Widespread Advances in Wifi: The Latest Wireless Technologies

Monday, May 11, 2015/Categories: Cloud Services, Cloud Wifi, BYOD, IT Services, Business

I don’t feel that old, but find myself increasingly using the phrase “Back in my day…” 

When I started college in the early 90’s, no one had smartphones or tablets, Wifi didn’t exist on campus, and if you had your own computer a strange device called a modem could connect to the mainframe on campus. In today’s society, we realize the importance of handheld devices, ubiquitous wireless connectivity and the immediacy of communications. As a result, it’s amazing what we can do with today’s technology.

Wireless access in the enterprise, at home, and on the road has become something we all expect. It has to be available, responsive and secure. We also need to connect many different types of devices onto Wifi networks, including laptops, smartphones and tablets. And they all need to work together in harmony. We now have new wireless standards enabling faster, more reliable communications. The “Internet of Things” movement is bringing our cars, thermostats, light switches and more into the cloud so we can better manage our busy lives. Let’s take a look at a few of the technologies making wireless better…

802.11ac Brings Super Speed

The first Wifi standards allowed only 1 to 2 Mbps of data transfer. The latest technology, 802.11ac, brings near-gigabit speeds to wireless devices.  Do we need more speed and wireless capacity? Cisco suggests in the Visual Networking Index (VNI) that by 2018, traffic from wireless and mobile devices is expected to exceed that of wired devices. The world is clearly addicted to social media! So the answer is we absolutely need more speed and wireless capacity!

However, the benefit not only lies in speed. Faster speeds also enable the tiny radios inside portable devices to transmit more quickly, reducing their power consumption and extending battery life.  802.11ac technology is now appearing in popular consumer devices such as the Samsung Galaxy S6, iPhone 6 and the newest Apple MacBook Pro models. Cisco and Cisco Meraki offer 802.11ac access points, which support the newest 802.11ac clients as well as compatibility with legacy 802.11a/b/g/n clients.

Finding a New Application

Wifi standards have built-in Quality of Service (QoS), allowing priorities to be set for voice, video, and guest traffic. But what about prioritizing business applications, or ensuring that a wireless network does not allow BitTorrent? Enter Application Visibility and Control, or AVC.

The A in AVC is for Applications. Cisco hardware (wireless and wired) has the ability to determine, using a granular inspection engine, what the likely application is for a given connection. The Cisco application engine can sniff out the most common applications and report on them for you, from ActiveSync to Zattoo.

Visibility, V, determines which applications consume the most bandwidth on the network. Is it iTunes and Facebook or CIFS and WebEx? AVC technology will tell you who’s using which applications, when and where they are using them, and how much data is going back and forth. For example, at Consolidated Communications we know that our top 10 applications include CIFS, Exchange and WebEx. 

What good is Application Visibility without the C (Control)? Newer Cisco wireless and switch code allows for advanced methods of improving wireless application delivery:  By controlling Quality of Service, or even by disallowing connections altogether for applications that you might not want running in your enterprise.


You’re my Density

Another trend that we are seeing in wireless is the need to support high density environments. When you think about high client density, you think of a busy Target Field on a Friday night or a large concert hall. When you consider that many people carry a cell phone and a tablet (and soon, perhaps a smart watch) the number of devices connecting to Wifi is ever-increasing.  Many common Wifi deployments now fall into a high density class simply due to the number of clients and expected throughput for each client. We often use high density design principles for locations you might not think of, such as hospitals, K-12 classrooms and some enterprises.

Cisco has released new features in their wireless controllers to help support High Density deployments, collectively called HD Experience (HDX). The primary features of HDX include optimized roaming, ClientLink 3.0, turbo performance, and CleanAir® 80MHz. As the wireless landscape and clients have evolved, Cisco has remained a market leader by advancing wireless technology and being responsive to market demands.

Article courtesy of Justin Bodie, Consolidated Communications Sr. Solutions Engineer

About Justin Bodie


Justin works as a Senior Solutions Engineer at Enventis, focusing on wireless and security technologies. He enjoys riding his Harley on the weekends as well as exploring mountain bike trails in the Twin Cities.

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