The 802.11 family of wireless standards has been an unprecedented success. That good fortune is expected to continue with the next iteration, 802.11ac.
The frequent introduction of new standards and protocols has taught the telecommunications, IT and vendor sectors how to roll out seamlessly. Equipment using the new approach is introduced before the standard becomes official, but care is taken to make ensure vendors know precisely what is coming. And, whenever possible, the new standard is backward-compatible with what came before. This avoids stranding investment or otherwise complicating the lives of those involved.
At Webtorials, Core Competencies President Lisa Phifer gives a technical overview of 802.11ac. The two most important elements are channel bonding and the use of 5 GHz spectrum. Phifer writes that moving from the 2.4 GHz region, which is as crowded as The Long Island Expressway at 5 p.m. on a Friday, will improve performance and save battery life.
The migration is under way. Phifer quoted Chris Spain, the Vice President of Product Marketing for Cisco's Wireless Networking Group:
Based on anecdotal feedback and measures taken at public events, Spain says the number of 5 GHz-capable devices has doubled in the past two years. For example, 5 GHz devices used at the Mobile World Congress grew from 29% in 2011 to 60% in 2013. A full 38% of devices at the 2013 Super Bowl operated at 5 GHz. "We can expect general use to follow closely as subsidized phones are replaced with newer models," said Spain.
WikiDevi offers what appears to be an exhaustive list of the considerable amount of 802.11ac equipment that is available. New entries are appearing with regularity, however. For instance, Aruba this week introduced the 220 Series access points for Wave 1 802.11ac rollouts. The Enterprise Networking Planet story on the introduction explains that 802.11ac is being rolled out in waves operating at 1.3 GHz and 6 GHz. The story says that many vendors are releasing Wave 1 equipment.
Also this week, Quantenna Communications introduced the QSR1000 chipset. The chipset’s top speed of 1.7 Gigabits per second (Gbps) is reached when operating in 4x4 multiple in multiple out (MIMO) streams. MIMO is a generic antenna advance that is usable by 802.11ac. The idea is to run multiple streams between the AP and the end user device to speed and combine them to buttress the resulting signal, the CNET story on the introduction says.
Motorola also is in the act. Last week, the company introduced the AP 8232, AP 8222 and AP 8263. Lee Badman at Network Computing chooses one to highlight:
The 8232 is the most interesting of the bunch. Like Cisco's 3600 AP, the Motorola 8232 accommodates optional modules, including wireless intrusion prevention (WIPS), but that's where the similarity ends. For instance, Cisco offers an LTE-extension module, but it requires specialized back-end mobile carrier integration to be useful. By contrast, Motorola offers a backhaul-enhancing module that lets an AP use the mobile carrier network for WAN connectivity back to the corporate network.
802.11ac is a natural step, and almost certainly not the last, in the evolution of Wi-Fi. APC, an Australian site, provides more background and a handy list of five things to understand about the emerging standard.