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Traveling can be a burdensome process even when everything goes right. And chief among frequent flyer complaints is the lack of Wi-Fi access, or, when it’s available, the low quality of Wi-Fi, which in airplanes is often far too slow to stream video.
The latest Wi-Fi standard, 802.11ac, was approved in January 2014 and for the first time, enables Gigabit speeds over wireless operating three to 15 times faster than the previous standard, 802.11n. As the 802.11ac standard becomes more widely adopted, enterprises must proactively strategise to develop a plan to support the new standard.
While on the surface it may seem as if the only option is to rip and replace the entire Wi-Fi infrastructure, forklift overhauls are not the only viable approach. In an effort to demystify 802.11ac for IT managers and emphasise best practices for migration, I have compiled and debunked the top five myths about 802.11ac.1. IT Managers Must ‘Rip & Replace’
While 802.11ac technologies are being adopted at a rapid pace, the reality is that legacy Wi-Fi (802.11n and previous standards 802.11a/b/g) will continue to be with us for years to come. Rather than focusing on a replacement strategy, it is more practical to approach the situation with a coexistence strategy. Wi-Fi standards and systems are created in general to be backward compatible. This allows Wi-Fi clients of all types to operate together on the same network.
However, running both old and new clients on the same Wi-Fi network is not optimal – slower clients will slow down faster clients, stunting the performance benefits of faster technology such as 802.11ac. It is best to create an environment where older 802.11a/b/g/n and newer 802.11ac devices operate at the same time but using separate resources, in particular separate radios on the access point.
Programmable wireless infrastructure provides a practical way to achieve this – start with a small number of 802.11ac radios in the network to match a smaller number of clients. Then migrate towards more 802.11ac radios as the client base grows.2. 802.11ac Will Require New Infrastructure
The answer here of course depends on the state of the existing network and anticipated use. In many cases, 802.11ac gear will fit into existing environments that supported 802.11n. If the wired network is very old, this may not be the case. Since the capacity of the wireless is greater with 802.11ac, uplinks from APs, the core network, firewalls and the WAN pipe must be able to accommodate the increased traffic. Otherwise, a new weak link of the network will be exposed.
How quickly this becomes an issue depends on wireless client support for 802.11ac. Initially, there will not be as many 11ac clients on your network but this will change over time. Upgrades may be needed at some point but could be staggered in time to spread out costs. Bottom line, Gigabit Ethernet should be used for 802.11ac AP uplinks since the APs are capable of moving well over 100Mbps of data. Power over Ethernet must be considered to power the APs, whether PoE or PoE+. And if the upgrade of the wireless in significantly greater network usage, the impact on existing WAN bandwidth must be considered.3. 802.11ac Will Solve Performance Problems
While 802.11ac enables higher speeds, it is not a panacea that will fix all problematic or poorly designed networks. The most effective way to increase capacity on a network is to add more radios. While 802.11ac adds more capacity per radio, the actual increase in performance for many clients will be less than one might expect. While 802.11ac Wave 1 might provide throughput of more than 600Mbps per radio, most clients will never experience that performance.
Tablets and smartphones, for example, typically have only one antenna and do not support multiple data streams that increase performance. Even when 802.11ac support is added to these devices, they will not run at full 802.11ac speeds given their size, form factor and power restrictions. Faster clients such as laptops may achieve such speeds, but only when very close to the access point. Wireless is a shared medium – multiple clients share radio resources like a hub, not individual connections like a switch. Until more spectrum is allocated for Wi-Fi, design will remain critical to ensure appropriate capacity is provisioned per user to deliver a good experience.4. 11ac Means The Latest & Greatest Wi-Fi
802.11ac may be the name of the new technology, but how it is actually implemented in a product can vary dramatically. First of all, there are several variations of 11ac – Wave 1 products supporting up to 1.3Gbps data rates, Wave 2 products supporting up to 3.47Gbps and future versions beyond that. And within each Wave, there are different radio types – 2×2 supporting two streams, 3×3 supporting three streams with 50 percent more capacity, and 4×4 coming in the future.
