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Wave 2 Wireless: 3 Ways Partners Can Help SMBs Reap the Benefits

Wi-Fi connectivity is right up there with air and water when it comes to necessities for customers.

November 20, 2017

6 Min Read
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John Tippett

By John Tippett, Vice President, Datto Networking

Have you had the phones light up when a customer’s Wi-Fi went down? It’s mayhem. Reliable Wi-Fi connectivity is important no matter what verticals you serve, from office workers with multiple mobile devices to hotels that make revenue from Wi-Fi to a retail store that leverages the web to share product details or ring up purchases.

If the Wi-Fi goes out, or speeds slow, business and customers are lost. And if you offer managed Wi-Fi services and are responsible for front-line support, forget going home on time. This is particularly true for your small-to-midsize business customers, who don’t always have an in-house IT pro who can troubleshoot an access point. Still, SMBs understand the value of having the best technology to differentiate their businesses, so you want to make sure they have the best Wi-Fi. Just provisioned in as bulletproof a manner as possible.

Here are several key considerations when assessing the current state of an SMB customer’s wireless networking ecosystem and assessing their need to upgrade.

More speed, better bandwidth: Regarded as the common standard for local wireless connectivity when established 10 years ago, 802.11ac (“Wireless AC”) was an evolutionary improvement to 802.11n (“Wireless N”).  Wireless N played a critical role in driving inclusion of Wi-Fi support in business applications, which led to the expansive adoption of Wi-Fi in SMBs today. However, as more devices connect and workers become increasingly mobile, the Wireless N standard simply cannot keep up.

Wireless AC is the latest widely adopted generation of Wi-Fi, and it offers significant performance improvements over 802.11n, in both improved bandwidth efficiency and increased data transfer rates. Customers still relying on the older Wireless N standard are at a clear disadvantage, and you should not hesitate to recommend an upgrade to the newer AC standard.

The latest addition to the Wireless AC standard — 802.11ac Wave 2 — introduces further improvements to 11ac. They include wider channels and enhanced performance in environments with many users and devices, offering a speed increase of up to 333 percent over the previous generation. This boost in speed, combined with increased bandwidth quality, can easily increase the productivity and data-streaming capabilities of a customer’s network. Businesses that deal with many users and devices or large data files, such as high-quality video streaming or medical imaging, will really see an improvement.

Because they are still a subset of the overall 802.11 standard, the benefits of shifting to 802.11ac types are attainable while retaining compatibility with 802.11n clients in a network. Devices using the newer standard are backward-compatible with older devices, and businesses that decide to upgrade their networking infrastructure in phases will still see improvements in access speed.

A less-crowded environment: In addition to the performance enhancements outlined in the AC standard, 802.11ac operates…

…exclusively in the 5-GHz frequency, which is far less crowded than the 2.4 GHz spectrum and thus not as susceptible to interference. 802.11n, in contrast, still operates primarily on the much more crowded 2.4 GHz spectrum.

Densely populated Wi-Fi networks generate interference, which degrades signal quality for endpoint devices. That is a problem in a world that is experiencing massive growth in connected devices, including tablets, smartphones, IoT sensors and the interconnected appliances that are now an integral part of business operations. There are also many devices that are not Wi-Fi that nonetheless operate in the 2.4 GHz spectrum, adding to the problem of congestion and interference.  Having the potential for extra speed and access to the exclusive 5 Ghz spectrum will make an enormous difference in network speed and operability.

The problem with increasing density of Wi-Fi enabled devices becomes clear when considering the BYOD trend; today an employee might bring two or three personal connected devices to the workplace every day. This is especially relevant for small businesses, which are predicted to be the most attractive BYOD end-use segment. According to a report by Global Market Insights, this trend will experience a 19.7 percent CAGR from 2015 to 2022.  As the number of connected devices continues to grow, efficient Wi-Fi networks will be critical to ensure reliable access to data.

Multiple simultaneous connections: Perhaps the most revolutionary breakthrough that comes with 802.11ac Wave 2 is its potential for multiple user, multi-input and multi-output (MU-MIMO) connectivity. The previous 802.11n generation introduced single-user MIMO (or SU-MIMO), enabling Wi-Fi routers and other access points to simultaneously transmit or receive multiple streams of data  and increasing the speed of the connection.  However, single-user MIMO is still limited to communicating with a single wireless client at a time.

MU-MIMO, made available with the Wireless AC Wave 2 standard, dramatically increases the efficiency of Wi-Fi communications by enabling the transmission of multiple streams, to multiple wireless clients simultaneously. SU-MIMO requires multiple antennae on client devices to be effective, but MU-MIMO offers improvement without this requirement for clients, making it an upgrade that yields immediate performance increases, even with legacy devices connecting. Because of the ability to spread streams across multiple clients, MU-MIMO not only increases speed, it greatly improves the capacity of wireless networks as well. This allows a network to comfortably and seamlessly accommodate a larger numbers of users while increasing performance and efficiency.

The Need for a Trusted Partner

Effective deployment and management of any wireless network requires planning and expertise. Smaller businesses and vertical clients might not be able to take full advantage of the enhanced capabilities of Wave 2 technology if their new devices are not deployed and managed correctly, which brings me to…

…my last point. Expertise is key. As with other IT solutions, like data backup and disaster recovery, small businesses greatly benefit by working directly with a knowledgeable, trusted partner in determining the networking infrastructure that works best for their needs.

As an MSP or consultant, you can help business owners assess their network traffic volumes, plan the proper ratio of access points to endpoint devices, and understand the physical and software intricacies of their business environments to identify the most advanced, efficient and cost-effective networking ecosystem for them. Downtime and inefficient connectivity can cost thousands of dollars in lost revenues and customers; having the support of a knowledgeable expert will pay dividends as new technologies emerge.

John Tippett serves as vice president of Datto Networking. In this role, he leads Datto’s managed networking services business on a global scale. Having worked as both a managed services provider and for vendor firms, Tippett has deep roots in the IT channel and a vast understanding of the needs and challenges faced by today’s managed services providers. He is also an active member of the Computing Technology Industry Association, where he currently serves as ex-officio chair of the Managed Services Community and serves as a member of the Ambassador Program. He was awarded as the inaugural CompTIA Member of the Year in 2016; the award recognizes a single member each year who demonstrates outstanding service to the organization and the IT industry. Prior to Datto, Tippett was vice president and general manager of Aisle8 where he focused on the distinct product and distribution needs of IT solution providers.

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