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Tag Archives: 802.11ad

Common Questions and Our Answers on 802.11ac and 802.11ad

One of the most popular topics from our webinars, the media, and of course our customers is 802.11ac and 802.11ad, two emerging wireless standards that will continue to propel the popularity of 802.11 wireless networking. In this blog we’ll cover the most common questions that we receive regarding these new 802.11 protocols. If you have other questions, please feel free to send us a message on twitter (@wildpackets) or leave a comment at the end of this blog post.

If you are simply looking for the 101 on both of these technologies, we suggest watching our ondemand webcast, “802.11 – Who is Ready for 802.11ac and ad?” or checking out the videos below, which provide a quick encapsulation of these new wireless technologies.

With that, here are some common questions that we’re getting from our customers and the wireless community at large.

Q: Will stations and access points require updates to leverage 802.11ac and 802.11ad?
A: Yes. If you are planning to take advantage of 802.11ac or 802.11ad technologies, you will need to purchase new stations and access points; it can’t simply be done with firmware updates. The underlying chipsets are new for these technologies.

802.11ac APs will be backward compatible with 802.11a/b/g/n clients, but those clients will not be able to take advantage of the new 802.11ac capabilities.

Q: Will 802.11ac replace 802.11n?
A: Our prediction is that 802.11ac will replace 802.11n, over time. 802.11ac is a “lessons learned” from 802.11n, so it includes all of the benefits, and more, with less of the drawbacks. But if you’ve already deployed 802.11n , or are in the process, there’s no need to worry. 802.11n is still a very capable technology that will serve you well for many years to come.

Q: Is 802.11ac better for VoIP?
With VoIP you don’t need a lot of bandwidth, but you need reliability, and improvements at both the PHY and MAC layers in 802.11ac provide exactly that.

Additionally, 802.11ac improves beam forming, which was first introduced with 802.11n, and this will help with real-time transport applications like video or voice over IP.

That said, as we mentioned above, 802.11n is a perfectly good technology, so you’ll need to decide the cost benefit of VoIP to your business. If you consistently see problems with VoIP and use VoIP applications like Skype for business, then it might behoove you to make the switch. But if you’re happy with your VoIP performance, then you may not want to replace all of your access points and stations to switch over to 802.11ac just yet.

Q: Can a single VoIP call leverage multiple data streams?
A: Yes, VoIP can leverage multiple data streams, just as with any other application on the wireless network. This does of course assume that both the AP and client can support multiple data streams. Remember, MIMO (or multiple data streams) is only supported with 802.11n and 802.11ac.

Q: Can you explain the power consumption between 802.11n and 802.11ac?
A: Power consumption is all about the number of radios required to generate a certain data rate. And for battery operated devices, minimizing the number of radios (in fact, requiring only one), is tantamount to acceptable battery life, especially for “power” users (pun intended). A single radio 802.11n device will get you up to 150Mbps (megabits per second). With 802.11ac devices you’ll get almost three times that data rate for a single radio, or 433Mbps. So almost 3x the performance for the same battery life!

Q: Are the four channels in 802.11ad non-overlapping?
The four channels are non-overlapping. This is possible because 802.11ad is designed to use an entirely new part of the spectrum so channel allocation can be made with channel bonding in mind. The 2.4 and 5GHz bands never had this luxury, since channel bonding came along well after the channels were assigned.

For more information on 802.11ac, sign up for next month’s webinar, “802.11ac – Wireless Gigabit Speeds Driving Changes in Wireless Analysis

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.

802.11ac and 802.11ad: What they are and how they will impact your network

As we discussed in last week’s blog, we are barely out of the gate with 802.11n and already two emerging standards are likely to shake up the wireless world: 802.11ac and 802.11ad. 802.11ac is in many ways a “lessons learned” from 802.11n, addressing issues like power consumption while still offering even higher data rates. 802.11ad will expand data rates even further and take advantage of a new spectrum and new technologies, which will enable entirely new use cases for 802.11. As users become more dependent on Wi-Fi, these two protocols will build on the success of 802.11 wireless at home and in the office. In today’s blog, we’ll define both 11ac and 11ad and look at use cases for each of these standards.

