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What is 802.11ac Wireless LANs?

September 10, 2014

The unprecedented level and scope of enterprise network user mobility has given rise to more bandwidth requirements that cannot adequately be met by 802.11n. The new IEEE standard 802.11ac, which has become the leading WLAN standard, is meant to specifically address those needs. The question for many is what exactly is the new 802.11ac in relation to wireless LANS?

On a purely technical level, EEE 802.11ac provides the high-throughput necessary to wireless local area networks (WLANs) on the 5 GHz band. In multi-station WLAN scenarios, the expected throughput is equal to at least 1 gigabit per second and a single link throughput of at least 500 megabits per second (500 Mbit/s).

As a standard built upon 802.11n, 802.11ac provides even wider RF bandwidth (up to 160 MHz), more Multiple Input-Multiple Output (MIMO) spatial streams (as many as eight), downlink multi-user MIMO (up to four clients), and high-density modulation (up to 256-QAM).

802.11ac Wireless LAN

In practical terms, the 802.11ac standard provides higher data rates and bit density per packet as well as higher data rates, capacity, spectrum efficiency, and reliability per AP/client link. In short, 802.11ac features enable Wi-Fi solutions to meet today’s demand for high capacity and high quality mobile real-time applications like HD video and voice, which are vital to today’s wireless LANs.

These new capacities can manifest themselves in an ability to provide high quality and high throughput audio and video for a wide variety of WLANs scenarios. These can include post-secondary campus scenarios as well as manufacturing floor automation or healthcare enterprise systems or multi-building enterprise campuses just to name a few.

Because of the new standard, leading enterprise WLAN solution providers like Aruba Networks can now provide contextual data that increases the efficiency and broadens the usability of the Wi-Fi network. This data can include user identity, device type, application usage, location, and time-of-day to enforce policies to meet security and compliance needs of bring-your-own-device (BYOD) scenarios.

As BYOD reaches a level of ubiquity in a variety of business, educational, institutional and commercial environments, WLANs will be taxed to provide greater throughput and data access to more and more users. The challenge for 802.11ac is to meet those functional demands in this ever-growing wireless environment, which will only accelerate in the coming years.

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