And if those aren’t enough variables, the way that an access point is designed can have a huge impact on the performance of the wireless network. The processing power in the AP, its memory, the use of a central vs. integrated controller, the type and design of the antennas, the number and types of Ethernet uplinks, etc. can all have a significant impact on the performance of the final product.
There can be a big range in performance between consumer-oriented or low-end enterprise APs designed to minimise manufacturing costs and high end enterprise APs designed for to take full advantage of the technology. Test and compare the products you are considering – it is not just about what is on the label.5. 802.11ac Design Is Same As Legacy Networks
Most wireless networks, including many that are relatively new, were designed with the intent of maximising coverage rather than maximising capacity. As Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) has become pervasive in wireless networks everywhere, network designers must consider different requirements than they did just a few years ago. Devices such as smartphones and tablets require greater signal strength than the laptops older wireless networks were designed for. And greater device densities translate to more wireless equipment required.
In many cases, it is the new requirements for use of the network rather than the upgrade to new 802.11ac technology itself that dictates the design. So consider the design criteria for the existing wireless network that is being replaced before finalising your new 11ac design. If elements such as device density, device type, expected bandwidth, etc. have changed significantly, an AP-to-AP swap may not be appropriate. In most cases, predictive design techniques can be used to determine equipment quantity and placement for 802.11ac designs. In some cases, active site surveys may be needed to ensure an appropriate design.
While it is important to develop a plan to migrate to an 802.11ac-compatible network, it is equally important that enterprise IT managers recognise that the upgrade process will take time. IT managers must also recognise that the upgrade need not be undertaken all at once, but rather executed in phases to ensure the new network is scalable and future-proof.
Zain is dedicated to remaining the leading telecommunications provider in Kuwait, and as such is constantly looking to innovate its technologies and the services it provides. This encouraged the company to further extend its gratitude to its loyal customers by providing them with high-speed Wi-Fi at Kuwait’s largest and most prominent shopping destination.
New York City authorities are seeking ways to avoid a disruption of free public Wi-Fi services after Spain-based provider Let’s Gowex SA said it will declare insolvency after having falsified financial accounts.
The city has a contract worth $245,000 with Gowex, one of the organizations picked last year to provide mobile Internet access across its five boroughs, said Ian Fried, a spokesman for the city Economic Development Corp. It has paid the company about $185,000 of that amount so far, he said.
The city government set up free-of-charge wireless corridors last year to cater to tourists and visitors and help attract businesses, and said it’s planning to expand coverage. Wi-Fi connections are becoming more important as they offload traffic from mobile networks and frequently offer higher bandwidth.
In Manhattan, coverage includes areas of Flatiron district and Roosevelt Island. Corridors also run along East Fordham Road from Grand Concourse to Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, areas of downtown Brooklyn, Long Island City in Queens and St. George commercial district in Staten Island.
The Gowex contract runs through Sept. 2016. The other partners in the program are neighborhood-improvement groups Downtown Alliance, whose sponsors include JPMorgan Chase & Co., Flatiron 23rd Street Partnership and Downtown Brooklyn Partnership and the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
Gowex’s collapse won’t affect Wi-Fi service in a downtown Manhattan corridor overseen by the Downtown Alliance, a non- profit organization, said Maria Alvarado, a spokeswoman for the group. The Downtown Alliance uses a different vendor to provide the service, she said in an e-mail.
Jenaro Garcia, the founder and chief executive officer of Gowex, stepped down July 6 after taking responsibility for presenting fake accounts for at least the past four years. Garcia had previously said a report from research firm Gotham City Research LLC claiming Gowex was overstating its earnings contained “lies.”
Deutsche Telekom AG, Europe’s largest phone company, said yesterday it was reviewing its network-sharing deal with Gowex.
In short, the LivePro is a device that attempts to do everything you never needed it to do, and it doesn’t do it cheap. When purchased via a Sprint Easy Pay plan, the LivePro will run $18.75/month for 24 months, or $450 total. Welcome to the framily, LivePro!
