Technology Blog

802.11ac: Way before its time or just in time?

Guest Blogger

Is everyone excited about 802.11ac? Is your inner geek showing with every mention of those two lower case letters 'ac'? Vendors like Apple mentioned they intend to be early adopters and just days ago Samsung released the Galaxy S4 which supports 802.11ac. 


I attended a recent convention where I had the opportunity to speak with customers and other engineers on the topic of 802.11n and 802.11ac. The discussion covered bonding, bandwidth and utilization. The consensus was most folks in this group aren't even close to utilizing 802.11n to its full capacity. I know what you’re thinking, “but, George, 802.11n has other benefits like mandatory QoS and faster transmission speeds, allowing the medium to become free for other transmissions.” I know, but it’s at a cost of bonding other channels. These channels become very valuable when you don’t use UNII2/2E channels to avoid DFS. The general theme among the group, myself included, was that the bonding was done in high traffic areas and not done across all access points. There were a few standouts in the crowd who bonded every access point everywhere.



Let’s look at my environment for example:


Large Healthcare System

Controller based

3500 access points

6,500 wifi clients daily

Mix of 802.11n and 802.11a/g access points (70/30)

Mixed applications from thin to fat 



Take a guess as to how much bandwidth on average passes through our wireless distribution? 


Would you have guessed only 155 Mbps? We did see a spike during the presidential elections where bandwidth rose to 350-400 Mbps at times. In healthcare, Nurse Betty doesn't need 450 Mbps to do her Citrix app. Dr John doesn't need 450 Mbps to check his email. 


Yes, we are seeing more devices enter the door every week. Interestingly, we aren't seeing the increase in bandwidth you might expect that comes along with the increased device count. Although users are bringing in more devices, sometime 2 - 3 devices per user, they are generally only using one device at a given time. In most cases when they use their tablet, it’s replacing their laptop. 


Back to my topic of discussion: 802.11ac -- way ahead of its time? Again, I think there is a place and time. When you host the super bowel and invite 65,000 of friends. That is a place and time.  


Look around your office. Stand up and peek over your cube. Do you really need that speed right now? Will you next year? What about 2 years from now?



I am really interested in your thoughts. What is your take on the subject? How much bandwidth are you using ?

Tags (1)
Contributor I

I think most people are keeping a close eye on this, but there are some questions that I still need to understand before considering deployment.  


A year or so ago, we tried doing bonded channels, but most of the devices weren't taking advantage of it, so we went back to 20 again.  Device support will be key for us.  Hearing that Apple is on board is good since we have many Apple products on campus.  At universities, widespread adoptions helps our cause.  Another concern I have is actual distances for beamforming?  I've read and heard that the client needs to be close, but no actual distances to give me a reference.  Also, what happens when legacy clients are in the mix?  I need to wrap me head around some transition strategies for clients operating in a mixed mode environment (a, n, ac) - ideal channel layouts in high density environments give the wider channels.  What happens with high noise floor?  We are in a dense urban environment & even the 5GHz spectrum isn't clean.  

Search Airheads
Showing results for 
Search instead for 
Did you mean: 
Read all about it! If it’s happening now, it’s in the community.

Check out the latest blogs from your community team, the community experts and other industry sources.