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What Does My Wi-Fi Network Need to Properly Support 802.11ac?  6 Critical Components

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What Does My Wi-Fi Network Need to Properly Support 802.11ac?  6 Critical Components

Wouldn't it be great if you could just buy a bunch of wave 2 802.11ac access points, install them and call it a day? Yes, it would, but unfortunately to get the boost in performance and reliability there's a lot more to it than this pipe dream (no, that's not a bandwidth joke).

The Wi-Fi performance benefits from making the switch to AC are real, and to have a chance of even getting close to seeing those results means taking a look at several other components on your network besides the access points themselves.

To help your business successfully upgrade, here are 6 components that will make sure your network can properly support 802.11ac from day one.

1. Gigabit Capacity at the Edge

Your wired infrastructure, i.e. your switching, will need to be able to keep up with the increased performance 802.11ac access points can now deliver to your client devices out at the edge of your network. 

What this really means is that for most environments, 10/100 ports will become a performance bottleneck on your network when upgrading to 11ac APs. 

Depending on your specific environment it’s recommended that you have 1-10 Gb from the distribution layer out to the edge. 

It’s important that when you’re making any upgrades to your access points that you also consider all of the other components on your network to ensure they can support the change, including your wired components.

 2. 10Gb at the Core

Again, this is a best practices recommendation and ultimately it comes down to how much traffic your network is supporting. 

In addition, if you’re experiencing a lot of heavy traffic you’ll want the ability to aggregate links through an Ether Channel if needed. 

This is where we can take multiple uplinks and bond them together to get 1, 2, even 4 Gb links. 

This gives you both redundancy, if a fiber pair gets cut or broken, as well as more bandwidth to get back to the core of the network.

 3. PoE+ Capability

This is a pretty basic standard but your edge switching will need to support PoE+ so you can make sure you can properly drive your new access points.

4. Optimized for the 5Ghz Spectrum

Make sure your RF design has been designed for the 5Ghz spectrum. This is critical to ensure you’re getting the performance benefits from your ac access points. You’ll still be able to support the 2.4Ghz spectrum of course, but you’ll notice on this band that your wifi performance won’t be nearly as robust.

5. Network Management System

Wireless networks are dynamic and need constant monitoring to maintain optimal wifi performance levels. 

In order to do this efficiently you’ll need the ability to integrate your access points with a centralized management platform or network management system. 

This will allow you to collect real-time data and usage analytics and turn this data into actionable insights that you can use to speed up troubleshooting, visualize RF heat maps in real-time and prevent performance problems before they happen.

6. Update your WLAN Design to accommodate 802.11ac

Unfortunately, this is a mistake we’ve seen time and time again, before you deploy you have to address your current WLAN design to determine what impact your upgrades will have. 

You can’t just switch out your legacy access points for the latest standards and expect to see an increase in performance.

Suggested Reading: So My Wireless Network Needs a Refresh, Now What? 

With higher performing APs, the number and placement of those access points will most likely need adjusting. Overlook this and you’ll not only run into performance issues but also some not so pleasant financial issues as well.

Check out this quick video to learn even more about what impacts 802.11ac capacity.

Which Wave is Right for My Network, Wave 1 or Wave 2?

As you may know there are currently two waves of 802.11ac products available.

Both waves come with big improvements in comparison to the legacy products they replaced. 

When making the decisions as to which wave you should implement the answer depends on your exact requirements, however, if possible going with Wave 2 would be the optimal choice in terms of scalability, reliability and yes, performance.

As always, when it’s time to upgrade your access points partnering with an experienced and certified wireless service provider is the best way to make sure you successfully navigate the Wi-Fi engineering process.

Watch this quick video explaining what the Wi-Fi engineering process is:

At SecurEdge Networks, we create affordable, robust, secure, and easy to support wireless network platforms--it's all we do. If you have any questions about upgrading to 802.11ac, or would like to discuss an upcoming project, please contact us here today.

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