Now that blazing-fast routers based on the IEEE 802.11ac standard are finally entering the mainstream, intrepid engineers are busily cooking up all-new hardware that will make that gear’s performance seem quaint by comparison.
That’s not to say 802.11ac is about to fall by the wayside—after all, the IEEE didn’t officially ratify the standard until December 2013. It’s just that the chipsets capable of delivering all the features and performance in that standard are still in development.
You see, most of the first wave of 802.11ac routers were based on draft versions of the 802.11ac standard. While some newer routers, such as Netgear’s six-antenna Nighthawk X6, are implementing cool tricks to squeeze more performance from that technology, a second wave of 802.11ac routers will hit the beach in early 2015.
Wave 2 802.11ac routers will deliver maximum physical link rates in the range of 7- to 10Gbps.
These devices support a number of optional features in that standard that will deliver even higher wireless performance. At the same time, new and complementary wireless technologies designed for specialized applications will also appear.
But there’s no point in trying to cheat obsolescence by putting off your next router purchase: The industry is already hard at work developing the successor to 802.11ac. Let’s dive into what’s next for Wi-Fi.
The two-party system
The IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) defines Wi-Fi standards such as 802.11ac and the older 802.11n. The Wi-Fi Alliance (an association of companies that build wireless-networking devices) certifies that the hardware based on those standards will work together.
Wi-Fi Alliance certification is not a requirement (manufacturers must pay for the designation), but it can be reassuring to consumers, especially in the early days. That's because the IEEE can take several years to finalize its standards (it started working on 802.11ac in 2008 and finished in late 2013). Manufacturers often don't want to wait, so they'll bring new products to market as soon as the ink dries on an early draft. Buffalo shipped the first 802.11ac router in 2012, but the Wi-Fi Alliance didn't launch its first 802.11ac certification program until mid 2013.
SU-MIMO (single-user multiple input/multiple output) technology was one of the hallmarks of the older 802.11n standard. It allowed multiple spatial streams to be transmitted to a single client. This technology was carried over to the 802.11ac standard, which added a more-powerful modulation technique (among other things) to deliver a maximum physical link rate of 433Mbps per spatial stream.
Since it can support up to three such streams simultaneously, a Wave 1 802.11ac router can send and receive data at a maximum physical link rate of 1.3Gbps. Compare that to 802.11n routers, which provide up to three spatial streams with maximum physical link rates of just 150Mbps each (for aggregate throughput of just 450Mbps).
Wave 2 802.11ac routers will arrive sometime in 2015. These devices will also operate on the less-crowded 5GHz frequency band, but they’ll take advantage of several optional elements of the 802.11ac standard: First, they’ll support a feature called MU-MIMO (multi-user multiple input/multiple output), which allows them to transmit multiple spatial streams to multiple clients simultaneously.
Second, they’ll bond multiple channels on the 5GHz frequency band to create a single channel that provides 160MHz of bandwidth (Wave 1 802.11ac routers can also bond 5GHz channels, but the bonded channel is only 80MHz wide). Third, where 802.11n and Wave 1 802.11ac routers support a maximum of three spatial streams, Wave 2 802.11ac routers will potentially support up to eight spatial streams.
Using some combination of wider channels or additional spatial streams (there isn’t enough available bandwidth to do both), improved beamforming, and other techniques, Wave 2 802.11ac routers will deliver maximum physical link rates in the range of 7- to 10Gbps. Quantenna Communications announced its first Wave 2 802.11ac chipset last April....
JAL will also provide pre-loaded entertainment delivered to passenger devices via the onboard Wi-Fi — free of charge — on these flights and give passengers free access to its website, allowing them to check flight information.
Comcast announced today that it has activated Xfinity WiFi hotspots in the subway platform areas on Boston’s Green Line from North Station to Kenmore. Comcast is the first provider to offer WiFi in portions of the first subway line to open in the United States.
InSite Wireless, a Virginia company that is currently performing the installation of wireless service on the MBTA, recently announced that it has partnered with all the major wireless providers — Sprint, AT&T, Verizon,T-Mobile, and Comcast for WiFi services on the project. InSite is a major player in distributed antenna systems (DAS).
