Written by Bill Roberts, President, Network Services, Datatrend Technologies, Inc.
On a recent flight from Minneapolis to Dallas I sat next to a passenger who I think set the record for most BYODs (Bring your own Devices) utilized on one flight. As he navigated through his dual smartphones, his work laptop, his personal tablet, and his eReader; he must have laughed as I pulled out my recently purchased Sports Illustrated ‘old school’ magazine from my briefcase.
How is WiFi handling the demand for the support of all these BYODs connecting to corporate networks and maintaining security at the same time? WiFi actually does not stand for “wireless fidelity”, its actual name is a number: 802.11. This technical standard for wireless networks is established by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). The 802.11 number is followed by letters (a, b, g, or n) depending on what version it is.
The new WiFi standard is moving from 802.11n into version 802.11ac, also known as 5G. 802.11ac WiFi, performs at up to 3 times faster than 802.11n, thanks to greater bandwidth and higher amplitude. The current standard allows 802.11ac to achieve gigabit speeds, compared with the 450Mbps that 802.11n provides.
The 802.11ac operates on the 5 GHz band, while previous wireless networks run mainly on the 2.4GHz band. The 2.4 road is now overcrowded with consumer devices, causing heavy traffic for corporate devices to navigate. Moving up to the 5 GHz “interstate highway” provides a much cleaner spectrum and a more consistent, faster wireless experience.
Another enhancement 802.11ac offers is that, while 802.11n can only handle one client at a time, 802.11ac will allow an access point to transmit two or more special streams to two or more clients. According to the IEEE, the 802.11ac amendment introduces a new technology to support multiple concurrent downlink transmissions, referred to as “multi-user multiple-input” (MU MIMO). By using smart antenna technology, MU MIMO enables more efficient spectrum use, higher system capacity and reduced latency by supporting up to four simultaneous user transmissions.
So how should organizations migrate to a 802.11ac network? Should they “rip-and-replace” or use an “overlay” strategy? If your network is like most companies, most of your traffic is running on the 2.4GHz band, using standard b/g channels. In this case, an “overlay” strategy would probably be the best decision. As your new 802.11ac clients move onto the new 5GHz band, some traffic relief will be experienced by your remaining 2.4GHz clients. However, if you have not made a large spend on 802.11n already, and you know that your WLAN needs to get to 802.11ac performance levels quickly to handle new demand – a “rip-and-replace” investment may be the wiser course.
It is recommended that a professional RF Coverage survey is performed to ensure that complete coverage is achieved in each of your environments. It is also recommended that cabling upgrades are considered.[TSB-162-A, “Telecommunications Cabling Guidelines for Wireless Access Points”, expressly provides the following recommendation and note:
Cabling for wireless access points should be balanced twisted-pair, category 6A or higher, as specified in ANSI/TIA-568-C.2, or two-fiber multimode optical fiber cable, OM3 or higher, as specified in ANSI/TIA-568-C.3.
NOTE – The use of category 6A (or higher) twisted-pair and OM3 (or higher) optical fiber cabling is recommended to support higher data rates and, in the case of twisted-pair cabling, lower temperature rise when remote power is applied.
And just in case 802.11ac doesn’t keep up the pace, the IEEE is already working on ratifying 802.11ax before March 2019. Products based on the early draft of 801.11ax could make it to the market as early as 2016.
For more information on 802.11ac wireless networks, RF Surveys, and cable/fiber installations from Datatrend, click here or contact Bill Roberts at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also consult with a Datatrend representative by calling 800-367-7472.