802.11ac and how it compares to 802.11n:
802.11ac leverages many of the same key technologies as 802.11n, including channel bonding and MIMO (multiple input, multiple output), it just does it a bit smarter. Let’s take channel bonding, for example. Channel bonding is a very efficient method that essentially doubles the data rate, regardless of other technologies in use. But it does have some practical limitations, and many companies are not taking advantage of what should be an easy data rate enhancement. Why? Although 802.11n is designed for both the 2.4 and 5GHz bands, many users are deploying 11n in only the 2.4GHz band, mainly for backward compatibility with existing b/g clients. Given the limited bandwidth and tight channel allocation in the 2.4GHz band, there’s not much flexibility to make channel bonding work, and when configured incorrectly, it can cause serious interoperability issues with existing b/g deployments, whether the user’s or their neighbor’s.

In order to combat these issues, 11ac is specifically designed for the 5GHz band. The 5GHz band offers more channels with wider channel spacing, and is far less sensitive to interference. Additional protocol enhancements are also being specified to make channel bonding less likely to cause interoperability issues. This includes the ability of devices to assess whether adjacent channels are clear and available for channel bonding, and for devices to reserve wider bandwidths in advance of data transmissions, thus allowing channel bonding to increase from 40MHz in 11n to 80, and even 160MHz under certain conditions in 11ac.

Even though data rates are increasing significantly with 11ac, to as high as 6.93Gbps under certain specialized conditions, power consumption will decrease for equivalent data rates, making 11ac much friendlier for mobile devices. 802.11n is pushing the power limits, especially for mobile/portable devices, to the point where most portable devices cannot come close to taking full advantage of 11n capabilities. Through the use of more efficient data encoding mechanisms, 11ac allows devices to use fewer multiple transmissions paths while still achieving higher data rates, and it’s the additional RF transmission chains that really eat up power. In 11ac you’ll see a 3x improvement in data rate over 11n for the same number of MIMO bit streams.

While 802.11ac is not scheduled for IEEE ratification until December 2013, companies like Apple and Netgear are already making announcements regarding 11ac support, and consumer products are expected on the market as early as the end of 2012.

802.11ad, a product of the Wireless Gigabit Alliance
Like 802.11ac, 802.11ad improves upon the wireless capabilities introduced in 802.11n. 802.11ad uses spectrum in the unlicensed 60GHz band, where far more overall bandwidth is available than in either the 2.4 or 5GHz bands currently utilized in 802.11.  The Wireless Gigabit Alliance (WiGig) initiated the specification development to take advantage of this spectrum, but their work has been rolled into the IEEE 802.11ad draft specification.

Ideally, 802.11ad will allow devices to communicate over four, 2.16GHz-wide channels, delivering data rates of up to 7 Gigabits per second, even for mobile devices with limited power, a significant improvement over both 11n and 11ac.

802.11ad will provide native 802.11a/b/g/n/ac support, enabling devices to seamlessly switch between 2.4, 5, and 60 GHz bands. One of the biggest advancements, though, comes from the single carrier for lower power consumption, which enables advanced power management and longer device battery life.

What 802.11ac and 802.11ad mean for you:
From the consumer perspective, 802.11ac will provide the ability to fully support a ‘multi-media home’ through its single-link and multi-station enhancements, allowing for simultaneous streaming of HD video to multiple devices throughout the home, rapid synchronization and backup of large data files, wireless display, and 3G and 4G offloading, to name a few. Essentially, with 11ac, you’ll be able to wirelessly network your TV, DVR, smart phone, and sound system for complete on-demand access through an AP or other Internet-connected device.

On the other hand, 802.11ad is really all about the “Wireless Office.” With its built-in support for traditional wired connections, like PCI-e, USB and HDMI, coupled with multi-Gbps data rates and a range of at least 10 meters, 802.11ad is likely to finally deliver on the promise of true cordless computing ala the promises of Bluetooth, as well as support a native Wi-Fi network for wireless Internet access.

Both of these standards could mean huge advancements in the way consumers and businesses access and utilize wireless networks and devices. Increased speed, and increasingly interconnected devices, will continue to drive the explosive growth of 802.11.

However, the realities of 802.11ac and 802.11ad have yet to be seen. 802.11n, though highly successful, is still not reaching its full potential, years after the final specification was ratified. Practical limits are testing theoretical specifications, and although 11ac and 11ad are addressing these practical limitations in 11n, they are likely to introduce new and yet to be seen practical limitations of their own. Though certainly worth carefully watching, it’s highly unlikely that an enterprise upgrade to 11ac or 11ad is right around the corner.

If you’d like more information on 802.11ac/ad, watch our free OnDemand webcast here.