802.11ac Is A Big Fat Pack of Lies

We’ve been hoodwinked. They snookered us. The wool has done been pulled over our eyes. Ah yes, the snake oil convention came to town, and we all went in the big tent and bought us some. But who could blame us for getting all sparkly-eyed when you breathe in the aroma of those fat numbers promised by 802.11ac? It’s intoxicating stuff, this getting-ever-faster Wi-Fi. But alas… it’s also fraudulent promises, broken hearts, and “Ha! Made you look!” all put in a shit sandwich that we’re willingly nibbling on.

OK- so maybe it’s not quite that bad. But it’s safe to say that with 802.11ac, and even 802.11n, the standards-authors are writing certain checks that the Bank of Reality just can’t cash, despite the giddy marketing folks’ best efforts to convince us otherwise.

Have I bummed you out yet? You might be wondering what could put an upbeat, good-looking fella like myself in this sort of funk. Well, I’ll tell you what sir (or madame)… I just read me an excellent- and I mean excellent- whitepaper from the very smart folks at 7signal, titled 802.11ac Migration: Real World Best Practices. I should have saw what was coming with the subtitle “Learn what vendors won’t tell about 11ac performance in real-world deployments”. Here’s the kicker: there’s nothing really new here, per se. But the cold hard facts of what a given standard “supports” versus what reality allows are presented extremely eloquently in this document. Ideally, it would be required reading for WLAN vendor marketing departments and technical managers and execs not familiar with such things.

7sigpaper
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Download here)

I won’t give it all away, but here are a few teases:

  • We never did get to the top-end of 802.11n’s promised 600 Mbps data rates, and it’s highly doubtful we’ll recognize 11ac’s hyped 6.7 Gbps either
  • 256 QAM is awesome- if you’re standing close to an AP or have one in your pocket
  • Channel bonding is the stuff of high data rates… but you’re probably expecting too much out of this feature
  • Despite rapid adoption of 11ac, what we’ll see out of it in terms of big, impressive performance numbers will be a mere fraction of what hype tells us to expect
  • There are several other depressing little nuggets

Get the document, read it, and share it. It really is well written and injects a needed dose of reality to the 11ac buzz.

At the same time, don’t be as pissy as I’m making myself out to be in this blog (I’m a writer, and this is called creative license for those of you watching at home). 11ac is still moving the Wi-Fi cheese deeper into the 5 GHz spectrum, which is a huge gain for the greater wireless good. And…we’re still getting better rate-over-range with 11ac versus 11n, and with Ruckus breaking the ice on Wave 2, we’re getting into 4×4 APs with MU-MIMO (though 7signal deflates the MU-MIMO bluster a bit as well in the whitepaper). 

So maybe 11ac isn’t really a big fat pack of lies… perhaps it’s more like a series of Brian Williams-style “embellishments”.  But the truth here does matter for managing expectations, and that’s the point of 7signal’s excellent document.

5 thoughts on “802.11ac Is A Big Fat Pack of Lies

  1. Pingback: 14 Exciting WiFi Articles - Steve Williams GroupSteve Williams Group

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