By PowerBuy // 8 May 2015 // Related Categories: Tips

Upgrading WiFi standards is a bit like improving athletic performance – the goal is to go further and faster. In January 2014, WiFi technology achieved the equivalent of a new world record in the 800-metre sprint with the approval of 802.11ac – a wireless networking standard that promises speeds up to three times faster than its predecessor, 802.11n, as well as increased range and improved security.

You’ll find that 802.11ac is supported by almost every major smartphone, laptop, desktop computer, and smart device – but is your office taking full advantage of its potential? Read on to learn more about the benefits of 802.11ac and how you can make sure your business is ready for it.

The need for speed

Five years passed between the development of 802.11n in 2009 and the announcement of its successor, and the superior speed of the latter is testament to how much technology advanced has even in that short time. The new technology is theoretically capable of transmitting 1,300 megabits per second (Mbps) – that’s three times faster than the 450Mbps offered by 802.11n. In practice, the maximum operating speeds tend to be closer to 720Mbps for 802.11ac versus 240Mbps for 802.11ac – which is a tripling of speed.

Seeing through walls

The older standard used both the 5GHz and 2.4GHz bands, but 802.11ac operates primarily in the 5GHz range. Put simply, higher bands are quicker, while lower bands travel further. If this seems like a potential disadvantage, bear in mind that the 2.4GHz range is crowded with everything from mobile phone transmissions to home microwave radiation. This means 802.11ac offers a clearer signal with little interference. To make up for its absence in the longer-travelling lower bands, 802.11ac incorporates a new technology called ‘beamforming’. Ordinarily, a WiFi router distributes its signal indiscriminately in all directions, much like a rotating garden sprinkler. With beamforming, however, the router can locate mobile devices in your home or office and increase its output in their direction. As a result, 802.11ac provides up to 10 times better performance than 802.11n over long distances.

Are you ready?

Nasser Tarazi, Product Manager for the Cisco Small Business Wireless Access Points, says that 802.11ac is 30 percent more power-efficient on mobile devices, and it will be enabled on more than 70 percent of them by 2016. The benefits of using 802.11ac are clear – but what does it mean for you?

Firstly, you must ensure that your hardware, including routers and computers, are 802.11ac enabled. You’ll need two Gigabit Ethernet ports for each 802.11ac access point, which may mean doubling the number of switch ports (and cables) in your office. The good news is that 802.11ac devices are fully backwards compatible, which means that you’ll be able to take them wherever you like and still use WiFi.

A simple solution is to deploy a wireless access point custom-built for small businesses looking to upgrade to 802.11ac. Cisco’s WAP371, for example, offers robust security and single point setup, taking the hassle out of the upgrade process. So why not accelerate your business today?

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