Everybody’s talking about 802.11ac, but we’ve sensed some confusion for next steps as far as how CIO’s and IT organizations should be approaching the new standard.

3700internal2Should I move to 802.11ac?

You’re probably thinking: Chris, you’re a leader at Cisco, of course you want me to migrate to 802.11ac. That, my friends, is where you are wrong. There is no simple answer to the question of whether you should move your network to 802.11ac. Here’s my simple rule of thumb:

There is no premium for 802.11ac from Cisco. If you are deploying new Access Points’s today, you should be buying 802.11ac. If you’re not buying, you are probably satisfied with your network and how it will handle the growth of more and more clients associating with your network and the bandwidth demands that come with that client demand. If you feel you have a plan to handle this demand, then you are one of the few that can pass on 802.11ac.

That said, there is a strong ramp up for Cisco 802.11ac products in the market, the AP3700 is the fastest ramping access point in our history and we have yet to see if the AP2700 will claim that crown in the coming months. ABI Research estimates that currently 50% of new device introductions are 802.11ac enabled, a statistic expected to increase to 75% by the end of 2015.  This is enough proof of the overwhelming interest in adding the benefits of 11ac to networks. Let’s take a step back and consider the basics of why people are moving to the new standard.

Why .11ac?

Today, everything is about getting what we want, when we want it. Instant gratification. It’s not just the millennials—we’ve all been conditioned to expect things within seconds. Could you imagine the days pre-Internet if you had the capability for on-demand movies? The speed of the network has enabled our ability to watch any program we want, anytime we want and long gone are the days of browsing your local video store on a Friday night looking for the newest release on DVD (or even VHS!). That’s what I thought. It’s all about the speed. 802.11ac is synonymous with gigabit Wi-Fi. 802.11ac is 3x faster than 802.11n and with Cisco’s HDX Technology, we have demonstrated that we can service 60 clients per AP and still provide a robust 236 Mbps, while maintaining consistent throughput to each client.  These are the main customer priorities we’re seeing drive the uptake of 11ac:

Preparing for the Influx of New Clients

As much as 802.11ac is about bringing speeds and feeds to the network, the whole industry is adapting to the new standard. We’re all standing witness to the rapid growth in 802.11ac clients: laptops, MacBooks, smartphones. And with these 11ac capable devices coming onto the network, I expect that in the next year we’re going to see a lot more of our customers expressing that their end-users are expecting the speeds to catch up with their devices.

Opting for High Density Performance

It’s not just a game of catch up—802.11ac also offers better spectral efficiency which will allow clients to get in and out of the air for optimized usage of precious RF. These benefits combined will lay out a significantly better network experience even for a legacy client.

High Density is the New Normal

Education is an early adopter of technology, but they’re not alone when it comes to verticals feeling the pressures of high density environments. Enterprises from hospitality to healthcare, from airports to shopping malls are seeing the compounding of devices. All these devices sharing the network risks compromising performance if the network doesn’t adapt to support them.

Delight Your End-Users

It’s a consumer-centric world these days, and we’re hearing from customers across verticals that user experience is a top priority. I think you can all agree that an unhappy user can make life hell for IT. In addition to faster speed for that instant gratification and spectral optimization, moving to gigabit Wi-Fi will keep your end-users happy with improved battery life, resulting in savings for end client/devices by more than 10%.

Why Cisco for 11ac?

What solution should you pick for 11ac that will help you address all those challenges? It’s not just the fact that we are the industry leader having grown unit and revenue share in each quarter of shipping a 11ac product— Per Dell’Oro’s Q1CY14 WLAN report, Cisco’s revenue share of the fast growing 802.11ac segment was 55.6%, up 5.7 points Q/Q. The next closest vendor was at 19.9%, down 2.1% Q/Q.  No one tops Cisco for quality for scalability and performance.

  • Only Cisco dedicates the R&D required for built-for-purpose 11ac AP’s, meaning the hardware is built to deliver performance at scale. My friend Walt goes into this in depth in his blog on how not all 802.11ac AP’s are created equal.
  • Only Cisco has your best interest in mind, with modular access points for future proofing and investment protection. We make it easy for customers with a relatively new 11n deployment to level up to 11ac in select high density areas. If you’re thinking of waiting to wave 2, we have you covered. This portfolio includes:
  • Only Cisco has designed a full technology suite called High Density Experience (HDX) and it is packed with features to specifically target challenges in high density environments for our customers. These performance enhancing features are built into the AP2700 and AP3700, including (click on each feature link for technical deep dive blog):
  • Only Cisco has a full spectrum of offerings with the broadest 11ac portfolio in the industry to accommodate for customer requirements and deployment sizes:

Don’t believe me? Listen to one of our happy customers:

When talking about the upgrade of his network from 802.11n to Cisco’s 3700 AP with 802.11ac, Tim Peltz, the Director of Information Systems for the Racine Unified School District in Wisconsin said, “The feedback I’ve received from staff and students is that it’s like they’re on the fastest Internet connection they’ve ever seen. These things are like night and day.”

Are you planning for 802.11ac? Tell us how you’re using or planning to use all the new benefits of the latest wireless standard.

For more on Cisco’s 802.11ac solutions, visit www.cisco.com/go/80211ac