The latest emerging wireless standard from the IEEE, the 802.11ac, promises unprecedented Gigabit connectivity with a host of new possibilities for application-based services – but it could result in performance issues.
The new standard will impact Tier 1 carriers as the new capabilities and high speeds will see a surge in traffic. It is therefore important for the latest WLAN technology to be considered before the challenge becomes an problem.
This is according to Martin Ferreira, executive head: technology and operations at Jasco Carrier, who says that the new WiFi standard promises to deliver much greater multiple spatial data streams that can be directed to client services resulting in better data throughputs, as well as improved reliability and quality of service.
The technology is particularly suited for densely populated areas, such as airports, universities, business offices and shopping malls, where there are a lot of devices in close proximity.
“Consumers have seemingly insatiable requirements for bandwidth. People often have two or three wireless devices that are connected to a network at any given time accessing content-rich applications, resulting in much higher traffic levels but a reduced quality of service.
“As a consequence, we find that the mobile providers Jasco Carrier Solutions has been engaging with are particularly interested in looking to offload some smartphone and tablet wireless network traffic to available WiFi access points to prevent congested networks,” says Ferreira.
According to Ferreira, South Africa follows the ITU recommendations for Europe, and the standard is expected to be legal locally at the same time as and when the standard is ratified.
Final approval of the standard is expected in late 2013, while the WiFi Alliance is targeting to have the certification process in place at the end of Q1 of this year.
“However, it will be important for Tier 1 operators to prepare in advance and adopt the access point (AP) model going forward, certainly within the next six months if not sooner in order for them to position themselves with competitive quality and services,” he adds.
Ferreira says the persistent challenge large operators face has always been the slow pace of adoption of new technologies, this is due to, in part, budget constraints, long sales cycles and extensive stress testing periods even though the technologies have already been certified as part of the ITU standard.
“The larger Tier 1 carriers can significantly bolster their competitive edge with the deployment of 802.11ac, allowing them to compete with innovative products and services, positioning them in a positive light against some of the smaller, nimble Tier 2 operators.
“It is also important for these Tier 1 operators to partner with companies that can assist them to upgrade to these latest technology developments and importantly, integrate with their existing equipment. A trusted advisor can go far in making this upgrade process a lot smoother and seamless, especially when it comes to deployment and stress testing,” he adds.
Ferreira says Tier 1 providers should fully understand the value proposition of 802.11ac, and look at services that can be deployed in a relatively short period of time.
“For example, retailers in shopping malls can offer services to customers to compare prices of products, as well as push in-store advertising to them over the networks,” says Ferreira.
Another application he cites is in healthcare, where real-time data and remote consultations can be done within a hospital environment.
“There is a whole new market opening up that has not existed before. The 802.11ac standard is really an exciting new development in wireless connectivity. For Tier 1 carriers, it is really a matter of bedding the value propositions down, do preliminary testing and roll out the services in partnership with custodians of wireless technology,” he says.