WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT 802.11AC
The appetite or wireless bandwidth is seemingly insatiable. Fiteen years ago, the rst standard wireless LANsemerged at 1Mbps and 2Mbps to serve niche applications such as warehouse picking, inventory scanning and, in ocebuildings where mobility wasn’t a requirement, cordless PC connections aimed at lowering cabling costs. Fast orwardthrough several WLAN generations to today, and the story has completely changed.Fith-generation WLANs are now nearing standardization, and they are poised to run at 1Gbps speeds and beyond toserve any number o mission-critical applications across all industries. Instead o wireless connectivity being reservedor specialized applications or occasional connections in conerence rooms, most knowledge workers today use theWLAN as their primary access network, and mobility has become a primary requirement. Employees typically totea combination o smartphones, tablet computers and laptops supporting both Wi-Fi (802.11) and cellular networkconnections to access many o their corporate applications.As a result, greater wireless throughput and denser networks o wireless access points (APs) are needed to satisyburgeoning bandwidth demands. Today’s 802.11n Wi-Fi version, oering 300Mbps to 450Mbps maximum theoreticalspeeds per radio, has matured. Enterprises have been steadily installing it since 2009. But even its generous capacityis already being tested in some organizations and soon will be in others, driving the IEEE to develop a 1Gbps WLANstandard, called “802.11ac: Enhancements or Very High Throughput or Operation in Bands Below 6 GHz.”The 802.11ac standard now species WLANs running exclusively in the 5GHz band, so it will be backward-compatiblewith 802.11n devices running at 5GHz. The standard is expected to be nalized next year..
A number o actors are ueling industry progress with802.11ac standards. Among them:
Sheer trac volume is exploding. Wi-Fihas more or less succeeded at displacing Ethernet inthe access portion o the corporate network, so thereare simply more Wi-Fi users creating trac. In addition,guest trac in certain verticals is adding to the loads.For example, retail customers oten want to use theirWi-Fi-enabled devices in stores to comparison shop;in turn, retailers take advantage o customers’ wirelessconnectivity by pushing in-store advertising to themover the airwaves.
More devices per user/BYOD.
In addition, users nowtend to carry at least two devices; most carry a mobilephone and a laptop, and some carry a tablet computer,as well. This has created a dense population o deviceswith varying transmit power levels, generating moretrac and creating new Wi-Fi design considerationsor the enterprise.
Users are running bandwidth-hungryapps such as Apple iCloud and Google Drive over-the-air synchronization services, high-de video, Webconerencing, social networking apps, Apple FaceTimevideoconerencing and Pandora radio streaming, toname just a ew. These consume ar more capacitythan the low-speed data transers o yesterday.
A number o 3G/4G cellular carriers aregrowing anxious to ofoad mobile WAN trac ontoWi-Fi wherever possible to prevent cellular trac jams.This works because most popular mobile devicessupport both cellular and Wi-Fi connections, so cellularsubscribers can hop onto Wi-Fi when they are in range.
802.11ac will help address and acilitate all o thesesituations. Final IEEE 802.11ac Working Group approvalis expected in late 2013, though, as with most WLANstandards, the industry’s Wi-Fi Alliance expects to certiy“pre-standard” products six to 12 months earlier thanthat, most likely or the home/consumer market. 802.11acproducts earning a pre-standard Wi-Fi certication bythe alliance have been tested or interoperability by thealliance’s labs with a number o other early products built tothe 802.11ac standard in its near-nal state.Note that to be considered “standards-compliant,”ratication o the nal standard must take place,and products must be tested or conormity to all themandatory components o that standard. Standardsconormance/compliance still is not an assurance o productinteroperability, as standard eatures might be interpretedand executed slightly dierently. So interoperability testingand certication remains a good idea, whether products are“pre-standard” or built to the nal, ratied standard.
INTRODUCTION:WLANs IN TRANSITION
WHY DO WE NEED FASTER WI-FI?