Internet speeds have been increasing over the past decades. Users were tolerant of dial up speeds at first, but then these were supplanted by DSL and cable.  Attention has recently turned to fiber networks to offer extra performance. Verizon had FIOS, which peaked at 500 megabits per second (Mb/s), whereas Google has recently introduced Google Fiber, offering 1 gigabyte per second (GB/s) or also known as 1000 Mb/s transfer speeds; this is only available in select cities. Graph 1.0 shows the current maximum download speeds obtainable with today’s technology.

(Graph 1.0)

Fiber is the way to go to get faster broadband speeds. However it is very costly to deploy given the logistics to string it on poles or bury it in trenches, not to mention the red tape of many municipalities. So again attention has turned to existing copper networks, trying to squeeze out as much performance as possible.

Today most internet service providers (ISP’s) have a fiber optic backbone but use copper for deployment to gain faster speeds at less expense. Cable providers have standardized the transmission of data over copper wire. Originally, the cable network was designed to transmit video signals to a TV. The newer Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification (DOCSIS) standard allows data to be sent through the same coaxial cable. DOCSIS 1.0 was the original standard with speeds up to 38 Mb/s on the download and 9 Mb/s on the upload; DOCSIS 2.0 increased the upload speed to 27 Mb/s.  Both standards accomplish these speeds over a single channel.

The current standard is DOCSIS 3.0 and are used by all cable ISP’s. The advantage of this new standard is higher speeds are attainable by bonding multiple channels. The specification calls for a minimum of four channels on the download, with no upper limit. With multiple channels bonded, speeds exceeding 300 Mb/s are possible. Currently eight channels are common on today’s cable modems.

Most cable providers are upgrading their networks for the planned deployment of DOCSIS 3.1 in 2016. This new standard uses a new technology that splits the cable channel into multiple smaller signals. Using this method the bandwidth is promised to bring up to 10 GB/s on the download and 1 GB/s on the upload. This is extremely fast! This means that an HD movie can be downloaded in just a few seconds or less! In comparison at 150 Mb/s the same movie would take four minutes. The picture below illustrates this innovative technology.

(Image 1.0)

DSL providers are also working on a speed boost to their networks called G fast. The promised speeds are 1 GB/s over a short distance of up to 500 meters. Like DOCSIS 3.1, G fast should be deployed in 2016.

With Internet speeds on the rise Wi-Fi standards have also been updated to accommodate the demand. Wi-Fi is a wireless connection and the speed is the connection between the device and the access point.  The current Wi-Fi standard was introduced in 2014 and is called 801.11ac. This standard offers speeds up to 1.7 GB/s. The higher the speed, the faster the data can be transferred to and from the access point.  Table 1.0 describes the different standards in use today.

(Table 1.0)

The next upgrade is to be called 802.11ac Wave2. These products will support Multiple User MIMO (MU-MIMO) technology.  MIMO is Multiple-Input, Multiple-Output, allowing the device to send and receive multiple data streams at the same time. With MU-MIMO these devices have multiple antennas to handle the simultaneous connections. Therefore, smaller devices such as smartphones and tablets can be streaming video at the same time as other devices without any slowdown.

The next Wi-Fi standard due to be released later this year is 802.11ad. This standard will have frequency of 60 GHz and is promising speeds up to 4.5 GB/s but in a limited range of 30 feet or less. Beyond 802.11ad will be 801.11ah, set to debut in 2016. This seeks to enhance to a 900 MHz frequency to obtain a longer range. The 900 MHz frequency has roughly twice the range as 2.4 GHz, as the smaller the frequency the longer the range and capability to penetrate walls. In the early 1990’s the 900 MHz frequency was used for cordless phones, but its usage today is sparse. Modern cordless phones operate on 1.9 GHz frequency allowing for the 801.11ah to deploy without collision in frequency. Graph 2.0 shows the current maximum wireless speeds obtainable with today’s technology.

(Graph 2.0)

The final Wi-Fi standard on the horizon is not expected to arrive until 2019, although some draft products may show up earlier as they did for previous generations. The new standard is to be known as 802.11ax and is expected to be about four times faster than 801.11ac (the current standard), or about 10 GB/s. This speed is obtainable by a technology that uses multiple frequencies simultaneously.

As ISP’s continue to upgrade their networks to provide faster internet speeds, networking products should be upgraded to take advantage of these speeds. At Skyline IT Services, we advise our clients on good times to upgrade and which Wi-Fi standard to deploy. We understand that every business is unique and have different technological needs. Our job is to consult and deploy the right technology for your business.

About Skyline IT Service, Inc.

Skyline IT Services is an Information Technology firm headquartered in San Diego California that provides Managed IT Services and IT consulting to businesses throughout southern California.  Since 1999 our team has provided clients in many different industries with professional, competent and competitively priced IT Solutions.

For IT Support and Services, Skyline IT Services is San Diego’s Premier IT Services Provider.