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6 Keys to Gigabit Wi-Fi Wave 2 Success

December 08, 2017

Mobility is taking over so rapidly that analyst ­firms like IDC predict nearly three-quarters of the U.S. workforce will be mobile within five years. That means your customers are facing multiple complex mobility-related adoption decisions. Foremost among them is deploying the requisite high-performance wireless LAN made possible by the latest IEEE standard, 802.11ac or “ac.”

 Also known as Gigabit Wi-Fi for providing wiredlike experiences, 802.11ac is quickly overtaking the previous 802.11n standard as the preferred choice dueto the recent introduction of next-generation access points (APs), called Wave 2.

 “It’s an exciting time for wireless technology,” says Jason Dowty, a senior Ingram Micro technical support specialist. “The near future might be the best time for many businesses to upgrade.”

 So what’s the buzz all about? In a nutshell, 802.11ac Wave 1 increased Wi-Fi data rates to about 1.3 Gbps—about three times faster than 802.11n. Wave 2 improves that by about 30 percent, making it the productivity-boosting and future-proo­fing choice.

 Beyond Boosting Speed
Even more appealing is Wave 2’s introduction of multi-user, multiple-in, multiple-out (MUMIMO) technology—an advance over the previous single-user MIMO—coupled with four spatial streams (4SS).

 “Think of spatial streams as invisible wires,” explains Dowty. “With MIMO, each client took its turn along a stream. MU-MIMO acts a little more like a switch, where a single client on one stream takes full advantage of that bandwidth. Plus, the added Wave 2 stream means each Wi-Fi AP can serve multiple client devices simultaneously along separate streams.”

 Wave 2 also brings a channel width increase to 160MHz, theoretically boosting data rates to 3.4 Gbps. But, there’s a catch: The FCC currently limits the number of 160MHz frequencies, effectively keeping the usable channel width at 80MHz. Although the FCC is expected to open up more frequencies eventually, there is no announced timeline. Translation: Wave 2 data rates currently max out at about 1.7 Gbps. “This is still a considerable improvement over Wave 1,” Dowty points out.

 With game-changing Wave 2 Gigabit Wi-Fi gear hitting the market, now is the time to help your customers decide when to adopt 802.11ac. For your customers, the real headline news may be the early 2016 onset of Wi-Fi Alliance Wave 2 client device certi­fications. Similar to the feature and functionality gains 2-in-1 802.11ac hybrids had over 802.11n laptops, Wave 2-certi­fied devices will enable taking advantage of all the latest Wi-Fi technology advances.

 Make the Case for Your Customers
To assist your customers in making the 802.11ac business case, consider two factors. First, deploying Wave 2 APs helps protect Wi-Fi investments because it enables leveraging the latest collaboration applications, such as Microsoft Skype for Business. Also, a modernized WLAN prepares organizations to move up to new technologies, such as going from VoIP to voice over WLAN.

 Second, 802.11ac’s backward compatibility allows budget-conscious organizations to pursue a tiered or phased adoption. With a tiered approach, high-density and high-performance mobile computing spaces—like conference areas or intensive streaming locations—can be out­fitted with Wave 2 APs, while lower-performance spaces—such as of­fice hallways—can contain more cost-effective Wave 1 APs. Phased approaches are similar, only using existing equipment. Further bolstering either strategy are the upgrade modules offered by some manufacturers, which turn Wave 1 APs into Wave 2 units.

 Getting Customers Aboard
Regardless of what’s right for an individual organization, you can help your customers sort it all out. “Making the move to 802.11ac and Wave 2 is quickly becoming a competitive differentiator,” says Dowty. “For example, with many businesses competing for top talent, mobile workplaces are attractive to savvy employees of all ages. A trusted partner’s expertise with identifying these opportunities is critical.”

Keys to Wave 2 Success
1. Determine primary mobility needs. For organizations where mobility is primarily for internal communications and file sharing, modernizing the wireless LAN offers de­finite advantages. Conversely, organizations mainly using wireless for Internet access—or for remote location connectivity back to the data center—likely face WAN bottlenecks rather than a Wi-Fi crunch.

2. Evaluate existing LAN infrastructure. Gaining the full bene­fits of 802.11ac requires underlying infrastructure that supports it, meaning organizations already out­fitted with the appropriate switches and cabling are ready to go. Those customers lacking such backhaul need to budget for upgrades or, perhaps, wait until their next refresh. Some good news: Leading Wi-Fi manufacturers, such as Cisco and Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company, are participating in the NBase-T Alliance, which is enabling 802.11ac Wave 2 deployments over older Cat-5e/6 cable.

3. Leverage greenfield opportunities. For organizations moving to new locations or renovating existing facilities, eliminating wires at the desktop is proving an advantageous strategy for avoiding escalating copper costs. How much are businesses saving? It depends, but midsize organizations have reported savings in the $750,000 range.

4. Review client devices. Although some performance improvements for 802.11a/b/g/n devices are well documented, the greatest advantages occur when an organization invests in 802.11ac-enabled clients to access a modernized WLAN.

5. Establish RF requirements. The proliferation of mobile devices and the Internet of Things makes density planning essential to maximize an 802.11ac Wi-Fi deployment. As updating APs from any previous standard is not a one-for-one swap, site surveys typically save businesses thousands of dollars by ensuring the correct number and optimum placement of new APs.

6. Pursue customized deployments. Even businesses with tight budgets can implement an 802.11ac Wave 2 WLAN by using tiered or phased deployment approaches. By reviewing all of the options, you can help your customers catch the next wave of mobile productivity.

 Visit http://www.ingrammicro.com/professionalservices to learn how Ingram Micro engineers can assist with wireless network assessments and site surveys.