Understanding AC Number on your Router – 1200, 1300, 1900, 2600, 3200 and more
All wireless routers (regular or mesh) have AC in their name, followed by a number. What does this number after AC on these routers mean? Does the number that comes after AC tell you how fast the router is? In theory, manufacturers say that it does, but In reality, the truth is different and there is a big, BIG difference between SPEED and COVERAGE. Here’s why this AC naming convention for routers is NOT a good way to choose your router, what it actually means and how not be fooled into purchasing a “fast” router, in favour of a ‘better’ one.
Router Frequency and Bandwidth Explained
When you purchase a modern wireless router, you see the term AC followed by a number, somewhere in its name. AC means that the router has support for the latest 802.11ac networking standard, which offers fast WiFi network connections on the 5GHz frequency. The number that comes after AC represents the maximum theoretical bandwidth of the router. 1200 means 1200 Mbps, 1900 means 1900 Mbps, 3200 means 3200 Mbps and so on. When reading AC2300 in the name of a router, it means that you are dealing with a WiFi router that offers fast wireless networks using the 802.11ac standard, with a total maximum theoretical bandwidth of 2300 Mbps. You might be tempted to believe that an AC3200 router provides a wireless network that works at 3200 Mbps. That would be amazing but, unfortunately, it is false. The reality is that this naming convention is not that useful for making a purchasing decision.
One key aspect of the calculation that results in an AC naming is the number of bands or frequencies on which the router emits the wireless signal. Let’s take a router as an example: NETGEAR Nighthawk X6 AC3200. This router has three bands, each of them with its maximum theoretical bandwidth: 600 Mbps for Band 1, and 1300 Mbps for Bands 2 and 3.
Therefore, AC3200 is not the maximum bandwidth you get on one wireless band or frequency, but the sum of all the available bands or frequencies. The maximum speed you could get is 1300 Mbps on the bands 2 and 3, and only in laboratory conditions, which we will explain later. To give you an even better understanding, here’s how modern routers are categorized when it comes to bands or frequencies: