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Beyond 802.

11: Next Generation Wireless Protocols Darren Allen December 3, 2012 CS 336 Introduction to Information Assurance Abstraction Not too long ago, most homes had a basic computer using a dial up connection. Back then; AOL disks could be grabbed by the handfuls. Since then; there has been a technology boom. In our homes, it has reached the point where it is uncommon not to have a network of desktops, laptops, tablets, smartphones, gaming consoles, TVs, digitalized media and audio players, and more. Above and beyond that, they are communicating with the world via a wireless network, also known as Wi-Fi. These wireless networks use the IEEE 802.11 standard, allowing for better quality, reliability, and speed. Understanding the 802.11 standard and its amendments will better prepare the end user for what is here and what will come.

Introduction The 802.11 protocol is an Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, or more commonly known as IEEE, wireless standard that is used by many of our wireless local area networks (WLAN). It uses the 2.4, 3.6, and 5 GHz frequencies (IEEE 802.11). The first IEEE standard was created in 1997(IEEE 802.11) and has taken on the form of 802.11. Since then, there have been many amendments to the original standard. Some of these amendments would be familiar to many as 802.11b, 802.11g, or 802.11n, 802.11n being one of the more recent amendments being used today. The 802.11 protocol was not very popular until the release of the 802.11b protocol. Not to long after, the 802.11g protocol was released, followed later by the 802.11n(IEEE 802.11), which has 1 of 6

becoming more and more popular today. According to Wikipedia, 802.11n was designed to increase throughput and maximize data rate up to 600Mbits/s. This was done by adding multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO technology), uses four spatial streams at a 40 MHz channel frequency, and frame aggregation (IEEE 802.11n-2009). Frame aggregation is a feature that increases throughput by sending two or more data frames in a single transmission (Frame aggregation) Until the implementation of MIMO, there was an issue for indoor networks. Due to the type of construction materials and metal furnishings in the home, reflections of the wireless signals caused some wireless signals to interfere with each other, degrading the network performance and reliability. Wireless networks did not only have issues with each other's signals, but also with cordless phones, microwave ovens, baby monitors, and neighboring networks (Fear). With 802.11n, it is apparent that wireless networks have made a great leap into greater speed and reliability. Even with the enhancements that have been made in the 802.11n protocol, wireless networks are still much slower then an Ethernet connection. Yes, it is convenient to not have to be physically plugged into your network but would not it be nice to have both convenience and speed? That time is closer than we may think.

Body There have been great advancements in the 802.11 protocol to not only keep the dependability and security of a wireless network, but to also increase its speed to and beyond that of an Ethernet connection. The first protocol that I would like to discuss is 802.11ac. 802.11ac runs on a less used 5GHz frequency instead of 2.4 GHz, promises faster connections of up to three times as fast as 802.11n, and improved range, reliability, and power consumption. (Marshall). Gary Marshall of TechRadar, compares 802.11n data rates with 802.11ac in regards to 2 of 6

triple the speed. Marshal says that the 802.11n connection will max around 150Mbps with one antenna, 200Mbps with two and 450Mbps with three antennas. 802.11ac connections...450Mbps, 900Mbps and 1.3Gbps (Marshall). There are three areas that allows for the 802.11ac to have such a high increase in speed. The first is more channel bonding, which increased from the 802.11n's 40 MHz to 80 or 160 MHz. This would give an increase of speed of 117% to 333%. The second would be a more dense modulation, dropping from 802.11n's 256 quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM) to 64QAM in the 802.11ac. The last area is more MIMO. 802.11n maxed out at four spatial streams where as the 802.11ac protocol has pushed that up to eight, which is a 100% increase in potential speed. The improvements from 802.11n to 802.11ac can be seen in Figure 1 (802.11ac).

Figure 1: How 802.11ac Accelerates 802.11n One other improvement to the 802.11ac is in wave 2. 802.11ac wave 2 will have the option of a 160 MHz channel bond along with an improved MIMO. This technology is a Multi User MIMO (MUMIMO) where multiple STA's can transmit and receive independent data streams simultaneously (IEEE 802.11ac & IEEE 802.11ad) Another upcoming protocol that needs mentioning is 802.11ad. Like the 802.11ac, this protocol

