March 26, 2014
Wireless has been the single most influential technology development in recent memory, with mobile innovation coming quickly and steadily. It’s this constant modernization that ensures wireless will propel us forward into the future.
Today, we are hurtling toward the next step of wireless advancement, which is ubiquitous mobility.
From a business standpoint, mobile devices and applications allow more users than ever to access corporate resources anytime, anywhere. And as wireless capabilities grow, we’re seeing that growth in mobile usage sparks progress in network quality and speed, which in turn allows for higher productivity, better customer service and more business ingenuity.
Sometimes, though, existing network systems can bring all this innovation to a halt, especially if they’re not ready for growth. More wireless traffic means more strain on existing networks, and this discrepancy can mean bad things for overall performance.
Assuming that traffic will continue to increase, many IT departments have begun re-evaluating their networks’ performance. Consequently, according to CDW, more and more IT professionals are realizing that their organizations are in need of a wireless network update.*
For most, that means turning to the new 802.11ac standard, a protocol jointly developed by the IEEE Standard Association and the Wi-Fi Alliance.
802.11ac is the latest Wi-Fi standard designed to help IT executives fulfill current wireless demands while also preparing them for future demands. The main difference between the new standard and its predecessors is speed: 802.11ac is rated to stream data at nearly double the speeds of the current fastest standard.
Other benefits of 802.11ac access points (APs)* include:
Note: Multi-user MIMO (MU-MIMO) is particularly well suited for BYOD environments that support smartphones and tablets with single antennas, allowing improved bandwidth and availability for expanded individual coverage.
According to CDW, adding an AP to networks is no longer enough to support essential capabilities like email.* Thus, Wireless LANs (WLANs) are emerging as the best way to upgrade to 802.11ac as an integral part of the core network for IT organizations.
WLANs using 802.11ac will support more clients and utilize more bandwidth. That’s good news for users relying on data-heavy and latency-sensitive apps (e.g. video conferencing, accessing data files, etc) – especially as demand for more business mobility grows.
Today, sales of WLAN equipment are higher than ever, rising to $1.2 billion in 4Q13, with revenue shifting to interactive access points and services. In addition, WiFi phone revenue is up 23 percent in 2013 from the prior year, thanks to increased sales of higher-end models.‡
Experts agree that the best strategy is to use the rest of 2014 to test limited deployments of 802.11ac APs throughout the enterprise’s infrastructure and end points. Then, they predict that 2015 will be a “year of mass adoption in the enterprise.”*
To prepare for all of these upcoming innovations, network administrators must have migration plans to prepare their organizations for successive phases of 802.11ac – while also addressing any existing investments in 802.11 networks.*
1. Determine whether it makes sense to invest in short-term modernization.
Remember that few mobile applications or deployments drive performance improvement. If a need is determined, network administrators must understand their current infrastructure.
2. Perform a site survey.
Evaluations like this will ensure that the current number and locations of APs are right for 802.11ac, while also determining the limitations of 5GHz transmission to penetrate obstructions.†
3. Consider the potential of 802.11ac to improve network design & management.
While a move to 802.11ac will certainly affect WLANs, take into account that high volumes of data flowing in from Wi-Fi access points means that organizations are also carrying more traffic across their WANs. Alternatively, some admins have begun to think about how to better control the core network’s traffic load.
4. Budget for new 802.11ac access points to replace current units.
The new standard is backward compatible with all previous 802.11 protocols so migrations can happen gradually.†
5. Create a practical migration timetable.
Note that 802.11ac capabilities will be introduced in two separate “Waves” (Wave 1 and Wave 2 – expected to debut in a couple of years). A timetable will help in remembering to delay investments in favor of newer technologies. With that being said, some vendors offer access points that will move from Wave 1 to Wave 2 by simply plugging in a new module.
Our experts can help. Contact Cannon Group today.
* “The Next Wave in Wireless,” NetComm. February 2014, pg. 24-26. CDW.
† Flinn, Dave. “Ready for Another Wireless Shakeup?” NetComm. February 2014, pg. 64. CDW.
‡ 802.11ac ramping fast as wireless LAN market sets another quarterly high, Infonetics Research.