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What's the Deal With Wireless Network Adapters Lagging Behind 802.11n?

The increasing adoption of 802.11n has brought wireless networking to a whole new level, as wireless network speeds are now nearly comparable with many wired networks. Over the past few years there’s been significant development around 802.11n and companies have experienced several benefits including significantly higher throughput, better range, and more efficient usage of the 5-gigahertz spectrum.

However, wireless network adapters that laptops use to connect to these upgraded networks still have a way to go. Most 802.11n wireless adapters only take advantage of a portion of the overall gains possible with 802.11n. Below are some key considerations for choosing a wireless adapter to make sure you will be able to see your most critical wireless network traffic, and make the most of the 802.11n advances :

Take into account the “secret of NxM”

Where N equals the number of transmit antennas and M equals the number of receive antennas. Both M and N need to be the same in the wireless adapter that you choose and the most capable access point (AP) in your network.

Be aware of the number of streams

For example, if your most capable APs are 3X3:2, meaning they have 3 transmit and 3 receive antenna, but only have two data streams, and you suddenly add in new APs that are 3X3:3 (3 data streams), you’ll need to upgrade your wireless capture capability and find wireless adapters that are also 3X3:3. This is critical to see all the important wireless traffic and packets.

Support for three data streams is difficult to find

There are lots of 3X3 wireless adapters and APs available. But 3X3:3 with support for three data streams is more difficult to find. There are more APs that fit this criterion than wireless adapters. The easiest way to find out if the wireless adapter will work is to look to see if it can support
450Mhz.

The truth is that as 802.11n continues to mature, the availability of related technology will increase and it will be easier to manage. Remember that the time to begin moving to this new standard is as soon as you need to upgrade any component in your existing infrastructure, in order to address the demand for additional capacity in the WLAN. By keeping an eye on these specifics, you will make sure you wind up with visibility into your entire wireless network!

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