When ratified and sanctioned in each country, this new spectrum will have minimal impact on the current 802.11n networks. However, the 802.11ac standard holds the promise of speeds over 1 Gbps per radio and this additional spectrum may have a profound impact on 802.11ac’s commercial success . Data rate increases with “ac” are primarily based on using wider channels; doubling the width of the channel doubles the theoretical data rate. Compared to the maximum of 450 Mbps with today’s 802.11n products, 802.11ac offers a giant leap forward increasing both data rate and network capacity. There is, however, a problem in achieving this promise. Higher data rates result in fewer available channels. With most commercially available Wi-Fi products it takes at least three, non-interfering channels to successfully deploy an enterprise wireless network. Prior to this spectrum expansion, there was only the possibility of 2, non-DFS interfering 80MHz channels available in North America for network planning. The expanded spectrum will make it simpler for all Wi-Fi vendors to deploy pervasive wireless networks using 80MHz wide channels. The full promise of the “ac” standard lies in deploying 160MHz channels; wherein lies the challenge.
How will this FCC ruling impact the Wi-Fi market? What are Wi-Fi vendors to do? The best case North American scenario for traditional Wi-Fi vendors will be to utilize up to seven available 80MHz channels in deploying networks. If the DFS spectrum is not accessible, worst case scenario is having only three 80MHz channels available for planning in North America. All vendors will now have some “breathing” room for deploying Very High Throughput (VHT) 802.11ac wireless networks.
But what about the full promise of 802.11ac with 160MHz channels? At best, the added spectrum increases the available 160MHz channel from one to two. For most Wi-Fi vendors, this is insufficient number of channels to deploy a pervasive VHT wireless LAN. Meru, however, is in a unique position and will rely on its historic single channel architecture in being able to support both 80MHz and 160MHz deployments. With two or more like channels available, Meru can double (or triple) the available data rate in a pervasive deployment through channel layering. At best, other vendors will only be able to provide “islands” of high data throughput.
There are a lot of questions to be answered before we see commercial products using this new spectrum allocation. How long will it take for regulatory bodies to sanction using these frequencies? Will there be equal actions taken on the part of other countries to bring a frequency parity into place? Answers to all these questions will take some time, but the promise of more spectrum bringing higher data rate products to the market is exciting. Where most Wi-Fi vendors will only be able to take incremental advantage via supporting this new spectrum, Meru will be aggressive in making sure we are on the forefront of commercializing the full 802.11ac promise by taking advantage of our unique differentiating capabilities.