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A lot of IT presentations start with “We are not going into the speeds and feeds” — this will not be one of those!

Let’s talk about the speeds, specifically wireless and how to ensure your cables, switches and access points do not throttle your network as more users use wireless devices in a dense environment.

Some definitions:

IEEE 802.11: A set of media access control and physical layer specifications for implementing wireless local area network (WLAN) computer communication.

802.11n: Provided the wireless connectivity speeds that businesses needed to embrace Wi-Fi in their day-to-day operations and let workers begin using wireless as their primary network medium of choice.

802.11ac: A transformational WLAN technology that represents a significant performance increase over its highly successful predecessor, 802.11n. 802.11ac IEEE standard allows for theoretical speeds up to 6.9 Gbps in the 5-GHz band, or 11.5 times those of 802.11n. 802.11ac came to market in two releases, Wave 1 & Wave 2.

PoE: A system which passes electric power and data via an Ethernet cable. This allows a single cable to provide connection to devices.

Wave 1: The current generation of 802.11ac products that is currently in production, supports data rates up to 1.3 Gbps with 3 spatial streams.

Wave 2:

Wave 2 builds upon Wave 1 with some very significant enhancements:

  • Supports speeds up to 2.34 Gbps (up from 1.3 Gbps) in the 5 GHz band
  • Supports multiuser multiple input, multiple output (MU-MIMO)
  • Offers the option of using 160-MHz-wide channels and a fourth spatial stream for greater performance
  • Can run in additional 5-GHz bands around the world

The business drivers for using Wave 2:

  • Growth in mobile video usage
  • Joining voice over IP
  • A shift to end-user mobility
  • Multiple connected devices per user
  • High-speed delivery of large files and data access and movement
  • Greater bandwidth and flexibility to move channels in instances of interference

Wave 2 technology is driving businesses to modernize their wireless network.

Multigigabit Switches:

Ripping and replacing your Ethernet cables is an expensive and time-consuming option. In order for your cables to be able to operate at the speeds capable of Wave 2 technology, you can upgrade your switches to a multigigabit switch.

Multigigabit switches auto-negotiate multiple speeds on switch ports, which allows the port on the switch to determine what speed it needs to operate on. The supported speeds are 100 Mbps, 1 Gbps, 2.5 Gbps, and 5 Gbps on Cat 5e cable and up to 10 Gbps on Cat 6 cables.

In addition to higher speeds, the technology a multigigabit switch port will support includes POE (15W), POE+ (30W) and UPOE (60W). Ethernet cables are made to go a maximum of 100 metres (according to international standards). With a multigig switch you can get the following speed out of the respective cables:

Cable Type 1G 2.5G 5G 10G
Cat5e Yes Yes Yes N/A
Cat6 Yes Yes Yes 55m
Cat6a Yes Yes Yes Yes

5G: 5th– Generation Wireless Systems

The next and newest mobile standing based on the 802.11ac standard. 5G connections will be about three times faster than 4G: 450Mbps (single-stream), 900Mbps (dual-stream), 1.3Gbps (three-stream).

The features of 5G include high throughput, low latency, high mobility and high connection density. A concern is overcrowding of the wireless spectrum and handsets/areas not even being able to support 4G, so a 5G rollout could be patchy and likely won’t start until 2020. Since 5G will also include MIMO, customers are now starting to consider 5G for redundancy, failover or to help address modernization needs and then, of course there’s 802.11ax – but I’ll leave that for another day.

Written by Puneet Duggal – Solutions Architect, Strategic Solutions and Services team at CDW Canada

With over ten years in the technology industry, Puneet covers enterprise, datacenter, and cloud networking solutions. Further, he conducts network assessments and network implementation services to providing an end-to-end custom solution. Puneet’s primary focus is helping organizations modernize and optimize their network environment, increase business value, and enable business growth.

Puneet holds a Bachelors in Business Administration from York University and has worked on several enterprise process improvement and strategy planning projects. He has helped to implement large-scale solutions and global projects that holistically address challenges and increase competitive advantage.


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