The Latest Wi-Fi Standard, Part 1: What 802.11ac Brings to the Table
A reliable wireless LAN (WLAN) has become as important to the day-to-day operations of the enterprise as the telephone and fax machine were 25 years ago. More than a convenience, Wi-Fi enables greater flexibility, agility, efficiency, productivity and customer service, all of which contribute to a bigger bottom line.
A reliable WLAN makes it possible to implement a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy so employees can have anytime, anywhere access to business applications and data from their favorite devices. Everything employees need to perform their jobs is within arm’s reach. They may leave the office, but the office never leaves them.
Now, simply having WLAN isn’t enough. There’s a constant demand to improve the speed, reliability, coverage and capacity of Wi-Fi. Users expect to be able to use bandwidth-intensive business applications and collaboration tools such as videoconferencing without compromising performance.
The growing demand and importance of WLAN has spurred the development of the latest Wi-Fi standard, 802.11ac. According to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), 802.11ac builds upon the technology of its predecessor, the 802.11n standard, delivering a number of performance-boosting enhancements.
The most notable improvements in the 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard include:
More horsepower. 802.11ac is capable of tripling the speed of 802.11n with a theoretical maximum rate of up to 1.3Gbps. An even faster version has been tested at speeds of 7Gbps.
Wider roads, less traveled. 802.11ac exits the busy 2.4GHz spectrum and its 40Mhz channels for the more spacious 5GHz band, where less traffic and wide 80MHz and 160MHz channels allow for faster speeds, higher throughput and less interference.
Smarter spectrum allocation to support more users. A major upgrade from 802.11n’s single-user multiple input, multiple output (SU MIMO), 802.11ac’s multiple user (MU) MIMO uses smart antenna technology to support up to four simultaneous user transmissions on each spatial stream. The standard also doubles the number of spatial streams from four to eight, resulting in much higher capacity and lower latency.
Increased data rate. 802.11ac uses a higher order modulation, 256 quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM), to boost the data rate by 33 percent. This data rate is then doubled, thanks to the increase in spatial streams mentioned previously.
What do these improvements to the Wi-Fi standard mean for your organization?
802.11ac take the speed and performance of the WLAN to a whole new level. New users and mobile devices are constantly being added to enterprise networks, and 802.11ac is much better-equipped to handle a higher density wireless environment. Employees can access and share large amounts of data and utilize real-time, streaming media applications with a much smaller risk of bandwidth bottlenecks. And because 802.11ac operates on a band unused by most mobile devices, minimal interference and greater reliability contribute to a better user experience.
In Part 2 of this post, we’ll explains the two “waves” of 802.11ac products and discuss adoption trends and strategies. Meanwhile, contact ICG if you’re ready to take advantage of faster Wi-Fi in your business.