How Many Users Can a 802.11ac Access Point Handle?

Written by Danny Mareco Danny Mareco | April 17, 2014 | Read Time: 3 mins

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Being squarely focused on wireless mobility over the last 8 years, we are fortunate to receive questions like, “How many users can access an 802.11ac access point?” Now, depending on who is posing this question (hard to read a person’s body language over the phone) and in which format the question is posed (hard to read “tone” in the written word ofan email), a close friend might receive the following response: “Over what period of time? A day? A week?”

Sure, it sounds a little “snarky” (hence the danger with that response) but in order to recommend AC ap's to schools, hospitals or other enterprises, there are a lot of variables that will come into play.

So, here are some alternative ways of getting to the bottom of why that particular question is being asked.For those that may not be aware, 11ac is the new standard in wireless connectivity. There are a number of manufacturer’s that are now producing wireless access points with this latest standard chip sets. This is good, as an old Economics professor once stated, “Demand goes up, supply goes down, companies make a profit.” Being a little out of context, the statement is true in the sense that there is more demand for the newest generation of connectivity. However, pricing has started pretty high for the best enterprise-grade solutions. What to do?

The landscape was clearly changing in 2010, as one study showed over 90% of undergraduate students indicated they owned a smartphone. That was 4 years ago and 11ac access wasn’t even available. With the proliferation of those smartphones as well as tablets and e-Readers, school wireless networks are feeling the drain on their network and looking for solutions and might be assuming that a look at AC connectivity is the way to go.

Adding 11ac to your current network is now possible, without having to do a full network refresh...that’s an additional fringe benefit, but you have to clarify a few things first.

1.The school wired infrastructure is in tact.
2. The school wired network has gigabit switching.
3. The school wireless network is currently providing at least 802.11n connectivity.
4. The school wireless access points have “edge” switching that is POE+
5. You are prepared for budgetary differences with 11ac but willing to hear your options.


So, you’re ready to move forward, and (finally) get the answer to your question. How many users can connect to that 11ac access point? The answer depends.Put it this way, if it’s been 3 years since your last wireless network refresh, you are “probably” in better shape than those who have waited more than 4 years and/or currently have a “consumer-grade” wireless solution. That’s going to make the budgetary figures a little more painful but if you have hundreds of students with hundreds of devices, it’s going to be a necessary evil.

How many users do you have connecting simultaneously? If you have a large auditorium or library where there are multiple users connecting simultaneously with low-powered wireless devices (i.e., Chromebooks, iPhones, Androids, tablets, etc),

and that number is above 30 users, then adding AC in those type of areas might be an acceptable idea to get more users connecting.

Bottom line is that the manufacturers of these solutions will stop at nothing to “sell” you on why their 80211ac solution is the best on the market. There are many out there that see what the old Economic professor was talking about with supply and demand - so they rush into the game to create an 11ac solution to put on the market and capitalize on the consumer’s weakness.

Our approach at SecurEdge Networks is a little different. We focus exclusively on the wireless or “edge” of your network, and how our experience can be beneficial as you seek answers to your questions, in this case, the number of users that can connect to an 802.11ac access point. To start the conversation with a free consulation or simply to ask us a question, please contact us here.

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