Meru Touts First 802.11ac Access Point As Industry's Fastest

Meru Networks Tuesday introduced its first wireless access point supporting the next-generation 802.11ac -- or 5G -- wireless standard.

The Meru AP832 access point marks the latest in a series of new wireless gear introduced this year to support 802.11ac, joining other next-generation access points and routers from the likes of Aruba Networks, Motorola Solutions and Cisco.

Like all 802.11ac gear, Meru's AP832 is meant to help organizations accommodate the growing number of mobile devices and bandwidth-hungry applications, such as video, being deployed on their wireless networks. While smartphones, tablets and these media-rich apps can drag down network performance, 802.11ac is meant to change all that, delivering data rates up to 1.3 Gbps and big bandwidth improvements compared with the previous-generation wireless standard, 802.11n.

[Related: Meru Looking To Recharge WLAN Partner Base ]

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Meru, Sunnyvale, Calif., dubbed the new AP832 the fastest 802.11ac access point on the market today, a title it said is due to its use of a single-channel, rather than a multichannel, architecture. According to Frederick Harris, director of channel marketing at Meru, the access points sold by most vendors today need a minimum of three, non-overlapping channels to avoid interference in environments where multiple access points are being used.

But, Harris continued, because the U.S. today only has a handful of 80MHz channels -- or the specific channels required to reach the 1.3-Gbps speeds promised by 802.11ac -- vendors using these multichannel architectures often have to dip into 40MHz channels to avoid interference instead. This, in turn, leads to an overall drop in performance and often prevents that 1.3-Gbps milestone from being reached at all.

"If you drop down to the 40MHz channel with 802.11ac, you are getting 600 Mbps versus what the standard mandates, or 1.3 Gbps," Harris said.

Jennifer Minella, vice president of engineering at Carolina Advanced Digital, a Cary, N.C.-based solution provider, said it's Meru's unique, single-channel architecture that really sets it apart from other wireless vendors.

"Related to 802.11ac, this [architecture] is really juicy for them and a very key differentiator in how they can do an implementation," Minella told CRN.

Meru said other highlights of the AP832 include its use of two 802.11ac radios, support for Apple's Bonjour networking architecture, and built-in device fingerprinting capabilities, which allow network administrators to determine and enforce certain use policies based on a device's type or operating system. The AP832 will start shipping in the third quarter of this year, starting at $1,295.

Minella said she started to see an uptick in interest for the new 802.11ac standard among clients this year, particularly in vertical markets such as education, where adoption of iPads and other tablets has soared.

"We are really excited about Meru's 802.11ac announcement because we service a lot of customers that have what we would call 'unique' or 'special' needs. That might mean density, but a lot of times it's bandwidth -- whether it's a government facility or a hospital or even schools," Minella said. "Schools have, historically, pretty much just thrown up whatever they could get their hands on that was wireless. But now that they are moving to books on tablets, online testing and streaming media, wireless isn't an afterthought. It's how they are running businesses in schools now."

One of the early adopters of Meru's new 802.11ac access points was a Northeast K-12 school district that wanted to roll out a higher-grade wireless architecture across its more than 240 schools, according to Meru. Early customers also included the University of Houston, Texas, and San Jose. Calif.-based Bellarmine College Preparatory School, it said.