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Ruckus Wireless: 802.11ac Boosts Buzz More than Bandwidth

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One of the focal points of our annual ShoreTel Champion Partner Conference is the Innovation Center – where technology partners are available to chat with resellers about ways to increase revenue and margins, while making the customer experience even stronger.

In the days leading up to this year’s event, some of our top sponsors have shared their thoughts on our industry.

Today we hear from Ruckus Wireless on the hype around 802.11ac.

802.11ac is the next big Wi-Fi thing.

Or is it? The roar of mobile devices, increasing adoption of all things wireless, and broadening uses for Wi-Fi are all contributing to consumer and enterprise hunger for more and more speed.

The newest of Wi-Fi innovation, the IEEE 802.11ac (still in draft form) looks like it will start making it into enterprise Wi-Fi products as early 2013 and home products even earlier. It’s already being flaunted as Gigabit Wi-Fi. And for the largest Wi-Fi market (the home) it will be. But will it deliver gigabit speeds for the enterprise? Not a chance.

802.11ac was designed to drastically improve Wi-Fi’s spectral efficiency, and to expand on the capabilities introduced by 802.11n through the use of more spatial streams (spatial multiplexing), wider channel bandwidths and restricting Wi-Fi to channel-rich 5GHz band.  Specifically 802.11ac provides:

  • Wider channel bandwidth: 80 and 160 MHz
  • More spatial streams: up to 8
  • More efficient modulation: 256-QAM

Other noteworthy improvements come with 802.11ac too:

  • 5 GHz only
  • Multiple user MIMO (MU-MIMO)
  • Simplified transmit beamforming
  • Larger aggregated data frames

In a perfect world, the combination of these enhancements will help break the 1 Gbps threshold in Wi-Fi and would be an exciting accomplishment. But most 802.11ac enhancements are, at this point, an engineering target to aim for, not a product reality—at least, not in the near future.

 

The reason is that many devices, such as smartphones and tablets, don’t support more than 40MHz channels and one, or maybe two, streams at most. Also since many of these new 802.11ac devices support concurrent spatial streams, avoiding interference to reduce packet loss, and avoiding obstacles to deliver stronger signal gain will be essential to ensure spatial multiplexing.

While 802.11ac won’t provide the huge benefits that vendors will spew, it is a great step toward better Wi-Fi due to its mandatory use of the bandwidth-rich (495MHz) 5GHz spectrum and support for more concurrent users. Ultimately 802.11ac offers improvements for the Wi-Fi industry primarily because it forces clients to add support for the capacity-rich 5GHz spectrum. Current enterprise APs already support both bands.

Ironically 802.11ac will prolong the viability of current 802.11n networks. As more and more clients become 5GHz capable, capacity and performance will increase without touching the infrastructure. This is the best news of all. 

Some of the individuals posting to this site, including the moderators, work for ShoreTel, Inc. Opinions expressed here and in any corresponding comments are the personal opinions of the original authors, not of ShoreTel. The content is provided for informational purposes only and is not meant to be an endorsement or representation by ShoreTel or any other party.