How 802.11ac and Air Travel Can Improve Your School Wireless Network
International travel in and of itself is rather tricky. We’ve all been there. Imagine you’re at the airport, you’ve gotten there about an hour or so before your flight, mostly because that’s what everyone has told you to do.
You wait in your first line of the day, checking your one bag that costs around $25 dollars (that’s another story). Once checked in, your off to the second line of the day, this one is even worse than the last.
Your standing there, no shoes on, frustrated because some less “frequent fliers” are holding up the line because they used 10 grey bins more than anyone needs.
Once you get to your gate you check your email and make a few calls before you board, never once thinking about your wi-fi connection. After the third and final line of the day you make it to your seat and realize you can use your 802.11ac-enabled device on the flight.
That’s right, many major airlines now allow your devices to be enabled during flight, they even provide you with a (sometimes) free wi-fi connection. Now by the time you land all of the business you were dreading to have to get caught up with would already be done, your a hero!
But, what do you actually get for being on top of the "gadget game" and the first in your subdivision to own that new device with the oversized screen and 802.11ac connectivity? Not much, once you and that device leave the Continental United States.
Our perspective may be a bit ahead of your average consumer as we cruise at 37,000 feet over International waters. That's because we have a pretty good view of the wireless device marketplace. Where the industry has been and where we project things will be heading as it relates to you and the new wireless device you'll be carrying.
802.11ac is the new standard in wireless connectivity, having been recently ratified by the IEEE at the beginning of 2014. Apple was the first to release a client, or device if you prefer, with 802.11ac chipsets to the market. As usual, Apple was ahead of the game, but many other manufacturers are now marketing their devices with the new 802.11ac chipsets.
Average consumers are generally zombified by the corporate marketing machines and therefore decide to camp out in front of large box retailers and bum-rush the counters of the local malls to pick up the latest, greatest, newest, most hip gadget the first day of release.
This wasn't necessarily true when Apple released the first 802.11ac-enabled device (a small, lightweight laptop) and industry analysts believe that was due to the steep price tag.
Larger assortments of devices with the new 802.11ac chipsets mean that prices will start declining, as supply moves to meet the consumer demand. OK, cool, so now is the time to grab that new device that is 802.11ac-enabled, right?
Well, we can just move to answer our own loaded question. The answer is, it depends.
Wireless LAN industry experts seem to have different views on which device is best at providing the new 802.11ac connectivity.
One point they might actually ALL agree on is that 802.11ac is a great feature to have along with your next device, but it's useless without the infrastructure to support the increased wireless speed.
For example, this airline? No 802.11ac connectivity. But that's cool, because we're over International waters where currently there is no data connection anyways. A better example would be a school, which hosts hundreds or thousands of students on a daily basis.
The wireless infrastructure doesn't leave the school building, iPads, Androids or other wireless devices (assuming student-owned devices or 1:1 device assigned to students) do go home at the end of the day.
BYOD or any educational facility programs will have to scale up their wireless infrastructure to support the exponential proliferation of wireless devices onto their wireless networks.This is where 802.11ac connectivity really comes into play and provides a true end user benefit.
Remember, the benefits of 802.11ac connectivity can not be realized without both transmitting AND receiving capabilities at the 802.11ac level.
That means, the wireless network must provide the option of 802.11ac connectivity, along with the end user accessing the school wireless network with a device built with 802.11ac chipsets.
For a lot of school decision makers this is where the challenge comes in. With technology advancing so rapidly, schools, in order to take advantage of these new developments must constantly try to match their infrastructure to the latest devices capabilities in order to ensure that they are maximizing the new technologies potential. In this case 802.11ac devices to 802.11ac networks.
Dealing With budgets and usually long timelines, this requires proper planning and a “mobility solution” that is designed for not only today but with tomorrow’s upgrades in mind.
Fortunately, school’s that are already utilizing 802.11n wireless networks can take advantage of the new 802.11ac technology by mixing the two. That’s right, 802.11ac is backwards compatible with 802.11n. I suggest reading “Can You Mix 802.11ac Access Points with 802.11n Wireless” for more information regarding mixing 802.11ac with 802.11n.
So, when traveling with that brand new 802.11ac device, domestically or internationally, maintain your patience and a sense of decorum because not everyone is up to date on providing you the lightning-fast wireless connectivity you so desperately seek. The good news is that there are solutions providers out there that are making the 802.11ac recommendation and even traveling across big blue oceans to make sure consumers are aware of the benefits.
Daryl is a Territory Manager at SecurEdge Networks. His love for wireless and security is only rivaled by his love for basketball, if only he was a foot taller…