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

By George Stafanick, Blog Contributor
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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 ?