How To Pick Which Access Point Is Best For Your Network

Last time, we looked at how 802.11ac has become the industry standard since its ratification in 2014. For the first half of 2018, 802.11ac Wave 2 is the latest option for speed gains, with theoretical bandwidth over 1 Gbps. However, towards the middle of 2018, a new standard — 802.11ax will be released that focuses primarily on efficiency gains. So what type of access point should you plan for? The simple answer to this question is that each Wi-Fi specification has benefits. In fact, your best answer may not be 802.11ac or 802.11ax, but whether you can use 802.11ac and 802.11ax. Like all IEEE standards, 802.11ac and 802.11ax are interoperable, and the best AP deployment may well be a mixture of both.

Be wary of any vendor that makes a hard-and-fast recommendation without knowing about your layout, capacity plans, and your wired network. Regardless of the price point, your aim is to get an architecture in place that will meet your needs today and at least four years into the future. At the same time, because the only thing that you can be sure about in networking is that it is all going to change, today’s future-proofing is tomorrow’s legacy gear.

A very good foundational question to ask any vendor, however, is whether their architecture allows you to mix 802.11ac and 802.11ax access points in the same deployment, and still get the best of both standards. You will also want to be sure that the deployment can easily be managed via the same interface, and that the same policies can be applied. Then consider what is required to move from an 802.11ac AP to an 802.11ax AP.

Next time, we will consider how to make a deployment work for you.

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Alexandra Gates is a Senior Product Marketing Manager at Aerohive Networks, where she helps define market strategy and vision for the cloud and WLAN products. She is a CWNA with a comprehensive background in wireless technology, including capacity and management planning, RF design, network implementation, and general industry knowledge.

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