Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Is 802.11ac Wave 2 the Real Deal?

As the demand for corporate traffic is ever-growing, the demand for infrastructure is growing with it.  So, the question remains, why haven’t you upgraded to 802.11ac Wave 2 yet?  Well, more than likely, it’s because you are hesitant, just upgraded, or feel your Wi-Fi is running fine.  Whatever the reason, it’s probably time to at least think about utilizing Wave 2.  Let’s be honest, data is not going to stop.  In fact, users are only going to consume more!  Can your infrastructure handle the demand?

Making sure your environment can handle the demand, whether it’s wired or wireless, can sometimes feel like a daunting task.  With the first go around of 802.11ac (Wave 1), it was possible to reach speeds of up to 1.3Gpbs, and for most that may have been a stretch, as loads on the access point (AP) and environment come into play.  This doesn’t even start to take into account dense environments - which are where Wave 2 can level the playing field. 

So, how does Wave 2 differ from its predecessor?  Primarily, there are two factors at play: four spatial streams and, more significantly, the support of MU-MIMO or Multi-User Multiple Input Multiple Output.  This should prove to be extremely beneficial to very dense environments.  As APs will have the ability to utilize multiple streams that can reach multiple clients simultaneously, this will greatly improve data transmit times, not to mention freeing up our beloved bandwidth.

In order to accommodate the improved bandwidth and functionality, a 4th spatial stream (i.e. an additional antenna) must be used.  That bundled with the use of the 160 MHz band allows for double the channel bandwidth, completing the package for Wave 2. 

The reality is clients currently are not able to utilize the benefits of Wave 2 just yet. Devices that will have the Wave 2 technology are expected to be released some time in 2016.  If you’re thinking of replacing or upgrading your current wireless infrastructure, now may be a great time.  Typically, the replacement cycle on a wireless infrastructure is 18 to 24 months.  Wave 2 APs will cost about 10% more than Wave 1 and investing in this extra cost now will allow you to skip the next cycle - increasing the ROI and your bottom line. 

Planning your wireless infrastructure is also a crucial step for optimal performance in your wireless network.  A wireless site survey will provide you with several pieces of information, ranging from AP orientation, channel utilization, and power adjustments to name a few.  This information greatly improves overall wireless performance and can have long lasting effects on your wireless environment.  Even if you are not looking to upgrade your wireless infrastructure in the near future, a wireless site survey can provide detailed information regarding your wireless network so you can provide an optimal configuration for your users.  The combination of the advancements offered by Wave 2 and the information provided by a wireless site survey will enable your organization to provide your users with a high performing wireless network now and into the future.

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