Category Archives: 802.11ad

More Updates on 802.11-2012 and the State of Wi-Fi

There are many 802.11 specifications ratified or in the process of being ratified. Periodically the IEEE rolls up all these changes to help address functional overlap and to ensure interoperability. This is what 802.11-2012 is all about, and we recently had a webinar that detailed all the specifications (10) that were ratified into the 802.11-2012 amendment.

We had a lot of great questions after we presented the details on each specification in the update – if you are looking for specific information, please check out this blog post. Since some of the questions were really quite good we decided to repeat them here.

If you have any additional questions on these, or any other wireless protocols, please do not hesitate to comment at the end of this post and we’ll start a conversation.

What are the main security changes we’ll see in this new roll-up?
From a security perspective, the main change here is 802.11w, which specifies methods to increase the security of 802.11 management frames. Management frames are 802.11 packets that control communication on the WLAN, but do not contain data. Manipulation of management packets can lead to many serious security vulnerabilities. 802.11w significantly reduces the ability to maliciously manipulate management packets. Beyond that there are no new encryption protocols or suites, though security is certainly an integral part of many of the other specifications in 802.11-2012.

Do you know of any phones using 802.11r?
Without getting into specific model numbers, 802.11r is an integral part of the Wi-Fi Alliance (WFA) Voice-Enterprise certification program, so any equipment certified as part of this program, which was implemented in 2012, will certainly use 802.11r.

Do you have any concerns with the FCC opening up more 5GHz spectrum?
The more spectrum the better! But compatibility with other systems must always be seriously considered. Interestingly enough, one of the only major applications in the 5GHz space is Doppler Radar around airports. We suggest reading Matthew Gast of Aerohive’s latest blog on 802.11ac channel allocation and how this new protocol affects channels and the new spectrum changes ahead.

What is the different between 802.11ad and 802.11ac?
802.11ac is like a super version of 802.11n – more range and higher throughput for the same or even less overall power consumption. It continues to build on 802.11 as a networking platform. 802.11ad is quite different. It uses spectrum in the 60GHz range, which due to physics will operate over a much shorter range. It supports wireless connectivity over common computing standards like HDMI and PCIe, making it an ideal interconnect between computing devices. Equipment which uses 802.11ad will also need to support 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac for overall network connectivity, and for connectivity back to the overall WAN. We discuss in more detail how these two specs are different and what you can expect from them in this blog post.

When will 802.11ac be ratified?
We don’t have a crystal ball to make this prediction, but it’s starting to look like early in 2014. But just as it was with 802.11n, manufacturers are already jumping on the bandwagon with hardware designed against a draft release of the spec. In fact, you can already find consumer-grade 11ac equipment on store shelves, with enterprise-grade gear right on its heels. And the WFA expects to be certifying 11ac devices later this year.

Does 802.11ac require new chips?
Yes, new chipsets are required to support the new technology.

Is there any work being done to help mobile device battery life?
From an 802.11 perspective, 11ac will help with mobile device battery life. It won’t help extend it, but it will provide much greater data rates for the same power consumed. This will help mobile devices break past the 150Mbps plateau (802.11n 1-stream – the only viable alternative for battery-operated devices), reaching data rates of at least 450Mbps.

What is the difference between 802.11z and 802.11d?
These are very different indeed. 802.11d was implemented to ensure device compatibility with the many different regulatory requirements across the world. One of the key elements is a country code which allows a device to be set to a particular country or region, with the appropriate configuration and settings to meet the local regulatory requirements. 802.11z allows WLAN client devices to connect directly to each other, bypassing the typical link through an infrastructure AP. It is analogous to the ad-hoc mode from the early 802.11 days, but it includes the appropriate levels of authentication, security, and inter-device communication to make ad-hoc usable.

What is the effect on international distribution on encryption?
The encryption algorithms used in 802.11 are generally exportable, but equipment manufacturers in the US must comply with the export control rules of the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) under the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) and the Commerce Control List (CCL). Export of encryption products to the “embargoed countries” is typically still not allowed.

Will there be a NIC that supports 802.11w?
802.11w is designed to use features that are already supported as part of other 802.11 specifications (like 802.11i) so NIC support should not be a problem.

Cool New WLAN Technologies on the Market

Over the past year, a plethora of new and cool WLAN technologies have been introduced based on several key innovations including direct device-to-device communication, new protocols like 802.11ac and 802.11ad, and cloud as well as BYOD developments.

Here are a few of our favorite technologies and products that have come to market recently. As always, we’re interested in hearing about other WLAN technologies that have grabbed your attention. Please leave a comment and let us know what your favorites are, or if you just have something you want to share.

Cisco Catalyst 5760 WLAN Controller
This WLAN controller, when paired with the Catalyst 3850 switch, provides a tightly integrated wired and wireless management system, which is exactly what is needed in today’s rapidly expanding wireless deployments. Both are based on a new Cisco programmable ASIC called the Unified Access Data Plane, which, according to Jim Duffy at Network World, “is designed to converge processing and termination of wired and wireless traffic into a single data plane, enable consistent services to be applied to both, and allow for deployment of software-defined networking services.”

Why do we like it?

Typically wireless networks are built as overlays to the wired network, which oftentimes results in two networks to manage, and makes it difficult to configure, monitor, and troubleshoot networking features that cross the wired/wireless plane, like QoS and security. And as wireless networks grow these problems become more and more difficult to manage.

