Michael Finneran
Michael F. Finneran, is President of dBrn Associates, Inc., a full service advisory firm specializing in wireless and mobility; services...
Read Full Bio >>

Michael Finneran | June 25, 2013 |


A Little More on 802.11ac

A Little More on 802.11ac The key factor defining the capabilities these products will have when they hit the market is the chip sets that are at the heart of each vendor's access point.

The key factor defining the capabilities these products will have when they hit the market is the chip sets that are at the heart of each vendor's access point.

A couple of weeks back I posted a piece about the buzz around the developing 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard. For those who missed it, 802.11ac is the next-generation Wi-Fi radio link that will eventually replace 802.11n and could potentially push Wi-Fi data rates to almost 7 Gbps through a combination of more efficient signal coding (256QAM vs. 64QAM in 802.11n), wider channels (up to 160 MHz vs. up to 40 MHz in 802.11n), and better MIMO (up to 8 spatial streams vs. a max of 4 in 802.11n). I noted that we're not getting all of that on day one, so I thought I should be a little more specific about what we are getting and when.

The key factor defining the capabilities these products will have when they hit the market is the chip sets that are at the heart of each vendor's access point (AP). While you might be buying APs from Cisco, Aruba, Motorola, Meru, Aerohive, Ruckus, HP, Juniper, or whoever, they are all buying their chip sets from a handful of suppliers that include Broadcom, Qualcomm/Atheros, Marvell, and a few specialized companies.

As I noted in my earlier post, most enterprises won't be jumping to ac in the near term. The problem is the shortage of ac-compatible clients and the possible requirement for significant backbone upgrades to support the increased traffic load. Regardless of that, 802.11ac should absolutely be taken into account in your planning going forward, both with regard to the wired infrastructure and the frequency planning (Note: 802.11ac will only operate in the 5 GHz band).

The 802.11ac products are being rolling out in a "phased approach", and none of the first-wave products will be offering the full set of 802.11ac's defined capabilities. This shouldn't be particularly surprising as we've seen very few products that delivered the full range of 802.11n capabilities, and enterprise-grade 802.11n devices first appeared in 2009!

The "typical" spec for a Phase 1 802.11ac product includes 256QAM in an 80 MHz channel and support for 3 spatial streams. The difference between the Phase 1 products and the full 802.11ac spec is shown in Table 1. Given a maximum bit rate of 433.3 Mbps per stream, that adds up to 1.7 Gbps, almost 4 times the maximum 450 Mbps data rate of a typical 3-stream 802.11n device (in a 40 MHz channel).

Probably the most ingenious development in 802.11ac is Multi-User MIMO (MU-MIMO). MIMO provides the ability to use multiple spatial streams, effectively multiplying the bit rate in a given swath of radio bandwidth. The 802.11n spec specifies a maximum of 4 spatial streams, which means you can send 4 times as many bits as you can with 1 spatial stream. In practice, most enterprise APs top out at 3 spatial streams, for a maximum bit rate of 450 Mbps in a 40 MHz channel. However, in those legacy MIMO implementations, that higher-capacity channel is connected between the AP and one client.

With MU-MIMO, the AP can actually send the four separate streams to four different clients simultaneously. This is particularly important in working with small form-factor devices like smartphone and tablets. One key challenge with small form factors is battery life. Generating 4 spatial streams requires a battery that can drive 4 different radios. The big advance with 802.11ac is that you can use use 1 spatial stream over a wider channel, the most power-efficient way to increase capacity.

With MU-MIMO, the AP can be sending to 4 clients simultaneously. When you consider that most Web traffic is downstream, MU-MIMO can produce an enormous improvement in network efficiency--despite the limitations of the small form factor device. Two of the smaller chip manufacturers, Redpipe and Quantenna, do support MU-MIMO in their current chipsets. Redpipe supports only 3-stream MIMO while Quantenna supports 4 streams.

Unfortunately, support for MU-MIMO requires an upgrade to the client as well as the AP, so we're still waiting for that to occur. Marvell and Quantenna have included beamforming in their chipsets, that should improve overall rate, range, and reliability.

Given the impact that MU-MIMO will have, it is probably wise to wait for the wave-2 802.11ac products that should arrive in mid-2014. Of course, it takes two to tango, so we will also need to monitor availability of client devices with MU-MIMO support--unfortunately, those types of important details are often buried away in the specifications. This next iteration of Wi-Fi will be a major step forward, so it's time to start getting ready.

Follow Michael Finneran on Twitter and Google+!
Michael Finneran on Google+


March 7, 2018

Video collaboration is experiencing significant change and innovation-how can your enterprise take advantage? In this webinar, leading industry analyst Ira Weinstein will present detailed analysis

February 21, 2018

Business agility has become the strongest driver for enterprises to begin migrating their communications to the cloud-and its a benefit that enterprises are already realizing. To gain this benefit

February 7, 2018

Enterprises are starting to grasp the critical importance of security and compliance in their team collaboration deployments. And once the risks are mitigated, your enterprise can integrate these n

