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GCN : August 2014
5 > CDWG.com | 800.808.4239 According to Cisco Systems, 802.11ac APs will boost performance by capitalizing on three innovations: 1. Increased options for channel bonding. This technique, introduced with 802.11n, combines two channels to increase data throughput speeds. The maximum megahertz supported will rise from 40 to 80 and eventually to 160MHz, for improvements of 117 percent to 333 percent, Cisco reports. The company estimates that first-wave 80MHz products will deliver throughput from 433 megabits per second on the low end to a maximum of 1.3 gigabits per second at the physical layer. 2. 802.11ac devices will support more dense modulation schemes. These will be up to 256 quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM), compared to 802.11n's 64 QAM, for a 33 percent improvement. 3. e new protocol doubles multiple input, multiple output (MIMO) capabilities. The increase moves from 802.11n's four spatial streams to eight streams. For users, this means a speed boost, greater uplink reliability and opportunities for improved downlink reliability as well. A speed boost won't be the only benefit users can expect to gain. The coming 802.11ac devices will also help conserve battery life. Another innovation is beamforming, a technique for efficiently directing signals to specific devices rather than the shotgun approach of broadcasting them over a wide area. And the new standard will also address a key challenge with Wi-Fi systems --- the significant degradation in speed that comes when distance and physical obstacles impede signal. Despite all these technical benefits, 802.11ac will remain backward compatible with existing 802.11a and 802.11n networks, but with one significant caveat: Compatibility is limited to the 5GHz band. a meeting," says Michael Hardy, vice president of channel and enterprise sales at D-Link Systems, a vendor of networking products. "Wireless today is all about density and how many devices can be supported within the coverage range of an access point or AP." As a result, a growing number of IT shops have begun to take a fresh look at how well their networks serve today's mobile workers, with the expectation that traffic volumes will only continue to rise sharply in the months and years ahead. These analyses are leading a significant number of IT professionals to conclude that a wireless network update is in order for their organizations. In fact, 17 percent of IT managers said they plan to upgrade their wireless infrastructures over the next year, according to the 2013 CDW "Surveying Your Network" report. Although almost any network overhaul will affect a variety of areas, a central focus for many organizations will be the emerging 802.11ac standard, a protocol jointly developed by the IEEE Standard Association and the Wi-Fi Alliance. The 802.11ac standard is the latest in a steady stream of enhancements to the widely adopted 802.11 wireless standard. Wireless Network Migration The convergence of new performance requirements and the emerging standard are leading some IT organizations to look at wireless LANs (WLANs) as an integral part of the core network, not just a separate spur for a group of occasional users. "It is no longer good enough to add an AP to your network and hope for the best," Hardy says. "The single biggest application for mobile devices inside an organization is email, and that's a critical application to support." What's the most efficient and least disruptive way to move up from networks based on 802.11n or perhaps earlier iterations of the Wi-Fi standard? First, it's important to understand the upcoming capabilities and nuances of 802.11ac. Enterprise-class products that support the new standard will come in two waves, with the first arriving this year. "Wave 1 is all about performance. 802.11ac delivers a significant boost over 802.11n, as long as an infrastructure can handle it," Hardy says. "With the added performance comes the ability to handle more devices within the scope of an access point." WLANs using 802.11ac will not only support more clients than the older iterations of 802.11, each mobile user will also be able to tap into more bandwidth. That's promising news for people who rely on data-heavy and latency-sensitive apps, such as video conferencing, as well as when they're more traditionally accessing data files or checking email. Standard Frequency roughput Range 802.11b 2.4GHz 11Mbps 100 feet 802.11g 2.4GHz 54Mbps 100 feet 802.11a 5GHz 54Mbps 50 feet 802.11n 2.4---5GHz 300---450Mbps 50 feet 802.11ac, Wave 1 5GHz 433---1,300Mbps 50 feet 802.11ac, Wave 2 5GHz 3.4Gbps TBD 802.1 1 : BY THE NUMBERS