The explosion of Bring Your Own Device in the workplace is putting increasing demand on Wi-Fi infrastructure, with BYOD policies leading to an increase of devices per user connecting to an organisation’s network.
Increasing user demands for mobility and connectionless protocols have led to growth in requirements for wireless capacity. Users have come to expect the performance of mobile applications to be as good as their wired counterparts. They want to use any device, and access any application, without experiencing any lag or delay in performance.
Networking specialists at NETSCOUT's Fluke Networks Enterprise Solutions explain that the extra demand for wireless bandwidth has driven the development of new standards to increase capacity and throughput, while at the same time addressing congestion.
“Additional demands on the wireless LAN have created more pressure to redesign and upgrade wireless infrastructure to provide more bandwidth at higher rates,” explains Amit Rao, Senior Director of Business Development Asia Pacific, Fluke Networks Enterprise Solutions, NETSCOUT.
Rao says mobile devices are not alone in bringing a new level of strain to WiFi. Laptop connectivity, usage, and application throughput on wireless networks is steadily increasing.
“The BYOD explosion has brought with it a new type of use, including voice, HD video, and other bi-directional bandwidth-guzzling applications,” he says.
“These trends push IT departments to provide a level of signal quality, coverage, and two-way capacity like never before.”
In order to address these additional demands on the WLAN, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers sanctioned the new 802.11ac standard for WLAN technology, which is backwards compatible with 802.11n.
“Enterprises need to decide when to implement 802.11ac and how to plan and implement the transition at the appropriate time,” Rao explains. He says the decision will vary from one organisation to another and will depend on both their immediate needs and their long-term vision.
802.11ac standard moves wireless traffic to the 5GHz band, instead of 2.4GHz. It is meant to provide faster throughput at greater distance, which is why it is also known as the very high throughput or VHT amendment.
“In essence this means providing higher bit rates over a WLAN connection, improving spectral efficiency and building on the techniques introduced in 802.11n through providing wider channels, higher modulation and coding, beam forming, multi-user MIMO and more spatial streams,” Rao says.
Enterprises need to consider when it is a good time to implement the new 802.11ac standard.
A number of products supporting 802.11ac specification are available now, with a second wave supporting multi-user MIMO due this year, says Rao.
Rao expects most people to have a hybrid or mixed network for some time in order to support existing and new user devices.
“This will require design and planning capability to cover both the 802.11ac and 802.11n standards and ensure that users obtain the best performance with both,” he says.
Whether an organisation chooses to implement the new standard at its next WLAN upgrade, or prefers to wait until more equipment is available, it is important to begin planning the approach to 802.11ac now.
“The chances are that you will need to add new capacity to your LAN over the next few months,” Rao says.
“Even if you plan to delay implementation, you will still need to prepare for 802.11ac. Network engineers should therefore begin to familiarise themselves with 802.11ac now so that they can take an informed decision when they next need to increase the capacity or expand the coverage of their WLAN.”
Fluke Networks Enterprise Solutions at NETSCOUT offers the ability to detect, analyse and troubleshoot 802.11ac APs using currently supported 802.11n adapters. This provides key metrics such as the number of 802.11n and 802.11a clients present in the network, the APs these clients are connected to and network channel utilisation by 802.11n and 802.11a clients.
By decoding 802.11ac management frames in real time, engineers can detect VHT capabilities of the AP and thus troubleshoot performance issues in 802.11ac networks resulting from the presence of legacy clients.
“Successfully implementing 802.11ac in an environment will require more than simply buying a few new APs, plugging them in, and purchasing a few client-end radios,” Rao adds.
Fluke Networks Enterprise Solutions at NETSCOUT says achieving the expected coverage and improved data rates will require a clear understanding of how 802.11ac works versus a/b/g/n, as well as best practices for migrating to this new technology.
Successful Implementation of 802.11ac AirMagnet Survey Pro makes it easy to experience the benefits of implementing 802.11ac. If careful planning, validation, and optimisation steps are not considered, the potential gains of 802.11ac will be lost due to impacts of the previous environment, excessive noise, poor channel planning, or poor AP placement. Get the most out of 802.11ac using the AirMagnet wireless suite of tools from Fluke Networks.