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is expected to also range in gigabit data rate speeds, but run at a shorter range. Its frequency will be in the 60GHz spectrum with a throughput of about 7Gbps (IEEE 802.11ac & IEEE 802.11ad). With that high of a throughput, imagine the idea of data being transferred faster with a wireless signal as opposed to the use of an Ethernet cable or even HDMI. There are several benefits of running at a 60GHz frequency. The first would be a less crowded spectrum due to the limited amount of devices using it (Gast). The other would be the ability to communicate data with other electronics in the home. Jerome Henry, of Fast Lane, makes the comment of being able to watch a movie on a TV, hearing the sound wirelessly through your HD speakers, then move the movie to another TV seamlessly (Henry). There are some speculations of what might also become available with 802.11ad. For each channel, its bandwidth could be up to 50 times more than the 802.11n protocol. This would provide more speed and throughput. Another possibility would be the use of Tri-band radios that would utilize the 60Ghz, 5GHz, and 2.4GHz frequencies (IEEE 802.11ac & IEEE 802.11ad). The last two protocols that will be mentioned are not as far in the development and release stage as 802.11ac and 802.11ad. These are the 802.11ah and 802.11af protocols. Their expected release dates are toward the end of 2014 (Henry). Along with that, their protocols are still being modified. Due to these factors, information is not as readily available as the previous 802.11ac and 802.11ad protocols. 802.11ah is expected to run below the 1GHz frequency. What is the benefit? It allows for a longer range, sending signals along highways to provide tons of information to travelling users, but also to communicate over several miles from one antenna (Henry). The drawback will be lower throughput, aiming for a minimal 100kbps (Henry). The 802.11af protocol will also use frequencies below 1GHz. A term that is being used in relation to the 802.11af protocol is white-fi, which is the use of Wi-Fi technology in the TV spectrum, 4 of 6

or TV white space (IEEE 802.11af White-Fi). There are a couple of benefits of using the low frequency TV bandwidths. One was mentioned earlier in regards to transmission distances being much greater than previous 802.11 protocols running at a much higher frequency. The other would be the advantage of using abandoned analog TV frequencies (IEEE 802.11af White-Fi). There is a potential issue, with using these lower signals in the TV spectrum, of creating interference with existing TV transmissions. One solution to this problem is the use of cognitive radio. This will utilize radio technology that is able to sense the environment and configure itself accordingly (IEEE 802.11af White-Fi). This will be based off of a geolocation database, which will provide information on which frequency, at what time and under what conditions networks may operate (IEEE 802.11af).

Conclusions The IEEE 802.11 standard has and continues to pave the way for home networks. 802.11n has been an example of the capability that IEEE has in improving the 802.11 protocols. With data rates up to 600Mbits/s, the use of MIMO technology, four special streams at the 40 MHz frequency, and frame aggregation, the 802.11n protocol has been impressive. The improvements do not stop there. There are now two more protocols being released to increase the home wireless network speed beyond that of Ethernet. The 802.11ac promises three times that of the 802.11n throughput, reaching up to 1.3Gbps. The 802.11ad protocol promises even greater throughput with 7Gbps in the 60GHz spectrum. Looking farther into the future, in 2014 there is expected to be the release of the 802.11ah and 802.11af protocols. These protocols will focus more on frequencies below the 1GHz range, decreasing throughput but increasing range to the distance of miles. IEEE continues to improve its protocols allowing for end users to be able to access data at faster rates and longer distances. 5 of 6

References 802.11ac: The Fifth Generation of Wi-Fi Technical White Paper. Cisco. Web. 2 Dec. 2012. Fear, Allen. Catch the new wave in wireless networking: 802.11n. CNET. CBS Interactive Inc., 26 Sept. 2005. Web. 1 Dec. 2012. Frame aggregation. Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 5 Oct. 2012. Web. 2 Dec. 2012. Gast, Matthew. Toward a Gigabit Wi-Fi Nirvana: 802.11ac and 802.11ad. NetworkWorld. Network World, Inc., 14 Feb. 2011. Page 2. Web. 2 Dec 2012. Henry, Jerome. Why it's the right time to start working in 802.11 wireless: new protocols are coming. Fast Lane. Fast Lane, 10 Nov. 2011. Web. 1 Dec. 2012. IEEE 802.11. Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 29 Nov. 2012. Web. 1 Dec. 2012. IEEE 802.11ac & IEEE 802.11ad Wireless Technologies Think beyond 802.11n!. 18 Oct. 2011. Web. 2 Dec. 2012. IEEE 802.11af. Telecom ABC. Telecom ABC. Web. 2 Dec. 2012. IEEE 802.11af White-Fi. Adrio Communications Ltd. Web. 2 Dec. 2012. IEEE 802.11n-2009 Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 30 Nov. 2012. Web. 1 Dec. 2012. Marshall, Gary. 802.11ac: what you need to know. TechRadar. Future plc, 1 May. Web. 2 Dec. 2012.

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