Wi-Fi Certified 802.11ac is Here (And If You’re Not Ready, You’re Playing Catch-Up)
by L. Phifer
After one of the biggest tech build-ups since IPv6, the Wi-Fi Alliance finally launched its Wi-Fi CERTIFIED ac program in mid-June. Wi-Fi CERTIFIED ac products interoperate with each other and older Wi-Fi products in the 5 GHz band, delivering higher data rates (up to 1.3 Gbps), higher capacity, lower latency and better battery life due to reduced power consumption.
ABI Research predicts a spike in dual-band 11n+11ac shipments in 2013-2014, followed by tri-band 11n+11ac+11ad shipments starting in 2015. The latter adds 60 GHz WiGig support to a market that will likely shift from 2.4 to 5 GHz usage to take advantage of 11ac's benefits. Among the first batch of Wi-Fi CERTIFIED ac products are chipsets and reference designs used by the Wi-Fi Alliance's test bed, delivered by Broadcom, Intel, Marvell, MediaTek, Qualcomm and Realtek. This list hints at some of the first end-user Wi-Fi CERTIFIED ac devices we can expect to see hit the market this summer: Smartphones!
As of today, 25 Wi-Fi CERTIFIED ac devices are returned from a search of the Wi-Fi Alliance's continually updated certification search engine, half of them smartphones (mostly from Samsung). But now that this interoperability test and certification program is operational, expect this list to grow exponentially over the next few months.
What does this mean to wireless network and security administrators? The starter's gun has now been fired. If you haven't already beefed up your tools and policies to incorporate 802.11ac, you're playing catch-up. Wi-Fi CERTIFIED ac won't be radically overhauling your world - at least not immediately. But it will be ratcheting up the devices and traffic you need to provision and monitor, and the speed at which small problems escalate into big ones.
From a WLAN operations and performance perspective, your most immediate concern will be keeping an eye on 5 GHz traffic and the impact of new channel widths and data rates. A monitoring and troubleshooting solution like AirMagnet WiFi Analyzer can help manage the transition to 11ac, provide visibility of all Wi-Fi traffic, and work through problems in real time. WiFi Analyzer detects, analyzes, and troubleshoots 802.11ac APs using currently supported 802.11n adapters. For 802.11ac APs, users are powered with key information such as signal strength, number of associated stations, operating channel, security configuration, and other critical data.
For more information on AirMagnet WiFi Analyzer or to request a demo, please click here.