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Shopping for Wave 2 Wi-Fi? Don't rush into it

Stephen Lawson | June 5, 2015
The new world of Wi-Fi is a bit like the proverbial airplane being built in mid-air: Unless you really need to enter the new world of LANs right now, it might make sense to hold off. A case in point is the first 802.11ac Wave 2 access point from Cisco Systems, introduced on Tuesday in advance of the Cisco Live conference next week.

The APs will balance the traffic load between the two Gigabit Ethernet ports to take advantage of their combined capacity, Cisco says. However, making that work would require two Ethernet cables out to the AP.

Unless an enterprise already has twin wires to each AP, which is rare, pulling those cables would be an expensive step to take just to deploy this particular generation of product, Dell'Oro Group analyst Chris DePuy said.

"Hoisting the ladder is the most expensive part," DePuy said. Avoiding cable installation is the main point of multigigabit Ethernet, after all.

Cisco isn't the only company coming out with a first-generation Wave 2 product with only Gigabit Ethernet: The Ruckus Wireless ZoneFlex R710 likewise has two Gigabit Ethernet wired interfaces. But he expects most Wave 2 products in the future to have multigigabit Ethernet ports.

IT departments are likely to take a good, long look before committing to APs that don't have the faster ports, because their needs could grow and change over time, DePuy said.

The market for such products may be fairly small, but it's not nonexistent, DePuy said.

"It's likely this is better than the Wave 1 products. So if you need to buy something now, this is the one you're going to buy," he said. "But if you can wait a little while, you might wait for the other ones."

Meanwhile, there's good news for IT shops that want to make sure they get multigigabit uplinks and can use them with different vendors' products. The IEEE 802.3bz Task Force, formed earlier this year to set a standard for 2.5-Gigabit/5-Gigabit Ethernet, adopted baseline proposals for all the main components of the specification at its first meeting in May. The group is now beginning to write the first preview draft of the standard and will next meet in July, said Dave Chalupsky, chairman of the task force.

"The process went as quickly as it possibly could," Chalupsky said. The Task Force won't have an official timeline for finishing the standard until after that meeting, but it's possible the standard will be fully signed off by late 2016, he said. If that sounds like a long time, keep in mind that vendors often can safely develop interoperable products well before a standard is official.

 

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