The Prospects For 802.11a

The market for WiFi gear has been dominated of late by 802.11g, the 2.4GHz variant of the WiFi standards which has become the de facto natural evolution from the original ‘b’. However, this doesn’t mean that the ‘a’ variant is obsolete. An in-depth analysys at The Register reviews the current state of ‘a’ and its future prospects. As it turns out, ‘a’ may have bright prospects in niches like: 1) where there is a high density of users (ex: classrooms); 2) places with high bandwidth requirements (ex: interactive CAD), or 3) places where more than 3 networks need to operate overlaid. The Register suggests that these niches may include the home entertainment setup and other areas which may turn out to be WiFi’s highest revenue applications. But this isn’t news to us at Techdirt: the list of three ‘a’ niches above is actually a quote from a Techdirt post 16 months ago, which in addition to predicting ‘g’ dominance also said: “Remember, though, ‘a’ is not a throwaway technology: There are specific niches where ‘a’ is more suitable than ‘g’.” That post was itself based on a 2002 White Paper which I authored. Lastly, The Register is suggesting that ‘a’ has strong opportunity out of doors, but I seriously question that. The range of ‘a’ is just so poor that it would take hundreds of thousands of ‘a’ APs to equal one WiMAX or Cellular tower. At any distance over 50ft, the throughput of ‘b’ is actually higher than ‘a’, due to attenuation. Furthermore, any pundit who tries to claim that 5.8GHZ is the great wide open, while 2.4GHz is crowded with interference has got a lousy crystal ball — isn’t it obvious that 5.8 will eventually become as crowded as 2.4, but with worse range?

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