Wireless 802.11N Questions: Is It Time To Upgrade?

This image was lost some time after publication, but you can still view it here.
This image was lost some time after publication, but you can still view it here.

With the arrival of the first 802.11n routers from Buffalo Technology, Belkin, D-Link and Netgear, early adopters are wondering whether it's time for them to upgrade their home networks. With speeds hovering around 12x and range around 4x compared to 802.11g, there seems to be a significant improvement over current technology. But is it time to switch yet?

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The short answer is, no. Read on to find out why.

Glenn over at Wi-Fi Net News says it's better to wait. The 802.11n standard hasn't been ratified by the IEEE (it's still in draft form) so there's a significant risk that the equipment bought now won't be upgradable to the final version of N. He continues:

With no hardware replacement guarantee from a manufacturer, why buy today? If manufacturers are willing to step forward and provide explicit offers with their products that they will have the same compliance with the gear they shift today as with the gear they ship in six months, up to and including replacing the hardware you purchase today, then that argument goes away.

On the other hand, Apple, who was first to market with 802.11b routers, is quiet on the whole situation. Andrew at eHomeUpgrade agrees with Glenn and explains why:

The lack of a defined standard certainly has to impact Apple's plans to release an upgraded Airport router. It is most likely stifling product innovations that would require the higher bandwidth throughput capabilities of the 802.11n standard.

It's not that Apple doesn't want to upgrade, they're just waiting for 802.11n to become official in order to save headaches for their customers (and support calls for themselves).

What's our take on it? Well, if you have a situation where it's a necessity to have high speed wireless networking, then by all means get the new equipment. But be aware that there's a risk that any equipment you buy after 802.11n has been finalized may be incompatible with what you buy now. If you take the plunge, let us know how fast your new routers are!

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