Are you thinking of upgrading your wireless network to the latest IEEE ratified release of alphabet soup?  (Designed to make your head spin on how fast your end users can complete their jobs and other responsibilities.)  In this article, you will discover some of the mines and other underwater obstacles to be aware of when upgrading your WIFI. 

A wireless network is only as fast as the underlying wired network 

Some readers may find this to be an obvious statement, but it must be mentioned.  Logic tells us, any time you want to add or augment services on your network, the impact of those changes needs to be evaluated beforehand. 

The IEEE 802.11ax standard allows for wireless speeds of upward of 6Gbps.  Actual realized speeds all depend on the wireless vendor and options you are considering.  The double-edged sword here is you have essentially moved your bottleneck from the wireless access point to the wired network.  The solution is to leverage multi-gigabit Ethernet, but this has its own caveats since 2.5/5 Gbps is supported up to 100 meters on Cat 5e/6 and 10 Gbps is supported up to 100 meters on Cat 6a. 

Now that you have completed your site survey to determine where your APs are going, wiring project to get the 6a copper to the APs, and installed new multi-gigabit Ethernet access switches in your closets, you can start banging away on your access point installations, right?  OOPS, we almost forgot the uplinks to your distribution layer/core!  With all the added bandwidth on your APs connecting to your access switches, you may as well be plugging into a toaster if your uplinks are not up to the challenge.  You will certainly need at least multiple 10 Gigabit or even better, 40 Gigabit uplinks.  Core switch(es) need a refresh? 

5GHz – the wave of the future . . . as long as the FCC keeps giving us more channels 

One of the awesome things about 802.11ax and its immediate predecessor 802.11ac wave 2, is we can have channel widths of up to 160 MHz!  Imagine all the data you can push with that kind of superhighway.  The caveat here is, there are only 2 available 160MHz channels at the time of writing with more coming as soon as the FCC says we can start utilizing them.  We thought 2.4 GHz’s 3 non-overlapping channels were bad? 

What do we want?  Efficiency!  When do we want it?  Now!

Ok, so super huge channel widths are not yet feasible in most use cases–now what?  Depending on the goals for your wireless project, 20/40/80MHz wide channels are obviously still options and you can gain big performance enhancements over previous iterations of 802.11.  With 802.11ac wave 2, we gain enhancements such as Multi-user MIMO (multiple-input/multi-output) and an additional spacial stream.  With 802.11ax, we still utilize MU-MIMO, but we get a lot more efficiency through: 

  • OFDMA, a more effective way of packaging traffic 
  • BSS Coloring, an RF optimizer 
  • 1024 QAM, the latest modulation scheme (compared to 256 QAM in 802.11ac)   
  • Target Wake Time to improve device battery time by essentially allowing devices to take a nap 
  • A return to utilizing the 2.4 GHz band which would have all the efficiencies outlined above, but would have specific use cases, such as hooking up your washer and dryer on your WIFI 

Please keep in mind that in order to take advantage of 802.11ax or 802.11ac wave 2 technologies, both the access point as well as the client need to support it. 

You might be in the market to replace your aging WIFI solution and to help improve your organization’s overall network experience.   You might even already own the latest 802.11 hardware but need verification that it is running efficiently, using the latest best practices or to help identify any potential network bottlenecks.  Peters & Associates can help! 

Need assistance selecting and implementing your network upgrades and/or wireless infrastructure? Email info@peters.comwe are happy to help!