The Clear and Compelling Benefits of Meru 802.11ac

By Robert Crisp — Product Management — This week Meru announced the AP832, a dual radio 802.11ac Access Point. The 802.11ac standard has been particularly exciting, and it’s something we have discussed through webinars and such since the fall of 2012.

So, why is Meru so jazzed about what is primarily a faster AP?

802.11ac is sometimes described as “gigabit Wi-Fi”, and the 1st generation of Enterprise class 802.11ac can achieve 1.3Gbps data rates. However, in order to achieve those rates it’s necessary to use 80MHz wide channels. Now, this is where things get sticky for some, but where Meru is able to provide clear benefits to customers.

As we know, one of the major issues historically with 802.11 networks is the need to avoid co-channel interference, which is achieved by using multiple non-overlapping channels, this is what we commonly know as the 1,6,11 deployment scenario in 2.4GHz.  The challenge with deploying 80Mhz wide 802.11ac is that you have only two available channels without using the DFS range (in fact only one in Europe!), or four if DFS is used (which has its own challenges). That makes a pervasive deployment nigh impossible – unless, of course, you are running a Meru network!

We figured out single-channel deployment over 11 years ago and have been successfully deploying it ever since. Pervasive 80 MHz wide 802.11ac is not a challenge for Meru. Meru’s single channel technology, unique in the industry, makes it possible, which is why you will be seeing a focus on 20 and 40 MHz wide conversations from our competition. There aren’t enough 80MHz channels available to allow for a pervasive deployment and manage co-channel interference issues.

The question then becomes, why deploy with one 80 MHz? Why not deploy two 40Mhz-wide channels? I think there are merits to both scenarios, but what will be interesting is the direction the device vendors, especially mobile device vendors go. The buzz is that they are planning on leveraging the high throughput of wide-channel 802.11ac to burst traffic and thus save battery life. Of course, all these devices are extremely mobile….users moving and doing constantly throughout your network.

Meru’s Virtual Cell technology solved the client handoff roam issues (including sticky and ping pong clients) years ago, transparently moving users between access points in a manner that guarantees predictable roams, consistent roam times, without any loss of application service. The AP832 provides this same functionality, providing industry leading mobility support for the next generation of bursty mobile devices.  Additionally, and critically, the Meru .11ac solution runs on standard 802.3af power, eliminating the need for switching upgrades, and costs only $100 more per AP than Meru 802.11n solutions. Clear and compelling technology advantages + demonstrable ROI accelerators = an easy decision.

AP832 uniqueness includes:

  1. Pervasive 80MHz wide 802.11ac deployment
  2. AND use the second radio for 80Mhz wide 802.11ac deployment as well
  3. WHILST using only 802.3af power to fully support the dual 802.11ac scenario!

Compared with other vendors, the Meru AP832 offers 802.3af support without losing ANY functionality, streams, throughput capacity, etc.

Once again, we provide our customers incredible flexibility when it comes to 802.11ac deployment scenarios. Meru’s technology does not force the customers hand into a deployment scenario that is based on the architectural limitations of their approach as opposed to the fully available features of the 802.11ac standard. As highlighted in our MobileFLEX architecture, Meru allows for a number of multi-channel pervasive Wi-Fi layers that can be tuned to offer application and/or function-specific services. With the inclusion of 802.11ac we can support 802.11ac specific layers (of the 20/40/80 and eventually 160Mhz vanities), and also if wanted provide for a mix of 802.11ac and 802.11n specific layers. I believe all these deployment scenarios will be used, depending on device application, and client density requirements. The good news is that Meru once again give you a choice, we aren’t trying to spin positives from deployment limitations.

For example, customer could deploy Meru 802.11ac as:

  • A single channel 80MHz wide 802.11ac deployed over an existing legacy Wi-Fi infrastructure
  • Provide pervasive high bandwidth services to medical care givers whilst offering legacy channels for other services.
  • Hotels deploying multiple 40Mhz 802.11ac channels in conference areas to support hundreds of simultaneous users.
  • Provide separate, policy based channels in auditoriums.

We said so with 802.11n, but it’s even truer with 802.11ac, The MobileFLEX architecture is uniquely prepared to provide customers with all the benefits of faster, wider-channel 802.11 standards.

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