When the 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard first hit the scene a few years ago, it promised to dramatically change how organizations think about and use wireless connectivity. Based on a higher frequency band than previous IEEE Wi-Fi standards, 802.11ac had the potential to make wireless devices like laptops, tablets and smartphones more powerful in enterprise settings.
While 802.11ac did all of this and more for businesses in just about all industries, the pace at which mobile hardware has proliferated and advanced in capabilities sped up considerably as well since the standard was initially introduced. Today's smartphones and tablets are more robust than before, and they are even beginning to edge out desktops and laptops in some businesses.
Cisco has predicted that the amount of traffic from mobile hardware will rise by around 300 percent between 2016 and 2018, as more mobile devices are made and as the Internet of Things trend comes to the fore. Coming in to help address this need for additional wireless bandwidth is 802.11ac Wave 2, which may be the most popular Wi-Fi standard ever, Strategy Analytics has predicted.
"Wave 2 may be the most popular Wi-Fi standard ever."
"It's likely this is better than the Wave 1 products. So if you need to buy something now, this is the one you're going to buy," said Dell'Oro Group analyst Chris DePuy, according to Network World.
By adopting Wave 2 solutions like the Cisco Aironet 1850 Series Access Point, organizations can expect to realize the following benefits:
In comparison with even the relatively fast 802.11ac, Wave 2 is supremely quick. While the first iteration of .11ac has a theoretical max data throughput rate of 1.3 gigabits per second, the Cisco Aironet 1850 Series Access Point is already offering a 1.7 Gbps data rate, Network World reported. This could be only scratching the surface of Wave 2's capabilities as well, as it can theoretically offer a rate as fast as 6.8 Gbps. For mobile users accustomed to slow-loading apps, these faster speeds will be a very welcome change of pace.
While 802.11ac was and is much faster than previous standards like 802.11n, its impact was limited to only a select number of devices. That's because the first iteration of 802.11ac would only function at its max capacity if the wireless device in use had multiple antennas, according to ZDNet.
This is fine when laptops are the only devices in need of wireless connectivity, but it is far from ideal with single-antenna hardware like tablets and smartphones. Wave 2 addresses this issue by consolidating multiple data streams at the source, ensuring that the device in need of fast connectivity only requires a single antenna.
"Multi-User MIMO in 802.11 Wave 2 works effectively the opposite way the Single-User MIMO solutions work with current 802.11ac devices on the market," ZDNet contributor Jason Perlow wrote. "Instead of the spatial streams being aggregated at the endpoint, the router/access point is doing the 'mixing' of the spatial streams and then beam-forming to a 802.11ac Wave 2-compatible client device."
Mobile devices are meant to be used while on the move, and that's exactly what most employees do with their handheld hardware. Workers today expect to use their smartphones, tablets and laptops at all points in and around the office, but some legacy wireless standards were not well-suited at ensuring consistent connectivity for on-the-move employees.
In contrast, Wave 2 was developed in part with this use case in mind. A Wave 2-enabled hot spot is supposed to intelligently determine what kinds of devices are pinging it, and if they're stationary or mobile, ZDNet noted. The MU-MIMO Sounding rate control within Wave 2 ensures that the data rate given to hardware on the move is adjusted as necessary, allowing people to use their preferred mobile device as no matter where they are.
Stay tuned for part 2 of this series, where we discuss additional benefits of Wave 2, and how iT1 Source has the experience and expertise to help any business leverage the top-tier wireless enterprise networking solutions from Cisco.