Wave 1 and Wave 2 access points: What’s the difference, and does it matter?

Do you need a Wave 2 access point? Do you know what a Wave 2 access point is? Wave 2 Wi-Fi simply refers to the second wave of wireless networking gear. It’s based on the 802.11ac standard. Wave 2 introduced MU (multi-user) MIMO, for starters. That means it can service multiple client devices using multiple antennae. It also has wider channels and other bells and whistles. The upshot is, wave 2 hardware offers more throughput and better handling of multiple connections.

Believe it or not, the jump from 802.11ac (still pretty much the standard) to 802,11ax is a bigger performance jump than the one from Wave 1 to Wave 2, at least with respect to speeds. It’s client density that Wave 2 really improves.

However, we know that there are some people still using Wave 1 hardware, so here’s a few reasons to upgrade. It’s just a matter of whether to move up to Wave 2 802.11ac, or to go ahead to 802.11ax, also called Wi-Fi 6.


Without a doubt Wave 2 is much faster than Wave 1. It has speeds over 4 1/2 times greater than Wave 1’s max speeds of 1.3Gbps. Additionally, Wave 2 has four spatial streams compared to Wave 1’s three. A device’s speeds are proportional to the number of spatial streams it has. This means Wave 2 is much faster. Higher speeds mean that users can process large files and access data more quickly. This increases productivity and eliminating lag time.


Bandwidth is basically how fast data passes between two devices. Wave 1 Wireless uses 20, 40, and 80-MHz bonded channels in 5-GHz bandwidth. Wave 2 Wireless uses 160-MHz on the same bandwidth, supporting additional bonded channels. Larger bandwidth means that more devices are supported with better overall performance. Adding bandwidth is sort of like adding extra lanes on a highway. The more lanes (or channels) there are, the more people can get where they need to go.

Device Support for the Wave 2 access point

Wave 1 Wireless was created largely with laptops in mind. It uses SU-MIMO, which means that multiple streams of data can only travel between one device at a time.

Wave 2, on the other hand, is more suitable for the demands of mobile devices because it has multi-user MIMO (MU-MIMO). 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.

Preaching the upsides of Wave 2 at this point might seem a bit like preaching to the choir, but there are still a few people who might need to consider it. And the real question for such people might be whether to upgrade to 802.11ac, or go on and get 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6). Wi-Fi 6 is the standard of the future, after all.

Corporate Armor has many years of experience with these technologies, and have been around long enough to remember when Wave 1 was all that! We are ABSOLUTELY 100% customer-centric, and we would love to hear from you, so we can answer your questions and find a wireless solution that’s perfect for you! We are loaded with Wave 2 access point leaders like Meraki, Fortinet, and more. So reach out here, or call 877-449-0458. Thanks for reading!

Advantages of Wave 2 access points

Much greater bandwidth than Wave 1
Greater device support

Learn more!

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