Blog | May 1, 2012

802.11ac: Do You -- Or Your Customers -- Care?

By Mike Monocello, editor-in-chief, Business Solutions magazine
Follow Me On Twitter @monocello

Last week, NETGEAR announced its new R6300 802.11ac WiFi router. According to the manufacturer, this is the industry's first 802.11ac dual band gigabit WiFi router enabling 5th generation WiFi (5G WiFi) at gigabit speeds. Indeed, 802.11ac is expected to deliver speeds three times faster than 802.11n (maxing out at 1300 Mbps on 5GHz ). All this sounds great on paper, but has me wondering how much the IT industry -- or your customers -- really care.

Let's face it, a wireless router is only as good as the peripherals connecting to it, and from what I've seen and heard from integrators, 802.11n shockingly hasn't yet reached mass adoption due to all the legacy a/b/g peripherals still in the field. Not to mention the 100 Mbps backbones that still need to be upgraded to gigabit to give 802.11n or ac a chance to shine.

Additionally, until we see these routers deployed in the field, we won't know if they'll suffer from similar issues 802.11n routers have/had.  For instance, due to MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) and spatial multiplexing, 802.11n cells are spiky and less predictable compared with 802.11g, sometimes requiring additional routers to get full coverage. Will 802.11ac suffer from similar issues? At this point, all we've seen is 802.11ac marketing info which touts increased range with beamforming technology. How that acts in the real world remains to be seen.

Of course, despite my concerns, I can't argue that technological progress is a very good thing. Personally, I'm excited at the prospect of my next cell phone reaching blazing speeds while in WiFi mode. However, if I were a networking VAR, I wouldn't be looking at 802.11ac as my next revenue generator just yet.

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