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802.11ac Roll Out: Wave 1 vs Wave 2

Companies and individuals are always going to push wireless networks to their limit. Especially in an enterprise setting, being able to conduct video conferences alongside white board sessions is simply good business logic. But WLAN specs haven’t gotten most companies there yet because the systems haven’t caught up to the potential uses. Enter 802.11ac Wave 2. Wave 1 was released last year and while it simply provided an updated and improved version over 802.11n, it’s Wave 2 that people are excited about.

In fact, many companies decided that they would make due with their current systems until Wave 2 was released. The hope is that 802.11ac networks are finally going to hit numbers like 7G, or even as much as 10Gbps of bandwidth. That means video and multiple streams at once. It also means more and better devices, which is both good and bad news. It’s good news that more devices will be able to use Wi-Fi networks, it’s bad news because businesses may need to invest in a whole new set of devices for the office alongside their investment in 802.11ac.

Planning for 802.11ac

If your office is thinking of moving to 802.11ac, waiting for Wave 2 isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But you should talk to your budgeting office about it. The fact is that the upgrade to Wave 1 isn’t terribly expensive if you’re already using 802.11n. The increase is manageable. But the devices and investment are going to start to add up over time and it may make sense to plan out not only the roll out of both Wave 1 and Wave 2, but also the spending on the gear that this system can handle.

For example, older devices are going to operate on the 2.4GHz frequency used for 802.11n and the first 802.11ac. But with Wave 2 devices, we’re going to see a shift towards 5GHz frequency, a clear improvement and something worth investing in. In addition, you should conduct a thorough and proper site planning survey, checking access points and positioning in order to get it set up right the first time.

Wave 1 has gone well for most early adopters and there’s no reason to wait. However, plenty of people are simply going to go for the whole package and get Wave 2 because that’s where they’ll end up eventually anyway. Like all hardware and software changes, it can be hard to spend so much on the latest tech just to see it replaced in a few years. But better is still better and Wave 2 is definitely worth it.

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