-speed lane with Netgear’s quality of service program. The router can sit horizontally or vertically and costs $190.
WRT610N router can stream video at top performance. It’s got a pair of data radios and three antennas hidden inside its case as well as built-in gigabit wired connections. Linksys includes software that automatically gives priority to data that is time sensitive, like video clips or VOIP phone calls. The WRT610N adds a 30-day trial of the Linksys Network Defender security software, and sells for $170.
Hawking Technology’s HWRN1A gets by with a single 2.4GHz radio and proudly displays its three antennas in the back of the router. Its peak performance is roughly half that of the others, but thanks to some clever antenna design and integrated amplifiers it has the longest range in its class. As a result it covers more space and you need of them to cover a school. Like the others, it has four gigabit wired Ethernet ports. At $120, its price is as enticing as the ability to stay online without a cable in sight.