Wave 1 and Wave 2 Wireless: A Comparison

Gartner predicts that 20.4 billion Wi-Fi connected “things” will be in use by 2020. With all of these devices, businesses and homes are likely going to need a more robust wireless solution.

The majority of users are now using a Wave 1 wireless connection. And don’t get us wrong, that’s not bad. Actually, it’s pretty good. Unless the majority of your organization is using its Wi-Fi network for gaming, streaming, and the processing of large files, Wave 1 is perfectly fine. However, as more devices begin joining wireless networks, the need for a more powerful solution will increase.

In the interest of comparing capabilities, we’ve put together a list of the three areas in which Wave 2 Wireless has a larger advantage than Wave 1.


Wave 2 Wireless is, without a doubt, much faster than Wave 1. The newer solution has speeds up to 6Gbps, far outpacing Wave 1’s max speeds of 1.3Gbps. Additionally, Wave 2 has four spatial streams compared to Wave 1’s three. Device speeds are proportional to the number of spatial streams they have, meaning Wave 2 is much faster. Higher speeds mean that end users can process large files and access data more quickly, increasing productivity and eliminating lag time.


Bandwidth essentially means the rate at which data passes between two devices. The larger your bandwidth, the faster you’ll be able to download or stream larger files. Wave 1 Wireless uses 20, 40, and 80-MHz bonded channels in 5-GHz bandwidth, while Wave 2 Wireless uses 160-MHz on the same bandwidth, supporting additional bonded channels. For large organizations, larger bandwidth means that more devices are supported with better overall Wi-Fi performance. Think of adding more bandwidth like adding extra lanes on a highway. The more lanes (or in Wi-Fi’s case, channels) there are, the more people can get where they need to go.

Device Support

Wave 1 Wireless (otherwise known as the first version of 802.11ac) was created largely with laptops in mind. It uses SU-MIMO, which means that multiple streams of data can only be sent or received between one device at a time.

Wave 2, on the other hand, is more suitable for the demands of mobile devices as it has multi-user MIMO capabilities. This is an advantage because a wireless connection can be used to support dozens of devices all needing a high-bandwidth connection. These devices will also be able to get on and off of the wireless network more easily. Those advantages are especially useful in a business or university setting.

Next Steps

There are many advantages of switching to Wave 2 Wi-Fi: faster speeds, increased bandwidth, the ability to use more devices on a single network. All of these perks will allow your company to be more productive and host more end users on its wireless network, maximizing your ROI.

If these sound like benefits that you’re interested in, please reach out. We can help you determine if this solution is right for your business, and make the switch if it is.