February 01, 2012

The State of Wi-Fi with Xirrus CEO Dirk Gates

This article originally appeared in the Feb. 2012 issue of Next Gen Mobility

Wi-Fi has had great success, and it’s positioned to expand even further going forward. NGM recently spoke with Xirrus CEO Dirk Gates (News - Alert) about an array of topics related to Wi-Fi, including the current status of this technology and where it’s headed.

The adoption of Wi-Fi as a secondary interface for 4G networks and a primary interface to the tablet has been astounding. How does that impact the enterprise market?

Gates: Smartphone data offload to Wi-Fi and the rise of the tablet are having a significant impact on enterprise wireless networks, which are now accommodating much larger device populations than for which they were originally designed. Many organizations are experiencing performance issues on Wi-Fi networks that had been operating efficiently for years. The net effect has been a need to rethink how enterprise wireless networks are designed and deployed. The majority of currently deployed Wi-Fi networks will not scale to handle the growth over the coming years. New considerations for design and implementation of enterprise wireless networks include:

·         deployment of mobile device policy enforcement solutions to address the impact of bring your own device or technology;

·         increased wireless infrastructure resources (more APs/radios) to increase available capacity;

·         increased wireless signal design criteria to accommodate weaker Wi-Fi clients (e.g. smartphones vs. laptops); and

·         ubiquitous wireless coverage design to handle clients in all areas of a facility as opposed to localized hotspots.

As more traffic comes onto Wi-Fi, what QoS concerns need to be addressed?

Gates: Beyond pure bandwidth, wireless networks need a means of appropriately prioritizing video traffic over other traffic on the network to provide an acceptable quality of experience. Priority queuing can be used by the wireless infrastructure to assign higher priority levels to expedite real-time traffic such as video, while providing lower priority to applications such as web browsing or e-mail. Xirrus Arrays support wireless multimedia derived from the 802.11e standard to appropriately prioritize video over wireless. This prioritization maps to the Arrays’ wired network uplinks via 802.1p or DiffServ.

How do Xirrus mesh networks benefit large-scale implementations?

Gates: The multi-radio design of the Xirrus Array enables the unique capability to design wireless networks with a dedicated, high-capacity wireless backbone. The mesh connections created between Xirrus Arrays are dedicated and point-to-point. Radio resources can be specifically allocated to the backbone, while others are allocated to handle users. This separation of function provides a significant performance advantage compared to traditional mesh APs that must share spectrum and radio resources between APs to create the mesh backbone. Especially in large scale and high Wi-Fi device implementations, the performance advantage afforded by dedicated resources is significant.

Are femtocells a technological competitor? With the development of EPDG, does Wi-Fi represent a better solution?

Gates: Wi-Fi and femtocell (along with other small cell technologies) are solutions that are being used to provide greater coverage and reach for mobile carrier networks. While they could be considered technological competitors, ultimately, they are similar, both offloading carrier traffic from macro-cell networks to the public IP network. Both solutions help carriers address what is a large and growing problem of congestion on their access networks, and there will likely be room for both in the long run. While femtocells are a more direct extension of carrier networks, Wi-Fi provides a number of advantages that carriers can leverage – broadly deployed existing networks, simplicity of implementation, low cost infrastructure, and ubiquity of technology in many devices.

How will the next iterations of Wi-Fi technology impact consumer experience?

Gates: The next big advancements for Wi-Fi are 802.11ac and Hotspot 2.0. These standards will enable faster, more reliable wireless connectivity whether at home or on the road. First-generation 802.11ac will sustain data rates up to 1.3gbps (about three times faster than 802.11n today).  This is accomplished through increased channel width – from 40mHz maximum in 802.11n to 80mHz maximum in first-gen 802.11ac – and higher speed modulation – a more efficient modulation scheme to increase data rates, from 64 QAM in 802.11n to 256 QAM in 802.11ac. Future 802.11ac products will enable performance up to nearly 7gbps. With nearly 15 billion network-connected devices estimated to be on the planet by 2015, carrier offloading to Wi-Fi via Hotspot 2.0 will need to elevate at an astronomical rate to meet taxing user demands. Hotspot 2.0 will overcome current issues and enable a much more desirable offload to Wi-Fi.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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