In less than a decade, wireless LANs have evolved from a niche technology useable only by a few specialized applications to the default media of choice for millions of businesses and consumers. And WLANs continue to evolve. The latest generation of high-speed wireless LAN technology, based on the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Draft 802.11n standard, are now becoming available.
The technology behind 802.11n is projected to deliver as much as a six fold increase in effective bandwidth, as well as increased WLAN reliability compared to existing 802.11g and 802.11a deployments. The promise of 802.11n has led some to consider the wireless LAN as a viable alternative to the wired network.
At a minimum, the advances realized by 802.11n will cause many enterprises to reconsider the role of WLANs in their network, as well as the effect of such a deployment on their infrastructure. Before deploying 802.11n, however, organizations will need to understand the answers to some basic questions, including:
- What do 802.11n technologies do differently than existing WLAN elements?
- Is 802.11n backward-compatible with my existing wired and wireless network design?
- What modes can the deployed?
While these questions are simple, the answers to them are not. 802.11n utilizes some very complex technologies, some more frequently used in the worlds of radio/broadcast than in networking. Indeed, there is no shortage of white papers claiming to "demystify" 802.11n but only succeeding in introducing a plethora of new four letter acronyms.
In this paper, we will look at the basic elements of 802.11n functionality, with an emphasis on how it differs from WLAN technologies in use today. Our primary focus will be on the major methods that 802.11n uses to deliver on the claim of large increases in throughput and reliability.
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