March 12, 2018
An effective E-911 implementation doesn't just happen; it takes a solid strategy. Tune in for tips from IT expert Irwin Lazar, of Nemertes Research.
March 9, 2018
IT consultant Steve Leaden lays out the whys and how-tos of getting the green light for your convergence strategy.
March 7, 2018
In advance of his speech tech tutorial at EC18, communications analyst Jon Arnold explores what voice means in a post-PBX world.
February 28, 2018
Voice engagement isn't about a simple phone call any longer, but rather a conversational experience that crosses from one channel to the next, as Daniel Hong, a VP and research director with Forrester....
February 16, 2018
What trends and technologies should you be up on for your contact center? Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center & Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2018, gives us the lowdown.
February 9, 2018
Melanie Turek, VP of connected work research at Frost & Sullivan, walks us through key components -- and sticking points -- of customer-oriented digital transformation projects.
February 2, 2018
UC consultant Marty Parker has crunched lots of numbers evaluating UC options; tune in for what he's learned and tips for your own analysis.
January 26, 2018
Don't miss out on the fun! Organizer Alan Quayle shares details of his pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon, TADHack-mini '18, showcasing programmable communications.
December 20, 2017
Kevin Kieller, partner with enableUC, provides advice on how to move forward with your Skype for Business and Teams deployments.
December 20, 2017
Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst with ZK Research, shares his perspective on artificial intelligence and the future of team collaboration.
December 20, 2017
Delanda Coleman, Microsoft senior marketing manager, explains the Teams vision and shares use case examples.
November 30, 2017
With a ruling on the FCC's proposed order to dismantle the Open Internet Order expected this month, communications technology attorney Martha Buyer walks us through what's at stake.
October 23, 2017
Wondering which Office 365 collaboration tool to use when? Get quick pointers from CBT Nuggets instructor Simona Millham.
September 22, 2017
In this podcast, we explore the future of work with Robert Brown, AVP of the Cognizant Center for the Future of Work, who helps us answer the question, "What do we do when machines do everything?"
September 8, 2017
Greg Collins, a technology analyst and strategist with Exact Ventures, delivers a status report on 5G implementation plans and tells enterprises why they shouldn't wait to move ahead on potential use ....
August 25, 2017
Find out what business considerations are driving the SIP trunking market today, and learn a bit about how satisfied enterprises are with their providers. We talk with John Malone, president of The Ea....
August 16, 2017
World Vision U.S. is finding lots of goodness in RingCentral's cloud communications service, but as Randy Boyd, infrastructure architect at the global humanitarian nonprofit, tells us, he and his team....
August 11, 2017
Alicia Gee, director of unified communications at Sutter Physician Services, oversees the technical team supporting a 1,000-agent contact center running on Genesys PureConnect. She catches us up on th....
August 4, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, has lately been working on integrating enterprise communications into Internet of Things ecosystems. He shares examples and off....
July 27, 2017
Industry watcher Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares her perspective on this acquisition, discussing Mitel's market positioning, why the move makes sense, and more.
July 14, 2017
Lantre Barr, founder and CEO of Blacc Spot Media, urges any enterprise that's been on the fence about integrating real-time communications into business workflows to jump off and get started. Tune and....
June 28, 2017
Communications expert Tsahi Levent-Levi, author of the popular blog, keeps a running tally and comprehensive overview of communications platform-as-a-service offerings in his "Choosing a W....
June 9, 2017
If you think telecom expense management applies to nothing more than business phone lines, think again. Hyoun Park, founder and principal investigator with technology advisory Amalgam Insights, tells ....
June 2, 2017
Enterprises strategizing on mobility today, including for internal collaboration, don't have the luxury of learning as they go. Tony Rizzo, enterprise mobility specialist with Blue Hill Research, expl....
May 24, 2017
Mark Winther, head of IDC's global telecom consulting practice, gives us his take on how CPaaS providers evolve beyond the basic building blocks and address maturing enterprise needs.
May 18, 2017
Diane Myers, senior research director at IHS Markit, walks us through her 2017 UC-as-a-service report... and shares what might be to come in 2018.
April 28, 2017
Change isn't easy, but it is necessary. Tune in for advice and perspective from Zeus Kerravala, co-author of a "Digital Transformation for Dummies" special edition.
April 20, 2017
Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research, shares insight gleaned from the firm's 12th annual UCC Total Cost of Operations study.
March 23, 2017
Tim Banting, of Current Analysis, gives us a peek into what the next three years will bring in advance of his Enterprise Connect session exploring the question: Will there be a new model for enterpris....
March 15, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, discusses the evolving role of the all-important session border controller.
March 9, 2017
Organizer Alan Quayle gives us the lowdown on programmable communications and all you need to know about participating in this pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon.
March 3, 2017
From protecting against new vulnerabilities to keeping security assessments up to date, security consultant Mark Collier shares tips on how best to protect your UC systems.
February 24, 2017
UC analyst Blair Pleasant sorts through the myriad cloud architectural models underlying UCaaS and CCaaS offerings, and explains why knowing the differences matter.
February 17, 2017
From the most basics of basics to the hidden gotchas, UC consultant Melissa Swartz helps demystify the complex world of SIP trunking.
February 7, 2017
UC&C consultant Kevin Kieller, a partner at enableUC, shares pointers for making the right architectural choices for your Skype for Business deployment.
February 1, 2017
Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares a status report on the UCaaS market today and offers her perspective on what large enterprises need before committing to UC in the cloud.
January 26, 2017
Andrew Davis, co-founder of Wainhouse Research and chair of the Video track at Enterprise Connect 2017, sorts through the myriad cloud video service options and shares how to tell if your choice is en....
January 23, 2017
Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center/Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2017, tells us what we need to know about the role cloud software is playing in contact centers today.