Nov 03 2015

Tips and Considerations for an 802.11ac Upgrade

Schools that wish to deploy the new 802.11ac standard can make their upgrade go further with a little planning.

As classroom technology use increases, many schools' wireless networks struggle to keep pace.

The advent of the 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard provides IT professionals with the opportunity to both upgrade their network capacity and redesign their wireless strategy to better support the rapid rise of mobile computing. The new standard boosts performance through a number of improvements including wider channels and better modulation techniques.

Adopting an 802.11ac strategy can increase the value that IT delivers to education. IT professionals should understand the technical features of 802.11ac and how schools can prepare their networks for this new technology. They can use a number of strategies when adopting 802.11ac, as they strive to implement a best-in-class wireless network.

As schools get ready to deploy 802.11ac networks, there are several pieces of advice that they should keep in mind:

  • As the school replaces network switches, IT administrators should consider purchasing devices capable of implementing the 802.3at Power over Ethernet Plus (PoE+) standard. The next generation of wireless APs will require more power to function effectively, and putting a PoE+ infrastructure in place now may save money later.
  • At the same time, IT administrators should design switch uplinks so they are prepared for 10Gbps or more connections between the edge and distribution/core layers.
  • When pulling cable for wireless APs, IT administrators should pull dual CAT6 cables to each location. The second wave of 802.11ac will support dual uplinks, and pulling cable later to retrofit will result in increased hardware and labor costs.
  • While working through a wireless network, network admins should retire old devices that may be degrading overall network performance. This includes both legacy APs and 802.11b clients.
  • IT managers should perform a wireless site survey and best practices assessment against the network using internal expertise or a consultant to identify additional areas for improvement and inspect radio frequency spectrum for incompatibilities.

For more information on the 802.11ac standard, read the white paper, “Achieving a Best-in-Class Wireless Infrastructure.”