Cisco To Push 802.11n Hard In 2008

WLAN 802.11n Wi-Fi

Chris Kozup, senior manager of mobile solutions marketing for San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco, said the WLAN is in a state of transition as 2007 draws to a close. Companies are looking to leverage more wireless technologies. And the environment is ripe for the picking, with Cisco estimating that only 15 percent to 20 percent of an average corporate floor plan has wireless coverage. That will surely grow come 2008.

"The sheer number of devices connecting to the wireless network is growing exponentially," Kozup said, noting that is one of the key drivers that will boost wireless deployments. IT is forced to respond to that influx of Wi-Fi enabled devices like the iPhone, laptops and other endpoints.

Additionally, the need for consistent services across both the wired and wireless networks is growing and driving IT shops to seek unified solutions.

For VARs and partners, the introduction of 802.11n gives them not only the opportunity to re-engage their wireless clients as they gear up for the switch over to 802.11n, but 11n can also give the channel a new revenue stream as the price to performance ratio trumps that of older WLAN standards like 802.11 a/b/g.

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"The channel stands to benefit here quite a fair amount," Kozup said. He said channel partners can assume a more trusted adviser role for their clients, helping them plan their 802.11n roadmaps.

More advances in 802.11n into 2008 will further increase the demand for more pervasive wireless deployments. 802.11n promises greater throughput, broader range and higher reliability. While 802.11n products are only available now in draft 2.0 form and draft 3.0 has just recently been released, 802.11n is positioned to change the face of wireless networking next year, said Pat Calhoun, CTO for Cisco's access networking and services group.

Calhoun pointed out that there will be challenges when upgrading from 802.11 a/b/g to 802.11n, such as a higher requirement for PoE and compatibility as new drafts of the 802.11n standard are released, but for the most part the transition should be smooth.

Calhoun said existing 802.11n gear based on draft 2.0, such as Cisco's Aironet 1250 Series access point, can be upgraded with software to be compatible with gear based on draft 3.0. He added that it is highly probable, but not a guarantee, that when the 802.11n standard is finally ratified, most likely in 2009, existing gear based on the draft releases will also be compatible with a software upgrade. If it isn't, most upgrades can be made by replacing radio modules in 802.11n access points.

According to Kozup, 802.11n is finding traction in various markets, such as education, professional services, financial services, retail, manufacturing, service providers and the government. Many are looking at 802.11n to boost wireless quality and bandwidth and hope to cut over to an all-wireless environment. Others are looking to boost signal quality and strength through 802.11n's use of MIMO (multi-input/multi-output) technology.

802.11n is also poised to boost the reliability of Voice over Wireless LAN (VoWLAN) and accommodate a larger, denser number of users.

And for those still running 802.11 a/b/g gear, 802.11n offers accrued benefits and is backward compatible. While a/b/g users won't get the higher data rates, they will experience the lower error rates and reliability of 802.11n without a hardware upgrade.

Spectrum visibility will also become increasingly important when making the cut over to 802.11n, as potential interference from devices like microwaves and video cameras running on the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz spectrum will still remain an issue. According to Calhoun, visibility in the RF spectrum, which the vendor now offers in its Spectrum Expert -- a product spawned from Cisco's acquisition of Cognio, a Germantown, Md.-based WLAN management vendor, earlier this year -- will help track down trouble spots on the WLAN and root out what's causing them.

Spectrum intelligence, Kozup said, can also be leveraged by VARs and partners and offered as a service through which partners can perform site surveys and RF spectrum audits, the results of which can be used as a benchmark and revisited periodically.

"Partners can advise their customers on the Wi-Fi space and the non-Wi-Fi space," he said. "This is a services opportunity for the partner community."