The RADIAFLEX cable as deployed in Boston is a radiating cable, similar to regular cable but with slots cut into the outer conductorthat allows the cable to work like a sprinkler hose and “spray out” low levels of signal along its entire length. InSite Wireless has installed over 60,000 feet of RADIAFLEX across the MBTA network
As a neutral host DAS provider, each of the 4 big wireless carriers and Comcast can use the system.InSite’s distributed antenna system covers 35 stations and provides connectivity throughout the 19.5-mile network of underground tunnels.
New York City’s subway wireless system was built by Transit Wireless. Phase two of the installation added 40 new stations in Manhattan and Queens. The ultimate goal is to bring wireless service to all 277 of New York City subway stations by 2017.
Boston’s MBTA also offers Wi-Fi hotspots on trains. Unlike New York, Boston subway users will be able to use their wireless devices from the street to the underground platform, and during their ride. In NYC, by contrast, only the subway platforms are enabled for wireless connections.
Since last year, Comcast's wireless gateways have by default broadcast a second signal that turns each customer's modem and router into a public Wi-Fi hotspot. It's all part of Comcast's plan to create a nationwide Wi-Fi network of more than 1 million hotspots that the cable company can sell access to.
Routers broadcast public Wi-Fi signals, unless you ask Comcast to turn it off.
Comcast deflected criticism by arguing that the hotspot's bandwidth is separate from the bandwidth subscribers pay for, so it won't reduce the customer's Internet speeds. But what about electricity? Alex Gizis, CEO of Speedify, which makes software that bonds Internet connections to combine bandwidth, decided to investigate.
Speedify told Ars that it will conduct the next text with the "latest, regular consumer hardware."
Having finally got my hands on both an 802.11ac capable router and notebook (a Macbook Air) I was itching to see how well it worked in practice....
Another recent survey by Pixmania shows that 31 percent of UK holiday-makers rate good internet access above a clean room or a good hotel restaurant. A Wireless Nation report by Arquiva last month also showed that one in three customers will stay longer, and one in five will pay more, at a venue that offers reliable Wi-Fi.
The owner of St Pancras International, Stratford, Ebbsfleet and Ashford high-speed rail stations, HS1 Ltd, has deployed what it claims to be the most advanced and highest performance Wi-Fi network accessible to the UK public.
Its ad-supported network will be deployed in two stages across the HS1 estate, with the first phase focusing on extending coverage across St Pancras International’s substantial site.
The second phase, beginning in autumn, will see capacity boosted by 20 times, said HS1. The company hopes the finished network will enable an upper limit of 7,000 users to stream HD content at the same time.
To accomplish its goals, HS1 plans to upscale 24 single radio units to 54 multi-radio Xirrus802.11ac APs. It will also upgrade its internal fibre ring from the current 200MB speed to 1GB– with an intent to go up to 20GB speeds in the future.
“As a network we are always looking at how we can improve commuter’s journeys. With the latest figures showing that the number of people accessing the internet using a mobile phone has more than doubled between 2010 and 2013 – from 24% to 53% – now feels like the right time to install the service,” explained HS1 commercial director Wendy Spinks.
“Whether commuters are rushing to catch a train and want to download the latest film for their journey, or find themselves in-between meetings with nowhere to work from, this new technology will completely change the way visitors can use their time in the station.”
HS1 said it also hoped the upgraded network would bring benefits to its retail tenants, such as the possibility of HD video advertising, and attract more customers and non-travelling visitors to the station’s facilities.
The deployment will be managed by US-based wireless outfitWIFI Metropolis, which already runs a number of hotspots at the other end of the Eurostar rail link in Paris. The HS1 roll-out will be its first move into the UK.
WIFI Metropolis’ Greg Smith said that renewing wireless networking equipment had become the Achilles' heel of almost all major public network installations, which tended to end up becoming technically obsolete.
“In a traditional public implementation, you can barely complete a connection in five minutes - at St Pancras, when fully implemented, five minutes is a two-hour movie, a few books, magazines and secure access [to] email,” he said.