Collapsing these networks into one provides better overall wireless performance and consistent management, especially if your environment allows for a lot of mobile devices. Only time will tell if the goals of the product live up to expectations – it went GA on January 29th of this year.

Jim provides a great overview of this new technology, as does Jeffrey Burt – you can find his article here.

802.11s: Mesh Networking, Extended Service Set
802.11s was part of the 802.11-2012 roll out. 802.11s enables mesh networking, which specifies an architecture and protocol to create self-configuring multi-hop wireless networks. They are typically high-performing, extremely scalable, ad hoc networks often with no wired access as all.

Why do we like it?

Basically, mesh networking allows you to build a network anywhere. Primary use cases so far have mostly been in the public service/emergency management space, and most have been based on proprietary mesh technologies. 802.11s standardizes this technology, making it more interoperable and therefore more accessible and available to be adapted to wider business applications, like Wi-Fi access at large outdoor music events. That would certainly put a whole new slant on Woodstock…

Linksys Wireless-AC Universal Media Connector
Taking advantage of some of the latest advancements in Wi-Fi, including 802.11ac and Wi-Fi Protected Setup, the Linksys Wireless-AC Universal Media Connector is a great example of a “bridge” device. A draft version of the 802.11ac specification is already in play, and manufacturers are jumping in with both feet. But not every client device is going to be 11ac ready, and consumers are not going to upgrade expensive devices, like flat screen TVs, just to get built-in 11ac.

Why do we like it?

This Linksys device bridges that gap by providing 11ac communication from your Access Point (assuming it is also 11ac) to your media cabinet, with wired Ethernet connections to your client media devices, tried and true technology that even most older gear supports. This allows consumers to take advantage of the very latest in Wi-Fi technology without expensive equipment upgrades. Sounds like it’s time to transition the home Wi-Fi network to 11ac!

That’s just three of the many great advancements we’ve seen in wireless lately. Chime in and let us know what’s ringing your bell.

The Marriage Between the Wi-Fi Alliance and WiGig: What Does it All Mean?

The ring has been given, the proposal accepted, and the date set. At long last, the relationship between the Wi-Fi Alliance and WiGig will take the big step: the WiGig Alliance is going to be folded into the Wi-Fi Alliance (WFA).

It’s certainly not like the industry didn’t see this coming. These organizations have been dating for awhile now, and the seriousness of the relationship was clearly demonstrated when the IEEE accepted the WiGig Alliance spec as the draft 802.11ad specification. Since then both WiGig and WFA have been working together very closely, and given the similarities in their charters, the marriage of the two will benefit everyone, from equipment manufacturers to consumers.

How? Below is the full wrap-up of what this merger entails, from a technology and end user perspective.

Certification to Benefit All
With initial specifications developed and only modifications and ratification left, the focus of WiGig is turning to certification. Though that may seem straightforward, building out a network of qualified, endorsed test labs worldwide is actually a daunting task. Add to that marketing yourself so that people understand and respect your organization as a certification and interoperability expert whose logo should be on any equipment purchased, and you’re looking at something that can only be established over years of hard work and flawless execution. That’s what the WFA has already accomplished, and brings to the table, so with this merger WiGig immediately benefits from the many years of WFA success. Now, the 802.11 technologies of both WiGig and WFA will be under the same world-class industry association/interoperability certification. This will speed up the process of specification development, ensure high-quality interoperability test definition, and help to move products from chipmakers, to wireless OEM vendors, to the market much faster, benefiting everyone along the way, especially consumers.

Big Picture of What 802.11ad Will do for You
802.11ad, or WiGig, is a very interesting technology. Though it is firmly based on the same underlying principles as other 802.11 technologies, including a/b/g/n/ac, at the same time it is significantly different from any of the other 802.11 enhancements that have been developed so far. It operates in an entirely different frequency band (60GHz), opening up new possibilities, and new challenges. Whereas all 802.11 technology to date has mainly been used as an underlying network technology, replacing wired TCP/IP networks over specified areas before making the final connection to the wired backbone, 802.11ad is designed to replace wired computer connectivity, like HDMI video connections and USB/PCI-e, with ultra high-speed wireless connections. This will make 802.11ad and “additional” technology rather than an “upgrade” technology, and 11ad and 11a/b/g/n/ac will need to co-exist, with 11ad providing the “local” connectivity (a personal area network if we can revisit that term) and 11a/b/g/n/ac providing the TCP/IP connectivity between local devices and to the wired backbone.

We’ve written about 802.11ad before, and ultimately this new technology will make “the wireless office” a reality. Equipment using 802.11ad will be able to facilitate simultaneous streaming of HD video, provide seamless peer-to-peer syncing, and deliver on the promise of cordless computing.

Interoperability of 802.11ad and Other 802.11 Technologies
It’s because of the coexistence of 802.11ad and other 802.11 technologies that the merger of WiGig and WFA makes so much sense. Not only will 802.11ad equipment need to interoperate, but 802.11ad and other 802.11 networking technology also need to interoperate, so having all of this interoperability certified under a single, respected, and highly-successful organization like the WFA just makes so much sense. This will accelerate the delivery of 802.11ad technology to market, and give it the very best chance for success under a banner that is recognized world-wide, and simply assumed to be a part of all wireless equipment purchases, whether by consumers or by enterprises.

Only time will tell if this move will benefit the wireless industry as a whole, but as you can tell, we have high hopes that it will. Not every marriage hits its diamond, gold, or even silver anniversary, but if the history of the Wi-Fi Alliance is any indicator, we look to a match made in heaven.