7 Things to Know About 802.11ac and Your School Wireless Network

Written by Danny Mareco Danny Mareco | July 29, 2014 | Read Time: 3 mins

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One of the most frustrating things about today’s wireless and digital world we live in is having a slow wireless connection. With new technology out pacing our current infrastructure it has caused many schools to face wireless traffic jams, making it almost impossible to support the goals of the school or the needs of the students. Fortunately, there’s a solution, and that’s 802.11ac.

Imagine a classroom of 30 students all trying to stream video on an iPad and then multiply that by 30 classrooms or more, all trying to access the internet in some way. If you’re trying to support this using an outdated infrastructure the reality looks slow, if it works at all.

What if you’ve already deployed 802.11n?

Not to worry, 802.11n has a lot of legs left, however, that doesn’t mean 802.11ac can’t offer you something as well.

Here are 7 incredible things that 802.11ac can bring to your school wireless network that will finally make supporting your latest initiatives possible and then some.

1 - Speed

With faster speeds comes more bandwidth for everyone! Wave 1 access points will offer up to 3x the bandwidth of the current 802.11n AP’s, up to 1.3 Gbps. This of course is up to a few different factors but it’s an incredible jump in speed.

2 - 5Ghz Only

802.11ac only operates in the 5 GHz band. What does this mean, less congestion and wait times. 5Ghz provides 13 channels as opposed to only 3 with 2.4Ghz meaning more channels to use, more bandwidth and less channel reuse. Less channel reuse equals less congestion.

3 - Three Wave Rollout

This new standard is being rolled out in three waves, each containing very exciting enhancements along the way.

Wave 1 - The first wave, which is available now, features 1.3Gbps maximum data speed, 80 MHz channels and 3 data streams.

Wave 2 - Coming soon, the second wave takes it up another level, featuring 3.47 maximum data speeds, 160 MHz channels and 4 data streams. In addition, wave two will also contain the first MU-MIMO products.

Wave 3 - Finally, the third and final wave will really open things up. Featuring 6.93Gbps maximum data speeds, 160 MHz channels and 8 data streams.


Current 802.11n technology can only transmit data for one client at a time, meaning other clients have to wait in line until its their turn, very much like a four-way stop. Now with 11ac this one client at a time service will be a thing of the past. With MU-MIMO 802.11ac will use multiple antennas to service multiple clients at the same time, this is like having a wired 4 port switch. What this really means is faster data transmission because of less congestion.

5 - Range

Another advantage of ac over current 802.11n wireless is the improved range. It’s important to understand what this means. For example, if two clients are connected to an AP at 75 feet the 802.11n connected client will have a 200Mbps connection while the 802.11ac client will have 400Mbps.

6 - Capacity

Because of limitations with bandwidth we recommend with 802.11n that no more than 30-40 clients per AP for the best performance. With 802.11ac there is a lot more bandwidth on tap and better ways to distribute that bandwidth meaning more clients can be supported.

7 - Legacy Compatibility

The fact of the matter is that legacy or older WiFi technologies will continue to be in use for a long time to come. The good news is that 802.11ac does mix with 802.11n, taking many of the features of 802.11n and super-charging them. However, if you’re using even older equipment than 802.11n then it will not and a major wireless network refresh is your best solution.

Clearly there are some major upgrades coming to wireless networks with the introduction of the new 802.11ac standards. The reality is that even wireless designs that were done as little as two to three years ago were probably designed with only coverage in mind and not capacity and won’t fare well when trying to support devices like tablets and smartphones.

Deployments today need to be designed for increasingly diverse environments with more capacity to support clients having greater capabilities with new devices and applications.

If you have any questions regarding your next deployment or 11ac you can simply contact us here, we’d love to chat!

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