802.11ac – A Reality Check

We are in the midst of some major marketing energy coming from many WLAN Vendors about 802.11ac. I think .11ac is going to be a great step forward in Wireless LAN technology. But… there are a couple of questions that come to mind based on all this hype going on. Perhaps a minute or two to answer the following questions will put a bit of a reality check back into the .11ac discussion.

  1. Do you believe WLAN Vendors are sharing with you everything they know about .11ac technology? Both today & near future?
  2. Does your current WLAN Vendor’s – ‘Band Steering’ solution work properly in your environment?
  3. Do you already have a preponderance of 5GHz-capable clients?
  4. Is your wired infrastructure verified and tested to support .11ac speeds?
  5. Are you currently running 5GHz 20MHz channels for a reason? Do you want to/can move to 40MHz or even 80MHz?
  6. Do you need the increased aggregate high-density capacity to meet an unfilled need in your WLAN requirements?
  7. Does your current WLAN Vendor’s – ‘AirTime Fairness’ solution work properly in your environment today?
  8. Are your current AP’s ‘End of Life’ from your Vendor? Is ongoing support available?
  9. Can your WLAN work within the constraints on encrypted clients and minimal CPU power in current .11ac AP chipsets?
  10. Do you need the additional ‘horsepower’ and efficiencies that come with newer, updated .11ac chipsets?
  11. Do you need the Higher Peak Data rates afforded to those .11ac clients that support it?
  12. Do you know HOW to design for .11ac? Compared with .11n or legacy WLANs – what different design constraints will you have?
  13. Have you already removed all ‘Legacy’ devices (.11agb) from your WLAN?
  14. Do you like paying a extra premium for the ‘new’ness of .11ac?
  15. Do you have Gig switches w/support PoE 802.3at? Is your cabling infrastructure gig-ready? Is your distribution layer ready?
  16. Are you currently running .11agb only Access Points and need to upgrade? Would .11n AP’s meet your WLAN requirements?
  17. How do you cable for .11ac? One or two cables? Cat5e? Cat6a? Cat7? It is going to be a problem.
  18. Is your current .11n WLAN running at full capacity now?
  19. Do you want to return to using USB as your Wi-Fi NIC of choice? Are .11ac USB NICs up to enterprise standards?
  20. Are their options for integrated .11ac clients in your user-base of laptops, smartphones, or tablets?
  21. Have there been any independent tests of Enterprise .11ac Access Points to do adequate comparisons on capabilities yet?
  22. Does your Wireless NMS/Controller have adequate abilities to track and manage .11ac features and functions?
  23. Do you have the ability to use 80MHz channels in your infrastructure without causing more issues? (check channel plan options)
  24. Do you have a decent .11ac client base to use all these new features?
  25. Do your WLAN Professional tools support .11ac for design, validation, or troubleshooting? If not now, when?