Many offices and commercial buildings come at least partially cabled for computer networking, offering a convenient connection from your servers to the routers in individual work areas. Those routers are often wireless, an option that provides greater flexibility and easier installation than traditional networking with Ethernet cables. Relatively inexpensive wireless routers and bridges offer options for most range requirements, from a few yards to several miles.

The Standard

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, or IEEE, defined the standard protocols for wireless networking in the mid-1990s. This standard, referred to as 802.11, has been revised several times to accommodate improvements in the technology. The first commercial products, released in 1999, adhered to the 802.11a and 802.11b standards. The first offered higher speeds, while the second was slower but had longer range. The first 802.11g devices entered the market in 2003, combining the speed of wireless a devices with the range of 802.11b. Speed and range increased further with the 802.11n standard in 2009, and 802.11ac in 2012.

Maximum Range

The maximum range of each standard varies, depending on environmental factors such as obstructions and interference from other sources of radio frequency signals. The maximum range of 802.11a wireless was approximately 95 feet with throughput of up to 54 megabits per second, while 802.11b was capable of transmitting up to 150 feet at 11 Mbps. The 802.11g standard extended that range to 170 feet at the same speed as 802.11a; 802.11n extended the maximum range to 230 feet and throughput to a maximum of 600 Mbps. 802.11ac routers provide similar range but increase throughput to a theoretical maximum of 1.33 gigabits per second.

Practical Considerations

802.11b and 802.11g routers work on the relatively crowded 2.4 GHz band of radio frequencies, where there are relatively few channels to choose from and a significant potential for interference from other electronics and wireless devices. Devices using 802.11a used the less-crowded 5 GHz band, while 802.11n and 802.11ac use both as needed. Choosing an 802.11n or 802.11ac router will provide better performance to all workstations on your network, especially those furthest from the router. With the older wireless technologies, throughput tails off drastically as you approach the limits of their range.

Extended-Range Wireless

Conventional consumer and office wireless products can provide adequate range for most business use, but companies occupying large spaces or with facilities spread over a wide area sometimes need more. In large buildings or compounds, you can address this by installing additional routers set up to function as repeaters. They receive a signal wirelessly from your primary router, then rebroadcast it. If your wireless network needs extend beyond a few hundred feet, you’ll need to upgrade to a wide-area product. These connect to your network as a router or network bridge, but can transmit over distances of up to 20 miles.

MPC3503 ( rent & purchase ) (5)
MPC3503 ( rent & purchase ) (6)
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