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New WiFi standard to boost BYOD uptake

With wireless connectivity continuing to form a critical pillar in supporting the always-on business world with its increasing emphasis on “bring your own device” (BYOD) programmes, network managers will soon be able to take advantage of high speed wireless LAN (WLAN) equipment, thanks to the imminent ratification of the new IEEE 802.11ac, Gigabit-speed WiFi standard.
Representing WiFi technology’s next wave, this new standard – dubbed 5G WiFi
– is an evolution in the on-going development of wireless networking, says Martin May, regional director, Enterasys Networks.
Unlike 802.11n and previous 802.11 technologies, which have operated in the 2,4GHz and 5GHz bands, 802.11ac addresses only the 5GHz band, relying on this wider channel to boost wireless network speeds from today’s pedestrian
300Mbps to stratospheric Gigabit speeds.
This quantum leap forwards is poised to deliver a range of real-world benefits. These include accommodating the needs of the increasing number of smartphones and tablet PC users linked to corporate networks who eagerly anticipate the promise of all-encompassing wireless LANs underpinned by robust, high speed technologies.
With bandwidth-intensive applications such as customer relationship management (CRM), video-conferencing, and data storage in the cloud now primed to migrate from the desktop to mobile devices, Gigabit-speed networks will become part of an organisation’s essential infrastructure.
This will apply to businesses of all sizes. Soon 802.11ac chipset-equipped BYODs should be able to handle more than twice the bandwidth of current 802.11n devices, meeting the demands of these and other emerging mobile applications. In early tests, 5G WiFi smartphone prototypes have effectively doubled the speeds of current generation smartphones.
Significantly, battery life was shown to improve appreciably, since faster devices spend less time transmitting and more time sleeping. Laptops with 802.11ac chipsets should arrive on the market within months, with
other mobile devices – smartphones and tablets – following in late 2012 or early 2013.
From an infrastructure perspective, new 802.11ac routers are already in the wings awaiting shipment. As expected, almost all will be concurrent dual-band models that support 802.11n clients on the 2,4GHz frequency band and 802.11ac clients on the 5GHz band.
These dual-band platforms will drive the market transition to 5G WiFi and enable vendors to introduce carrier gateways and enterprise access points (APs) in time for the first wave of 802.11ac certifications.
The WiFi Alliance, the body responsible for ensuring the interoperability of wireless networking products, is gearing up to begin its 802.11ac certification programme in early 2013. Technically speaking, 802.11ac is able supercharge speeds because of its ability to use radio bands as wide as 80 and 160MHz (as well as the common 20 and 40MHz channels).
This is due to the fact that more non-overlapping
channels are found in the 5GHz band than WiFi’s other band – 2,4GHz. Another reason for the substantial speed hike is the use of more aggressive modulation techniques such as quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM). QAM packs multiple bits into a single time slice by optimising phase shifts and amplitude changes.
The new standard will see the industry moving from 64 to
256 QAM. This will quadruple the amount of data capable of fitting on an encoded carrier signal. It’s not only the business community that’s impatiently awaiting 5G WiFi’s arrival.
The gaming fraternity as well as home users are excited about the new technology as it will be particularly suited to the latest HD games and HD video streaming on smart TVs, thanks to its channel bonding attributes. In previous generation (802.11n) technology, two channels were able to be bonded to gain bandwidth, if required. Now, 801.11ac increases this to eight channels.
This is more relevant for gamers and home users, since in the
enterprise users require more individual channels to prevent a reduction of the network’s efficiency. The new technology is also essential for the convergence of BYODs, digital entertainment and the burgeoning cloud applications. Undoubtedly it will have a substantial impact on all three markets.
This is underlined by predictions that
more than 3-billion WiFi unit sales a year will be realised by 2015 with 9-billion subscriptions by 2017 – according to some research groups. It is thus necessary for organisations to realise the benefits of this technology and initiate plans to implement it across their various mobile platforms without delay.