A Closer Look at 802.11ac

Are You Ready to Upgrade Your Wireless Network?

Bill Virtue

I had a conversation about networking performance with a customer recently, and I think many of the issues we talked about are relevant for a lot of organizations out there today. It’s no secret that IT departments are tasked with supporting a workforce that increasingly relies on mobile devices. And that mobility trend places a tremendous amount of pressure on the wireless network, as my customer was well aware. His wireless network, composed of Dell SonicWALL and SonicPoint wireless access points (APs) using 802.11n, was being pushed to the limit. Was 802.11ac the answer to his woes?

The biggest challenge for my customer’s organization was bandwidth. They had deployed 802.11n APs as soon as the technology was available – taking advantage of performance benefits and increased data rates. But now, their Wi-Fi requirements had grown to support 1080p HD video and a BYOD strategy that enables users to access back-office systems using both corporate-owned and user-owned devices. It was clearly time to upgrade the wireless network as well.

We talked a lot about 802.11ac, as my customer had been waiting for the new 802.11ac SonicPoint APs to take advantage of the improved wireless performance. In fact, Dell has recently announced its three new SonicPoint wireless APs:

  • The new 802.11ac SonicPoint ACe
  • SonicPoint ACi
  • SonicPoint N2 (802.11n)

These new APs work in conjunction with industry-leading Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) security from Dell SonicWALL Next Generation Firewall (NGFW) to form a comprehensive wireless network security solution. The new 802.11ac standard carries over some of the technology found in the 802.11n standard, including: multiple spatial streams, single-user multiple Input/output (MIMO) technology delivering a physical link rate of 433Mbps (per stream) or 1.3Gbps on the new WAPs.

The new 802.11ac standard offers higher performance and more bandwidth available to support bandwidth-intensive applications – including cloud and mobile apps – over his wireless network. 802.11ac promises to increase wireless speed by 3 times that of 802.11n with the new chipset, dual radios, and 6 antennas on the SonicPoint ACe and ACi.

Upgrading to that increased performance is pretty painless, too. My customer’s SonicWALL firewalls are designed to automatically detect and provision SonicPoint APs and include the wireless controller and support for his Power over Ethernet (PoE) injectors. Tie all of this back to the SonicWALL firewall with Anti-virus / Anti-malware, Intrusion Prevention Service (IPS), SSL decryption and inspection, Content Filtering, and Application Intelligence and you have a very comprehensive and secure network.

If you’re considering making the jump to 802.11ac, take a look at the new family of Dell SonicPoint wireless access points. Upgrading can help you support the next-generation tools your workforce needs – without breaking your budget.