Wireless 11n net becomes a high-bandwidth way of life

An American university has 720 access points supporting 3,000 users on its high-throughput wireless LAN

In the US, Morrisville State College's deployment of 802.11n WLAN has been covered in an attempt to study the challenges facing early enterprise adopters of 11n.

Patrick King, a student at Morrisville State College, remembers the exact moment when he discovered the impact of the college's change-over to a 802.11n WLAN.

This small state college, is the first fully-deployed, large-scale 802.11n deployment. The WLAN, based on gear from Meru Networks, covers 44 buildings, outlying horse barns and a working dairy, and a satellite campus 48 kilometres away. It serves about 3,000 total users, with an average of 1,000-1,500 logged on.

So far, IT staff, students such as King and faculty agree the college is getting what it paid for: in many cases, noticeably better throughput compared to 802.11abg, better signal quality and range, and higher throughput over longer distances. The Meru access points have two 802.11n radios, one in the 2.4GHz band, one in the 5GHz band. In theory, the available bandwidth is 300Mbps per radio, though actual throughput may be one-half to two-thirds of that, shared by the number of clients associated with a given radio.

The school needed to replace an obsolete pre-802.11 Raylink WLAN, which had a date rate of 1Mbps to 2Mbps at best, and was limited to the dorms and a few other buildings and wanted to extend it to cover the entire campus. Given the costs and work involved, MSC decided to take an additional step: to jump to 11n, with its promise of greater bandwidth, range, and reliability, as soon as those devices became available in late 2007. It chose Meru in part because the Meru access points can all be set to use one channel, instead of a checkerboard of different channel assignments. Meru touts the benefits as being simpler management, faster hand-offs, and greater scalability.

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