Routing Customers Through Wireless Options
Tips for providing the right Wi-Fi SolutionMay 2, 2012 By John R. Quain
Not just for computers any longer, wireless routers connect everything from the family iPad to game consoles and smart TVs to the Web. Consumers expect to access online services like Netflix, Hulu and Pandora from every room in the house. Routers are responsible for handling the traffic. But if they aren’t set up properly, video streams will stall and neighbors may take a free ride on a customer’s network. Or worse.
Customers need to understand what they are buying and sales associates need to set expectations by educating buyers.
Most routers that comply with the current full Wi-Fi specification are so-called dual-band models. In other words, they use the older 2.4 GHz bandwidth and more recent 5 GHz band. Recommended models should meet the 802.11n Wi-Fi standard so that they can accommodate 802.11b and 802.11g Wi-Fi devices that use the 2.4 GHz band, as well as newer 802.11n devices that can use either the 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz band.
Dual-band routers are needed now because models that only use the 2.4 GHz band are susceptible to more interference, and thus poorer performance. The 2.4 GHz space is jammed with a variety devices vying for this wireless space, including baby monitors and cordless phones. A dual-band 802.11n router will improve performance and operate in “mixed mode,” ensuring that older Wi-Fi devices will still be able to connect to the network.
One point of confusion for many shoppers is the network speeds touted by manufacturers. Labels often boast 450 Mbps (megabits per second) or even 900 Mbps speeds. In theory, it means that each band can stream data at up to 450 Mbps, for a total of 900 Mbps. But in practice these numbers represent ideal peak performance. Actual throughput is about half the advertised speed, and that’s still assuming the environment is ideal for wireless communications and free of interference.
Consequently, customers should be warned about the vagaries of wireless signals. In other words, their mileage may vary. Apartment dwellers can be adversely affected by nearby competing networks trying to transmit on the same channels. Signals in a large suburban home may not penetrate multiple floors and walls, failing to reach a basement office from a top-floor rec room. Further complicating matters, 5 GHz signals don’t penetrate walls or travel as far as those in the 2.4 GHz band. So ask about each buyer’s particular situation. A Wi-Fi booster may be needed (more on this later in the story).