New wireless standard a major step forward, says Lancom’s Buis

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Jan Buis, Lancom

13 October 2014

The Wi-Fi that has become a ubiquitous part of our working and leisure lives is underpinned by the IEEE wireless standards series 802.11 that have been with us for over two decades. They have been quietly adding advances in specifications over the years that show simply as final lower case letters like 802.11b. This year we advanced from 802.11n to 802.11ac, which is certainly not sexy marketing material in itself.

But in fact those two letters represent a very significant advance that will support our growing dependence on smart Wi-Fi in ever part of our daily life. Speed is always the element the market is interested in and 802.11ac and in that respect this is the wireless LAN standard for tomorrow. It will support the most serious and advanced corporate applications with high demands for bandwidth. We anticipate real life data rates of up to 1.3Gbps gross.

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That will enhance applications like high end telepresence videoconferencing, only practical over cabled networks until now. But it will also help any kind of organisation, even small businesses and professional firms, because it makes a reality of the long-standing futuristic vision of the all-wireless office.

Yet another benefit will come to users of mobile and especially handheld devices like tablets on Wi-Fi—the new standard will actually extend battery life. With the next generation of wireless routers, devices that can utilise the new 802.11ac standard will achieve significantly shorter data transmission times and so will use less battery energy. In fact the new standard is aimed largely at mobile users. It allows many more clients to be connected to each access point, for example, because it handles the data streams more efficiently.

We will also be much better able to meet the challenges of high-density environments such as stadia and events or conferences and exhibitions. It will add benefits both indoors and outdoors, so campus type environments will be better served, like airports, universities and schools, hospital complexes and many others.

While there are no particular cautions to be mentioned in respect of 802.11ac for organisations looking to take advantage, it has to be pointed out that existing devices work at frequencies of 5ghz or 2.4ghz. But only the 5Ghz units can utilise the new standard and the gain in performance of up to 300% that it can deliver. That means that hundreds of millions of current smartphones, tablets and notebooks are already 802.11ac ready. But here is also the legacy population of mostly lower end  2.4Ghz devices which must be catered for.

The practical solution that is now built into our new Lancom routers and switches is dual networking, so every access point can handle any type of client. Other hardware elements, such as switches and WLAN controllers, also have to be 802.11ac compliant. So there is some investment required to gain the advantages of this smart new standards. On the other hand, this will be more than adequately balanced for most organisations by the enhanced services to users and, in many situations, fewer access points required.

The bottom line for all users is that Wi-Fi is great—and getting greater!

 

Jan Buis is director of business development with Lancom.

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