WiFi Networks – 802.11AC

March 27, 2014

WiFi Networks were predominantly used by people with laptop computers just a few years ago. Now, people of all ages from 2 to 102 use laptops, plus tablets, ipads, ipods, smart phones and other hand held devices sending more and more data traffic across WiFi networks. As a result, the usage of WiFi networks has grown exponentially.
As data traffic increased, the WiFi systems supporting that traffic increased the bandwidth and throughput to respond to the expanding need. In 15 years, we have migrated from 11 Mbps 802.11b (1999) to 54 Mbps 802.11a (1999), to 802.11g (2003), then to 300/450 Mbps 802.11n (2009) and most recently available, to 1,300+ Mbps 802.11AC (January 2014).
The need for speed is ever-growing, so whether for a new installation or an upgrade, installing the fastest/latest system is definitely a smart decision, especially considering history shows an ever expanding need for speed, and recognizing that your next upgrade is many years out.
Meet the new 802.11AC HSIA System
  • Speed – 3 times (and potentially significantly more) faster than the latest current systems – 802.11n.
  • Capacity – delivers more data to more devices simultaneously than 802.11n and all predecessors.
  • Frequency – Wi-Fi Frequency Band 5.0 GHz, with WAPs typically supporting 2.4 GHz band as well to accommodate client devices using that band.
  • Time Savings – Saves waiting time on large downloads.
  • Overall Experience – Improves experience watching streaming content such as videos.
Let’s consider the decision to migrate to 802.11AC in a hotel, although this migration is true for and can be implemented in any commercial environment.
The hotel had WAPs (Wireless Access Points) installed one per every twelve rooms and there was no wired internet.
Management constantly received bitter complains from the guests. The internet was often slow, connections were dropping and hand-held devices had spotty coverage. The hotel management was also acutely aware that they were losing some clientele who were required to have wired connections by their employers (security issues). During times when the hotel’s ISP circuit connection was lost (even for a short time), the front desk was bombarded with phone calls about internet connections being dead.
Negative reviews regarding the internet trouble started to appear on their rating web site  which fueled the turn for the worst. Perhaps worst of all is that the kids pushed parents to move to one of the hotel’s competitors, where Wi-Fi coverage for their ipads/ipods and tablets was better according to on-line reviews.
The hotel, which had  been thriving in the recent past, started to struggle. Management decided to hire a knowledgeable and trustworthy technology consultant company to help their plight.
After performing their due diligence, the consultants came up with recommendations:
  1. Place dual-band (5.0/2.4 GHz) 802.11AC WAP for every four rooms. Though AC standard operate at 5 GHZ band only, 2.4 GHz band will be covered for client devices operating in that band.
  2. Wire each WAP with two Category 6A (capable of 10 Gbps each) cables. One cable will be supporting current needs and second will be there to support future ever-growing need and help avoid re-cabling several years from now.
  3. Install hardwired internet in the guestrooms on the first floor where the ceilings are high and pathways are more open as the upper floors only feature narrow soffits in the hallways.
  4. Install second Internet circuit with the different ISP and connect them with load balancer, so if one circuit goes down, there still will be internet in the building. This also provides for higher bandwidth which improves the connection speed.
The plan was approved and funded. The cabling vendor installed the cabling, HSIA vendor installed new equipment, and an alternate ISP installed the circuit. Finally, the system was commissioned and turned operational.
The results of correcting the inadequate WiFi coverage were seen quickly. Guests were now happy, occupancy rates increased, the hotel started to see higher average per room charges, and the bottom line started to outshine even their best prior days. The new internet system paid for itself in just a few months. Clearly, the Hotel made a right decision.
Evaluating the hotel’s customer satisfaction and guest experience as recently as 2 decades ago did not have to consider WiFi. However, a hotel operating in 2014 is largely dependent on the quality of its WiFi networks. Many if not most families will not choose a hotel if the internet service is perceived to be inadequate. This is certainly true for groups who will not return to a hotel with poor WiFi coverage.
Installing an HSIA system that can handle increasing demand is no longer a ‘nice-to-have’ consideration for any new commercial project.   And depending on the needs of the facility or campus, and the age of the current infrastructure, it may be time to evaluate the existing HSIA system.
The time to consider the newest 802.11AC system is here for any new project.  NTI can help with that. And if the existing system is 5 or more years old, the best news may be that the solution is far less painful than many may think, and as the above case study shows, the benefits are well worth the effort.
 by Ilya Rapoport, PMP, RCDD/NTS

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