802.11ac is all the buzz right now in the Wi-Fi world thanks to the very fast data rates it can achieve, as well as other cool advancements. And, its rate of adoption is expected to be much quicker than what was seen with 802.11n five years ago. Currently, consumer and enterprise AP makers are cranking out new models, and client devices are popping up like crazy in the form of MacBooks, Android phones and tablets and a whole host of other stuff. Perhaps you’re already using it, and ultimately we all will be.
So What’s Different When Dealing With .11ac?
Signals from .11ac APs can have extra-wide RF footprints. That’s right. 80 MHz-wide, and in the near future 160 MHz-wide signals, as opposed to 11n’s 20/40 MHz widths. This, along with other cool stuff is how 802.11ac cranks up the speed so high. More channel width = a bigger “pipe” to shove data through. This ultimately means less 5 GHz spectrum to go around for uncongested channels.
When you’re setting up and maintaining 802.11ac networks, you’ll need to be especially mindful of your wireless environment to realize and achieve the new higher speeds that are possible. This is because ac will not actually “kick on” to the fast 80 or 160 MHz bandwidth if it detects Wi-Fi congestion on its “bonded” channel(s). If you want the high speeds, you have to find and keep open the entire bonded channel as much as possible.
Again, all this adds up to less 5 GHz bandwidth to go around. As 802.11ac adoption heats up and becomes more prolific, there will plainly be less spectrum space for these wide networks to operate with out congestion from other WLANs.
Chanalyzer Now Displays 802.11ac Info
Chanalyzer now displays 802.11ac network information along side the a/n networks in your 5 GHz wireless environment. It will show you exactly which parts of the band are being taken up by surrounding WLANs, giving you the visibility you need to choose the optimum channel, mitigate congestion and get the best possible .11ac data rates.
Since any 5 GHz Wi-Fi NIC can detect 802.11ac beacons, you don’t even need to have an .11ac card to get this info in Chanalyzer. Just use your dual-band .11n card you’ve already got.