Why 2×2 Wave 2 access points make no sense

Everyone loves the latest and greatest technology. A new iPhone comes out, and people camp out at the stores to buy one. Microsoft releases a new version of Xbox, and they’re sold out for months.

Sometimes, though, the newest thing doesn’t make sense because the incremental value of the innovation is limited. In technology, this doesn’t happen very often, but I believe there’s a current “latest and greatest” that provides limited value—and that’s the 2×2 Wave 2 access points (AP) that are now available from many of the mainstream Wi-Fi providers.

Before I explain my opinion on this, it’s worth doing a quick refresh of Wave 1 versus Wave 2 because it’s important to understand the principals of Wave 2. Below are the benefits of 802.11ac Wave 2 versus Wave 1: 

  • Additional spatial streams. Wave 2 APs have a maximum of four streams compared to three with Wave 1. The additional stream enables more data to be transmitted/received to and from a single client.
  • Support for 160 MHz channels. Wave 2 enables channels to be bonded together to widen the communications path to a single client, which increases the theoretical bandwidth.
  • Multi-User MIMO (MU-MIMO). This enables an AP to connect to multiple client devices simultaneously. For example, a 4×4 Wave 2 AP could connect to four 1×1 or 2 2×2 clients at the same time. However, a 3×3 Wave 1 AP could talk to only a single 1×1 client. The other devices would need to wait until the connected endpoint finishes transmitting data before it connects because Wave 1 supports only single-user MIMO.

Based on the above, it is logical to assume that anything Wave 2 must be better than anything Wave 1, correct? In the words of Donald J Trump – “Wrong.” Here are the facts (actual, not alternative) that support my argument.

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