Recently, Network World published an article titled “Old-school Wi-Fi is Slowing Down Networks, Cisco Says”. The article goes into detail about two Cisco engineers who are proposing standards changes to scale down unnecessary traffic to Wi-Fi channels. According to the article, the early Wi-Fi standards that first made wire-free networking a possibility are now hindering the new and improved protocols. The IEEE 802.11 standard, which now reaches speeds up to 6.9Gbps, still requires devices and access points to be compatible with technologies dating as far as the 1990s. This is a prevalent issue in the 2.4GHz band because early standards cannot use the 5GHz band. With only three channels in the 2.4GHz band, inefficient standards slow down the entire channel. Because of this, Cisco is pushing for the 802.11 Working Group and the Wi-Fi Alliance to allow some wireless gear to leave the older Wi-Fi versions behind.

Cisco engineers, Brian Hart and Andrew Myles, proposed a plan that targets the 2.4GHz band in a presentation at the Working Group meeting in LA. The engineers suggested that the Wi-Fi Alliance adopt two certification tracks, making the low data rates optional for the 2.4GHz band. According to the article, “One track would hold on to the slower speeds, while the other would gradually discourage the use of the older modes.” Hart and Myles refer to the new approach as a “green” certification. Ideally, the change would be gradual, starting out with the slow rates being mandatory. After some time they would be optional and, eventually, the use of old protocols would be discontinued in order for products to receive the “green” certification.

Although Wi-Fi still operates in both bands, it is crucial to think about how it can be improved, especially with the Internet of Things (IoT) on the horizon. At Laird, we feel that the IoT is going to dramatically change the way Wi-Fi networks are used. Supporting 802.11b data rates is really just a stop-gap to implementing new techniques which can ensure connectivity for low power devices. We look forward to more discussions and ideas like these in the Wi-Fi Alliance.

2.4 GHz and 5 GHz Bands

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