IPC-new-wireless-standard-pt-2-blog-headerIn Part 1 of this post, we discussed how the new Wi-Fi standard, 802.11ac, provides faster wireless connection speeds with less interference and supports more users and a higher data rate. As a result, 802.11ac enables better performance and reliability in high-density wireless environments.

With laptop and desktop computers increasingly taking a backseat to wireless devices, high-performance Wi-Fi has already become a business necessity. Users need on-demand access to business applications and data. They need to be able to use bandwidth-heavy applications such as video without experiencing performance issues. They need to be able to share and store massive amounts of data.

Older 802.11a/b/g standards are inadequate in today’s business environment. While 802.11n may meet your needs for the next year or two, an investment in 802.11ac will provide a solid foundation for your wireless network for at least the next five years. With product support for older technology dwindling and the cost to upgrade to 802.11ac dropping, the time is right to consider a move to the new, higher-performing Wi-Fi standard.

802.11ac products are being introduced in two “waves”:

Wave 1: These products support the new standard in the more spacious, less crowded 5GHz band, using 20MHz, 40MHz and 80MHz channels. To ensure compatibility with older technology, Wave 1 products are typically combined with 802.11n in the 2.4GHz spectrum. This helps to move more clients into the 5GHz band while reducing congestion in the 2.4GHz band.

802.11ac features dynamic channel widths that can expand and contract to improve and optimize traffic flow. Although Wave 1 access points (APs) generally support three spatial streams, many tablets and smartphones are single-stream devices, resulting in a wide variety of data rates. Lastly, Wave 1 Wi-Fi Certified products boost mobility by supporting WPA2 (wireless protected access 2) security, WMM (Wi-Fi multimedia) quality of service and power management.

Wave 2: Wave 2 products support multiple user multiple input, multiple output (MU MIMO) capabilities, a major improvement over the previous standard’s single user (SU) MIMO. MU MIMO supports up to four simultaneous user transmissions on each spatial stream, while 802.11ac doubles the number of spatial streams from four to eight with 802.11ac. This allows for much higher user density.

Because MU MIMO is dependent on interoperable beamforming to support multiple users simultaneously and improve performance, beamforming must be supported by Wave 2 products. These products can also include wider channels of 80MHz and 160MHz.

A Road Map for Implementation

Most organizations recognize that 802.11ac will be critical if they expect to handle more users, devices and data. Because the difference in cost between 802.11n and 802.11ac APs is relatively low, it’s a good idea to consider Wave 1 equipment if you’re upgrading from 802.11a/b/g, expanding your existing network or implementing a new network. However, if you’ve recently deployed 802.11n and you haven’t noticed any bottlenecks, you might want to wait for Wave 2.

As you determine the best path forward to 802.11ac, it’s also important to stay abreast of future standards. Believe it or not, 802.11ad isn’t too far behind. The next Wi-Fi standard will feature 60GHz connectivity and is expected to have many more use cases, from uncompressed high-def video streaming to wireless docking.

Let IPC Technologies guide you through the process of implementing the new 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard to improve the speed and performance of your WLAN and the productivity of your employees.

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