Enterprises Must Prepare for 802.11ac

Carl Weinschenk
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The deployment of 802.11ac is accelerating, according to ABI Research. The firm released research this week that predicts that it will reach 11 percent of consumer gear – access points (APs), routers and gateways – this year. The total number of units shipped will be more than 176 million. About 32 million of those will be APs.

The firm says that D-Link and NETGEAR represented more than 20 percent of the consumer market during the first quarter of this year. Cisco and Aruba are the leading vendors on the enterprise side. The enterprise market, according to the firm, is expected to generate revenue of $8.1 billion by the end of 2019.

Network World prefaces a piece sponsored by WildPackets on the preparations organizations should take to ensure a smooth rollout of 802.11ac with the warning that the suggestions may favor the vendor. In any case, it offers advice that should be considered.

Among the points is that an overlay network may make sense simply because in many cases traffic still is concentrated in the 2.4 GHz band and inherently is segregated from 802.11ac, which only uses the 5GHz band. WildPackets also recommends a site survey and awareness that the increases in wireless capacity may mean that the wired network connecting the APs may need to be upgraded. Finally, the company suggests that attention be paid to new best practices on network monitoring.

Processor offers a good overview of 802.11ac. The story runs through the advantages, which mostly flow from the availability of much more bandwidth. It echoes some of the advice provided by WildPackets, particularly the idea that wiring may need to be upgraded. The key, as it is with all significant changes, is to systematically address the issue:

If you’re ready to start preparing for an 802.11ac deployment, it’s never too early to put together some achievable action steps based on advice from the experts. These steps should include assessing your current switching infrastructure’s capabilities; determining which channel bandwidth to select; evaluating the performance of your APs during testing; and planning to tune and troubleshoot your new 802.11ac network.

802.11 is moving quickly, which means that organizations must deal with a sizeable legacy infrastructure. In a column at RCR Wireless, Chris Spain, Cisco’s vice president of product management for the enterprise networking segment, argued that it is time for 802.11 to move on:

But as 802.11 improves to deliver faster connections and extra capacity for a growing number of devices, some of the older versions of 802.11 can and should be retired. Cisco argues that standards-setting bodies such as the IEEE should gradually phase out older 802.11 standards such as 802.11b as no longer useful and a drag on further development of 802.11 for today’s wireless needs.

The deployment of 802.11ac in many ways is a straightforward undertaking. By now, the telecommunications and IT industries are accustomed to these changes. It is important to note, however, that care must be taken to ensure a smooth transition.

Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.

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