St Pancras and other mainline rail stations are good examples of what is becoming known as the 'third place', defined by Aruba Networks CEO Dominic Orr as neither work nor home, but where work is still carried out and internet access is becoming a priority.
A number of other transport hubs and providers are planning, or have carried out, high-speed wireless deployments, including Heathrow Airport, which last year scrapped a paid-for WLAN installed during the last decade which by its own admission was no longer fit for purpose.
HS1, meanwhile also revealed plans to launch its own smartphone and tablet app at St Pancras in the next few months, offering services such as special offers, and station and local information.
The UK government is promising to improve wi-fi connectivity on trains, while making services up to 10 times faster. What will happen, asks Justin Parkinson.
Train passengers hate it when wi-fi cuts out. It stops them getting work done, denies them access to the latest news and prevents them keeping in touch with others via emails and social media.
Ministers are promising that a £90m upgrade across England and Wales will stop them being "constantly disrupted by poor signal". This will be part-funded by a £53.1m fine levied on Network Rail for failing to ensure enough trains run on time. It is expected that a universal service, offering broadband speeds up to 10 times the current level, free to all train users, will be in place within a few years.
Currently trains receive 3G signal from ordinary mobile phone masts, which is "forwarded" to passengers through an onboard wi-fi system. Provision can be patchy, particularly in rural areas or when passing through tunnels or by embankments. Operating companies often charge for connections while on board, whileseveral do not offer any wi-fi at all.
Network Rail is installing its own transmitters along lines, which it says will get the whole network connected. The government's latest announcement is about upgrading the trains themselves to ensure they pick up the signals and distribute them quickly to carriages via the upgraded onboard wi-fi system.
There will be enough capacity to deal with all passengers' needs "and then some", a Network Rail source says. Users of routes into London, Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield are expected to be among the first to benefit, within "three or four years". So, will it turn trains into a better working environment?
"These things are announced by the government, but the detail comes later," says Trevor Tupper, treasurer of the West Sussex Rail Users Association. "So we shall have to see."
Some other European countries, including Sweden, have updated their on-train wi-fi. "It used to be that we kept losing connectivity," says Henrik Torstensson, chief executive of Lifesum, a health app company. "But now you can do quite heavy-duty work on the train. It's not quite state-of-the-art but the coverage is very good. The only problem I've encountered is that too many people want to use it as it's so popular."
But not everyone will welcome more connectivity. "When I started commuting people liked to have a sleep after reading the paper, which was nice," says Tupper. "Now they are working from the start of their morning journey until they get home at night."
The global small cell market can be represented as being partially “indoor” small cells (pico, femto cells), or “outdoor” small cells (“micro” cells). Backhaul availability is of critical/primary interest to the success of this mobile network segment (see Figure 1). In the indoor environment, small cells can often capitalize on existing backhaul infrastructure, however in the outdoor small cell case the picture is quite different.
In summary, understanding the beneficial attributes and limitations of various wireless technology solutions can allow optimized combinations of LoS and n/NLoS technologies into reliable and deployable backhaul networking solutions – a key enabler for outdoor small cell deployments.
Internet access is about to be added to major commuter trainlines across England and Wales, with passengers travelling on the busiest routes to be connected first.
Of the major hotel chains, Hotel WiFi found that Quality, Ramada, Best Western, and La Quinta tended to have the fastest free Wi-Fi. More upscale chains like the Hilton or the Marriott tended to charge for Wi-Fi more often. Head over to Hotel WiFi for their full results.
Tony Tyler, Director General and CEO of IATA feels it’s high-time that airports got around to giving passengers free, easy to access, Wi-Fi at all terminals around the world. He said so at the SITA IT Summit last week, when addressing attendees.
Ian Dawkins, Chief Executive Officer at OnAir, told us at the Brussels Summit that Wi-Fi will soon become a differentiating commodity, and that airlines are likely to start offering some level of connectivity onboard free-of-charge, with other premium services providing the revenue opportunities
You’re going to be able to access the internet everywhere some day soon, without having to pay for it.