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Aruba Networks latest to unveil 802.11ac access points

John Cox | May 22, 2013
Joins other WLAN vendors ushering in the "gigabit Wi-Fi" enterprise

Earlier this month, at the Interop show, Motorola Solutions unveiled three 11ac access points, indoor and outdoor.

+ AP 8232 is an indoor unit with internal antenna, two radios, 3x3 MIMO, and designed for plug-in companion applications such as remote controlled video camera or cellular modem for a WAN backhaul or security sensors.

+ AP 8222 is also an indoor, but with a sleeker design; it has two radios, 3x3 MIMO, with internal antenna.

+ AP 8263 is ruggedized outdoor model with three radios, with the third radio supporting wireless intrusion prevention systems and location sensing.

All three will run on existing 802.3af Power-over-ethernet systems, according to Motorola.

The companion controller/access point software upgrade, WiNG 5.5, adds real-time content caching to improve web browsing performance, and unified management portal to encompass branch office deployments, which can now be centrally managed. Finally, Motorola's MESHConnex software now supports 11ac, allowing a backhaul connection that can handle mulit-media traffic.

The WiNG 5.5 upgrade is available in June; the 11ac access points ship in July. Motorola didn't formally announce pricing but says they will not charge a premium for 11ac. "If you can pay for 11n, why not install 11ac?" asks Chris Hinsz, Motorola's product manager for the new access points. "If you have a few early 11ac devices, they're on and off the WLAN faster, so you actually improve throughput for 11n clients as well."

[D-Link a week ago unveiled a new family of 802.11ac routers aimed at home networks. There are six products in all, in two lines, performance and value. They all have two radios, for 11n on 2.4Gbps, and 11ac on 5Ghz, but data rates of both radios vary from lower to higher. That variance is reflected in the price ranges, which starts at $80 and ends at $170.]

With this week's announcement, Aruba steps into the 11ac space. But besides the new Aruba 220 Series 11ac hardware, the company also announced a patented technology it calls ClientMatch. In essence, the Aruba algorithms and code let the access points "conspire" to shift an 11ac client, such as a laptop or tablet, to the "best" access point the one closest and least loaded. That's important because to get the highest 11ac throughput, clients have to be quite close to the access point, about 20 to 25 feet, according to Aruba.

It's another way in which software innovation is making ever-more complex Wi-Fi networks more transparent to end users and better performing.

The new Aruba 220 access point has two radios, based on Broadcom's chipsets, for 2.4 GHz and the 11ac-mandated 5 GHz bands. Each radio has three transmit and three receive antennas, and supports three spatial streams (sometimes designated as 3x3x3 or 3x3:3). The 2.4GHz 11n radio has a maximum data rate of 450Mbps or, if the client has matching Wi-Fi chipset from Broadcom, up to 600Mbps. For 11ac connects, that configuration can yield a data rate up to 1.75Gbps, according to Aruba (or up to 1.9Gbps for client devices with Broadcom's TurboQAM technology).


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