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Xirrus offers 802.11ac Wave 2 upgrade path through XR arrays

Xirrus announced 802.11ac Wave 2 upgradability through its modular Xirrus XR Arrays in anticipation of Wave 2 shipping next year.

Xirrus Inc. is now offering 802.11ac Wave 2 upgradability through its modular Xirrus XR Arrays. Wireless engineers can install 802.11ac Wave 1 Xirrus technology today and upgrade to the more powerful Wave 2 technology at a minimal cost.

802.11ac Wave 2 technology, which will ship from most vendors in 2015, will deliver up to 6 Gbps of wireless bandwidth in the 5 GHz spectrum. Wave 1 technology, which is already shipping, tops out at 1.3 Gbps. Wave 2 will also introduce a multiuser version of multiple-input, multiple-output (MIMO) technology, which will allow access points to send multiple streams to multiple clients. Multiuser MIMO will allow wireless networks to accommodate more devices and users while maintaining speed.

With commercial availability of Wave 2 access points still a year away, network engineers face a dilemma when the time comes to upgrade old 802.11n wireless infrastructures. They could upgrade to 802.11ac Wave 1 today or wait a year for Wave 2 products. Adams 12 Five Star Schools, a Western Adams County, Colorado-based K-12 school district, turned to Xirrus, whose arrays gave it an upgrade path from Wave 1 to Wave 2.

"The nice thing about Xirrus is the products give us the ability to upgrade when we need to without throwing any of our investment out," said Ash Mahajan, CIO of Adams 12 Five Star Schools.

802.11ac Wave 2: Faster speeds for more devices and users

Xirrus has been shipping its modular XR wireless arrays -- which are currently upgradable from 802.11n to Wave 1 802.11ac -- for a few years. The new Wave 2 migration plan extends that modular investment protection even further, said Bruce Miller, vice president of product marketing for Thousand Oaks, California-based Xirrus.

Xirrus is taking pre-orders for Wave 2 modules now and will ship them in 2015, Miller said. "Given the fast pace of technology and the dilemma that creates for buyers, our products allow [customers] to migrate to, or even between, these technologies," he said.

Xirrus XR arrays are also software-programmable and can support up to 16 802.11ac radios, as opposed to the one 802.11ac radio in most competitor's access points, Miller said.

Adams 12 Five Star Schools is in the midst of a wireless project that will expand the number of Xirrus wireless arrays deployed from several hundred to 3,366 within over 50 school buildings, Adams 12's Mahajan said. The district will be able to upgrade to 802.11ac Wave 2 once it deploys the Xirrus 4-radio wireless arrays as part of its project by adding in the new module once it ships, said Erik Moore, director of academic computing services for Adams 12.

"We thought it would be worth it for us to hold off ... and stay on 802.11n and then leapfrog to Wave 2 when those modules come out, but we are getting [802.11ac] Wave 1 from our current 2-radio arrays in our administrative offices," Moore said. The exposure to 802.11ac Wave 1 is helping the Adams 12 IT team to understand how the new standard operates, and how newer devices interact with the Wi-Fi infrastructure, Mahajan said.

The eventual upgrade to Wave 2 will allow the school district to implement bring your own device policies for its 40,000 students and 5,000 faculty and staff members and an expanded one-to-one device program, he said.

Future Wave 2 802.11ac technology won't be a deciding factor for every business

Many businesses hold off on an upgrade if faster, better technology is close to coming to market. But while 802.11ac Wave 2 will offer faster speeds on wider, 160 MHz channels that can support more devices at a time, these features won't be a must-have for every kind of deployment. High-density environments -- like stadiums, convention spaces and large classrooms -- will benefit from Wave 2, businesses with only 15 to 35 users in a given coverage area can still get by with legacy 802.11n infrastructure, said Tim Zimmerman, research vice president for Stamford, Connecticut-based Gartner Inc.

Rather than cover an entire campus with 802.11ac Wave 2-capable access points or arrays, most businesses will deploy them only in high-traffic areas, Zimmerman said. This strategy will help enterprises avoid expensive wired infrastructure upgrades, too. "Businesses might also have to upgrade their switch to accommodate Wave 2 [in those upgraded areas]," he said.  

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Gina Narcisi, news writer, and follow @GeeNarcisi on Twitter.

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