11ac- Unintentional Noise

The WLAN Industry is a curious beast. A significant part of  this kind of networking is invisible with wildly variable data rates based on a slew of influencing factors. This makes Wi-Fi a great place to be in marketing, as there’s very little that will be patently, technically false in even the silliest of product boasts. But the WLAN moving target also makes for some difficult conversations between the Smart People of Industry and those of us that just want to know where things stand- and where we stand.

Add the complexities of 802.11ac to the mix, and the last couple of sentences that you just read get amplified by an order of magnitude.  

Which brings me to my point. Now, even as 802.11ac is starting to get deployed in real wireless networks with real 11ac client devices, there still is no clear message from the WLAN industry on how to cable for 11ac, or what the “real” expected throughput for 11ac will be through Wave 2.

The confusion arguably is of little concern to smaller WLANs that get popped up in places where cable lengths are measured in tens of feet and adding another run to what little might be in place is no big deal. But many of us have big WLANs with thousands of APs in challenging buildings where altering the cable plant can be daunting, because of pathway sizing, asbestos concerns, required low-voltage permits and other red-tape hurdles that are more political than technical. We don’t have the luxury of guessing what’s right, and adjusting later and yes- we have to plan well in advance for Wave 2.

It would be nice if the WLAN industry would throw us a bone. I have the utmost respect for the companies and folks I’m about to mention, but I don’t think those on the WLAN provider side of life understand how utterly confusing their messages still are on the simple question “how do we prepare for 802.11ac?“.

These folks are the best in the industry, and they are also seriously contradicting each other.Image

Source is here.

Then there’s this:

Image

from this page.

There’s also this nuanced message:

Image

Are you starting to see the confusion? What are customers supposed to believe? Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols got the message of two Ehernet cables per AP (bullet point 5), and Michael F. Finneran also figured “probably two 1 Gbps Ethernet connections to each access point.” There’s a lot of this going around. Why is this is so hard to properly nail down, as an industry? 

I personally railed against the notion of sticking the customer with the burden of dual-UTP runs per AP and any Etherchannel requirements that might go with them, and my friend Kieth Parsons has shared that Aruba Networks has mentioned the very type of switch I was dreaming of at their AirHeads Conference:Image
I read this as Aruba Networks expecting that bandwidth beyond 1 GB will be needed in Wave 2.

But enough of this. If you do own your own searching or talk to enough people in the WLAN industry, you’ll see the same mixed signals on how to do the simple act of cabling for an access point that will eventually do or be swapped out for 802.11ac. Everyone is trying to figure it out, and is sincerely offering their experienced opinion and analysis with the best of intention. Yet, we don’t have consensus, and the customer is left scratching their head. If the “right” answer is “it depends on the situation, so you figure it out”, that’s OK, but that’s not what we’re hearing often times. (And when more than 1 Gig is expected, I personally still want to do that on a single cable.)

For an industry that counts noise as it’s arch-enemy in the RF domain, we sure have enough of it on the topic of expected bandwidth requirements and cabling for 802.11ac. How did the standard get out of the gate with this big of a loose end dangling? And how long can something this unclear go on?

10 thoughts on “11ac- Unintentional Noise

  1. Dave

    Running a second drop in an existing building is usually not a trivial exercise. Maybe gartner were early out of the gate with their magic quadrant ? (Doubt it…)

    Reply
    1. wirednot Post author

      agreed, some buildings of recent vintage that were designed right can be very accommodating- others no so much.As for Gartner, I think they were either being lazy or sold out.

      Reply
  2. Frank

    I’d love to see any more references to that 2.5 GbE referenced on the Aruba slide, since a quick google search didn’t turn up anything. Anyone have any public references they can share?

    Reply
    1. wirednot Post author

      Whoops, now I see the question. I know that whatever 2.5 GBE amounts to, its certainly not an existing 802.3 standard. I also would guess that if Aruba has it on the roadmap, other vendors will too.

      Reply
  3. xyro

    Wow guys… do you really know what you’re talking about? Who cares how many bandwidth we can get on 802.11ac? It can be 1Gbps, 2Gbps or even 10Gbps… but let me ask, what is the speed of your WAN link? 10Mpbs? 100Mpbs… 1Gbps?

    Reply
    1. wirednot Post author

      xyro, my environment’s ISP connection (I’m guess that’s what you are referring to when you mention WAN link) is two 5 GBbps connections. In small businesses and hotspot environments, your snarkily delivered point may have merit. But in real WLANs, where Wi-Fi is displacing Ethernet, you may have hundreds or thousands of full-blown wireless Active Directory machines connecting to local AD resources, as one example of why we care beyond what the ISP link amounts to. In these sorts of environments, we certainly do care “how many bandwidth we can get on 802.11ac”.

      Thanks for the comment

      Reply
  4. xyro

    Cool! But 5Gbps from two ISPs does not mean that you can server only 10 x 802.11ac clients 🙂
    I can understand why these folks like M.Gast , M.Burton talks that existing infrastructure can’t serve 802.11ac… No one really needs such a high speeds ( at the moment we don’t use wireless in the Datacenter).

    Also, 2 x 1Gig Ethernet connections looks ridiculous. Just use Cat6E or Cat7 cables, they are capable of 10Gbps 😉

    Reply
  5. xyro

    Cool! But 5Gbps from two ISPs does not mean that you can serve only 10 x 802.11ac clients 🙂
    I can’t understand why these folks like M.Gast , M.Burton talks that existing infrastructure can’t serve 802.11ac… No one really needs such a high speeds ( at the moment we don’t use wireless in the Datacenter).

    Also, 2 x 1Gig Ethernet connections looks ridiculous. Just use Cat6E or Cat7 cables, they are capable of 10Gbps 😉

    Reply
  6. Frank

    Also keep in mind that wifi is shared between all associated clients. 1 Gbps of actual throughput (with all top end clients, on a good day, with the window blowing right…) may seem more than adequate for a single client. However, when you’ve got a fully packed lecture hall with 50 students per AP all trying to stream the same Youtube clip for their lecture, all of a sudden you’re down to something more like 20 Mbps per client – not nearly so excessive.

    Reply

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