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802.11n wireless LAN tests show 'unbelievable' results at state college

802.11n generally seen as five times as fast as 11g, Morrisville IT staff finds

By , Network World
August 06, 2007 02:00 PM ET

Network World - The IT staff at Morrisville State College, where the first large-scale Draft 802.11n wireless LAN is being designed, says the beta gear exceeds expectations. The school last week plugged in the first 10 production units of Meru Networks access points.

One issue still facing the college, however, is when and how to upgrade the electrical system for the high-throughput devices, 900 of which will eventually be deployed across campus

The New York college, near the state’s rural center, is in the final stage of building a pervasive campuswide WLAN based initially on Meru Networks’ existing 802.11a/b/g access points. Those will start to be replaced this month and next with the newest Meru access points, which have a chipset that supports 11n. The first ten of these were shipped to the college last week.

With 11n, users can expect to see throughput of 100M to 300Mbps, depending on how the access point and client adapter are configured. That compares with 20M to 25Mbps today for 11a and 11g WLANs. In addition, users can expect to see high throughput sustained over longer distances from 11n access points. In tests that began in June, Morrisville network administrators are finding that 11n is delivering on its promise.

Testing out 802.11n
Morrisville State College's client test results with Meru Network's 802.11n wireless LAN gear.
Description of test File size Client with 802.11g USB Client with 2.4 GHz 802.11n USB Client with 5 GHz 802.11n internal
Windows file upload from laptop to network share 50 MB 3 min. 51 sec. 26 sec. 8 sec.
Windows file download from network share to laptop 50 MB 1 min. 28 sec. 21 sec. 8 sec.
Web file upload from a laptop to server 20 MB 10 min. 2 min. 18 sec. 2 min. 36 sec.
Web file download from a server to laptop 20 MB 20 sec. 8 sec. 6 sec.
Ruckus* double album, music download from local server to laptop 164 MB (33 tracks) 2 min. 59 sec. 1 min. 37 sec. 1 min. 15 sec.
* a legal music-download service offered at Morrisville
Click to see: Testing out 802.11n

“Some of the statistics [from the tests] were just unbelievable,” says Jean Boland, vice president of technology services for the college,  in Morrisville, N.Y. “[In general,] speeds were five times that of 11g.” Often, they were higher: According to Boland, a 50MB file uploaded from a laptop to a network drive took 3 minutes, 51 seconds with an 11g connection, but 26 seconds with an 11n connection -- nearly nine times faster.

An 11n chipset built into a new notebook PC transferred the same file in 8 seconds. That specific result was so startling, the testers thought they had made a mistake and ran the test again, with the same result.

The tests use Meru’s beta 11n access points. The clients are existing laptops fitted with a 2.4GHz 11n Linksys USB adapter, and new Lenovo T61 Thinkpad notebook PCs with a built-in Atheros Communications 11n chipset that can run on the 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies.

 

WLAN distance differences

Morrisville Network Administrator Matt Barber runs the tests in dorms and student rooms, and near active areas where other access points and equipment operate. His team sets up the access point and clients, and each time runs through an identical set of data transfers, using different kinds of files, at specified distances from the access point, so the results can be compared.

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