Meet 802.11ac, the New WiFi on the Block. More data – Faster!

Imagine coming into your office in the morning, booting up your laptop and all of a sudden your three HD screens turn on, your wireless keyboard, your wireless mouse, says Edgar Figueroa, CEO of the Wi-Fi Alliance.

wifiWireless network connectivity is by now an essential part of our daily lives. From connections at home, to our mobile devices and the office, many of us spend most of our waking hours wirelessly connected in one way or another. Whether a business has customers using their devices in the lobby or employees accessing work data from their mobile devices, getting good connectivity to those devices is important for businesses.

Recognizing that the average corporate American uses 2.7 mobile devices everyday (smartphone, laptop, and tablet), and as voice and video mobile application use becomes more prevalent there is a demand for increasingly higher capacity and higher quality performance to address these congestion challenges. Where the most popular wireless standard in the world today is 802.11n, there is a new ‘up and coming’ standard called 802.11ac which provides significant enhancements over 802.11n including speed and signal strength.

It's likely that in the next two to three years we'll have more devices that are Wi-Fi enabled than people in the world, Figueroa predicts. They realize that the premium applications are those bandwidth-hungry applications like video, gaming and location-based services, so they're very eager to exploit the benefits of Wi-Fi, Figueroa says.

 

Feel the need – the need for SPEED!

Where theoretically 802.11n will provide up to 450 Mbps (mega bits per second), 802.11ac claims to reach speeds up to 1.3 Gbps (giga bits per second), or roughly three times that of 802.11n capabilities. But, even in a small office, the current amount of data that can be sent through an 802.11n antenna will fall off sharply if you have four or five devices connecting at once.

 

Beam Me Up, Scotty!

Beamforming

Another major enhancement that 802.11ac provides is a new technology called beamforming. Like a rock thrown into a pond and the ripples that radiate outward, the current standard wireless antennas broadcast a signal in a spherical pattern. Just like the ripples in a pond lose energy as they travel farther from the rock, wireless throughput (speed) shrinks as you move away from the antenna, and gets even worse with walls between you and the antenna. 802.11ac is able to isolate the client devices connected to it and beam the signal directly between the antenna and client. Beamforming increases the quality of the signal, so distance from the antenna and also interfering walls has significantly less impact on your speed.

 

It Keeps Going and Going and Going...

In order to increase the range of the signal from the antenna to the client, 802.11ac uses another new technology, MIMO technology. Most current routers broadcast in 2.4GHz signals. 802.11ac standard lives entirely in the 5GHz spectrum which has less interference. By working in a larger bandwidth channel, 802.11ac can increase the rate at which data passes between two devices with efficient power usage. Enabling higher speeds, bigger bandwidth, and directed signals has a profound affect for the wireless users of today. Data is transferred quicker and uses less energy, thus 802.11ac saves power.

Wi-Fi Technology companies have been testing this recently and proof is showing up in tests, according to Perry Correll: Not only does 802.11ac give more performance on small devices, but also in some testing it's been five times more economical of battery life.

While consumers love speed, for business owners and network administrators being able to deliver more reliable and robust Wi-Fi to their users could be the best news they'll get this year. Faster speeds and more reliable Wi-Fi will enable faster backups, faster access to cloud resources and make video conferencing and unified communications feasible for businesses of any size.

802.11ac is a revolution that will be hard to actively avoid. Unlike it’s predecessor, 802.11ac adoption will happen fast. Macbooks and all Samsung devices already have this built in. Wireless ac will be built into most laptops and phones within the next 12 months and routers will increasingly come with it. Does this mean you should run out and replace all your hardware? Yes and No. As more and more devices are switching to the new standard, there will be improvements made along the way. Since this new 802.11ac standard is expected to take the WiFi world by storm, feel free to reach out to Orion to see how we can help with your wireless deployment needs.