What to Expect from Wave 2 of 802.11ac

Nate explains what to expect from Wave 2 of wireless standard 802.11ac, delving into throughput capabilities, multi-user MIMO considerations, PoE+ requirements, and the possible choke point at 6.8G.


Hi, I'm Nate, and today we're going to be talking about 802.11ac, specifically Wave 2. For the past 2 years, there have been many people who have accepted the challenge to advance to 802.11ac, Wave 1, but we also have a fair number of customers who don't even know there is a Wave 1 versus a Wave 2 or what have you. Then of course, a large group of customers who haven't fully adopted it yet. How does Wave 2, which is coming soon, they say 2015, so sometime this year, how does it differ from Wave 1? What can you expect?

We see some of the numbers that I have posted here. This is probably the most noticeable change, is the large leap forward in throughput. 1.3 Gigs kind of made Wave 1 viable in the sense of replacing our wired to the desktop communication, but 6.8 Gigs? Now we're talking a large leap forward. Right off the bat we have that bandwidth as a consideration, but there are also some other things that we need to think about before we make that jump to Wave 2, let alone the jump to Wave 1.

One of the other things outside of this is something called MU-MIMO, or MIMO or however you want to pronounce it. What is that? M-U-M-I-M-O, so it stands for Multi-User, Multi-in, Multi-Out. That's a lot of multis, right? Basically what it stands for is in traditional wireless, if we go back to Wave 1 or even Wireless N and before that, everything was on a per user, per client basis, so the AP would take turns communicating with each and every individual client.

With this multi-user, you can do up to four clients at at time, so it sort of segments that traffic, much in the way a switch does. No longer do you have those users who are maybe downloading Netflix or Hulu or whatever, sucking down all your bandwidth and then making it kind of crappy for the rest of us, but you now have the ability to have these four clients separated into almost their own little groups where if you're not attached to one of those clients, you'll have better bandwidth than you would normally. Especially in a very dense environment, we're going to see this is going to increase the efficiency of wireless tremendously. Now, you couple that with the expanded bandwidth and you can see why a lot of people are excited for Wave 2.

Requirements. Of course with anything, everything has a price, right? Requirements right off the bat, PoE+. We kind of got away with the whole PoE requirement thing. Moving into Wireless N, it was looking like we were going to have to go PoE+, we didn't, thankfully. Going into AC, it was looking like we might have to go PoE+, we don't entirely, and it does depend on the product, but we're already starting to see that yes, there are many ACAPs that do require it. Wave 2, absolutely going to have to have it. PoE+, that is a consideration.

Fortunately, a lot of the switches that are coming out anymore, it's kind of a standard, but in many environments, who haven't made that large infrastructure change or the edge switch change, this is going to be a big deal. 6.8 Gigs, awesome, right? But how are you going to get from your AP in the ceiling, 6.8 Gigs back to your switch in the closet? It's going to be difficult, so we're going to have to mitigate some of these changes.

Is it going to be a choke point? Probably almost definitely. But are there ways that we can mitigate that? Yes. Some people are doing things like multiple drops to their APs and such, but then that gets into the whole cabling, cost, is it worth it? How can we deal with these requirements or the things going forward? We'll address in a future series video, but for now I just wanted to make sure that everyone was more than aware of Wave 2 is going to bring to us in the good, and then also what was going to be the price we're going to have to pay. Hopefully this was helpful for you.