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GCN : October 2012
GCN OCTOBER 2012 • GCN.COM 11 Information lost in translation? Ancient history. 1-866-LGS-4243 An Alcatel-Lucent Company THAT WAS THEN. MOBILITY NOW. With the changing nature of the battlefield, the need for advanced networking and unified communications has never been greater. Turn to LGS Innovations- we're The Network ExpertsTM. Go to lgsmobile.com to download our 4G LTE Playbook. The proliferation of smart phones, tablets and "bring your own device" policies in govern- ment agencies naturally means that more mobile devices will be accessing wireless networks, which in turn will lead to a drastic increase in demand for bandwidth. Your agency's current WiFi setup might not be able to handle the strain, so it could be time to start looking around to see what's next in wireless capa- bilities. The Institute of Electri- cal and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) has been working for over a year now to approve the new "ac" amendment to the 802.11 wireless standard for "Very High Throughput" of the 5 GHz band. So, what makes this ver- sion better than the most recent WiFi standard, 802.11n? Speed and versatility. First, the bandwidth per channel has increased from 40 MHz in "n" to 80 MHz and 160 MHz in "ac." And of course, a wider pipe can only mean greater throughput. Second, the number of multiple- input/multiple-output antennae is going from four to eight. This not only allows for more potential aggregate throughput for the entire device, but it also drastically increases the device's flexibility. All of these improvements make possible wireless com- munications with an aggregate capacity of 6.93 gigabits/sec. There are a few considerations, however. First, this assumes the highest modulation and coding rates possible, which might not always be possible or practical. Second, this data rate would only be achievable under ideal testing conditions, and we all know those don't exist outside of a testing lab. In real-world conditions, 802.11ac routers are delivering about 400 megabits/sec to 500 megabits/sec speed, according to PC World's tests, which is roughly twice the speed of the 802.11n routers the GCN Lab test in 2009. But before agencies can really take advantage of the new speeds, though, they'll have to have laptops, tablets and smart phones that support the standard. Those devices just started to appear this summer, with Asus releasing the first "ac" laptop in June. Also, unless it is just relaying a wireless signal, the router has to physically connect to a net- work through one of its Ethernet ports. Since most government networks have standardized to Gigabit Ethernet, users generally won't be able to avail them- selves of wireless speeds faster than about 1 gigabit/sec. The 802.11n standard has proved reliable, and if that's what your agency has, you're probably going to be good for a while. But the trend toward greater mobile access is clear, and down the road, "ac" is something to look forward to. -- Greg Crowe. New Wi could help agencies cope with BYOD