Wireless LAN vendor Meru Networks has announced its new access point supporting the soon-to-be ratified 802.11ac specification, based on the Meru single-channel architecture.
The 802.11ac specification enables higher-bandwidth wireless by using broader 80 MHz channels, but few vendors use them due to concerns about channel overlap.
"The requirement for bringing on non-overlapping channels becomes extremely challenging when channel bandwidth [is] growing from 40 to 160 MHz," said Dennis Huang, director of product marketing for Meru.
Many vendors -- including Aruba and Aerohive -- are using 40MHz channels. "But if you are using 40MHz channels, the user is really only getting about 600 megabits of 11ac -- an over 50% bandwidth reduction," Huang said. "The Meru single-channel architecture with MobileFlex really delivers on the full promise of 802.11ac."
Single-channel architecture eliminates overlap
The broader spectrum channels of the 802.11ac specification makes multi-channel Wi-Fi deployment more difficult moving forward, said Craig Mathias, principal at the Ashland, Mass.-based Farpoint Group advisory firm.
Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Meru's single-channel, MobileFlex architecture allows adjacent access points to share the same channel, whereas most other wireless LAN vendors rely on channel segmentation from one access point to another to avoid interference. The single-channel capabilities of Meru's new 802.11ac-enabled access point -- the AP832 -- eliminates the danger of channel overlap that exists in segmented networks, allowing Meru customers to use the full 80 MHz channels.
802.11ac specification thrives on single-channel architecture
The Meru AP832 802.11ac access point has duel 802.11ac radios and two Gigabit Ethernet ports. Each radio can operate in a separate 802.11ac channel for an aggregate data rate of 2.6 Gbps, Huang said.
The AP832 is backwards-compatible with 802.11n and allows for channel layering, an approach that allows a network to dedicate channels to different user groups or applications via access policies, Huang said.
More on the 802.11ac specification
Gigabit Wi-Fi security: Is the 802.11ac standard worth an upgrade?
Motorola exhibits new 802.11ac access points
How 802.11ac will impact security
Aruba announces 802.11ac Wi-Fi offerings
Bellarmine College Preparatory, a private high school in San Jose, Calif., is planning to upgrade its campus-wide Wi-Fi infrastructure for the upcoming school year in order to support plans to equip 1,650 students with iPads, said Chris Carey, technology director at Bellarmine College Preparatory.
"We have about 1,200 devices on the Wi-Fi today, and the one-to-one program will be adding another 1,800 devices, Carey said. "We knew we would be looking at close to 100 devices densely packed into each classroom, so the new 802.11ac standard was going to be important for us in being able to deliver not just a workable, but [also] a great experience," Carey said.
Bellarmine -- a Meru customer for the past four years -- is beta testing Meru's 802.11ac technology. The school plans to install and roll out the new Meru AP832s throughout the campus during the upcoming school year. The 802.11ac specification, along with the Meru single-channel architecture, will allow the school to achieve the full throughput of its two 80MHz channels, Carey said.
"In our environment, we only have two 80MHz channels we can use. Because of the dual-radios in the access point, we can achieve a high-quality Wi-Fi experience for our students and teachers," he said.
802.11ac access points: Better performance for 11n, investment protection for the future
The 802.11ac specification is not yet ratified and 802.11ac-enabled mobile devices are still rare. However, enterprises who are building or refreshing wireless networks should consider 802.11ac- compatible equipment, said Farpoint's Mathias.
"11ac won’t replace 11n, but for new installations, we are recommending users go with 11ac because the price and performance [are] better," he said. "Even if it’s used backward in 11n mode, [users] will still notice an improvement in performance."
With 802.11ac-enabled access points, an enterprise's investment in their Wi-Fi will be protected once 11ac-enabled devices start to join the network, Mathias said.