Access points with 802.11ac are taking over enterprise WLANs

But overall Wi-Fi growth has slowed as some enterprises await the arrival of next-generation access points

Step by step, the 802.11ac standard is taking over wireless networks in the enterprise, offering faster connections for users with the right devices.

Two years after 802.11ac products started shipping, the standard was supported by almost half of access points sold for attachment to a central controller during the second quarter, according to IDC. That's a noticeably faster adoption rate than the move to 802.11n, IDC said.

The higher speeds and better scalability of 802.11ac have proved to be attractive advantages to enterprises that want to handle a growing number of Wi-Fi devices in their network and run applications such as voice over Wi-Fi, video conferencing or streaming video.

The availability of more smartphones, tablets and laptops with support for 802.11ac has likely made the decision to go with the faster standard easier. Higher device and network equipment sales volumes will be a good thing for stingy IT departments as it usually results in lower prices.

Overall, the enterprise WLAN market cooled off a bit during the second quarter. A 1.4 percent increase year-on-year means the growth rate has fallen to the lowest level seen in years, according to IDC. This is due to two factors: a hold on new WLAN projects due to the uncertain global economy and market anticipation of so-called Wave 2 802.11ac.

Wave 2 products promise faster speeds and support for a technology called MU-MIMO (multi-user multiple input multiple output). It improves Wi-Fi performance in environments with lots of users, thanks to its ability to send data to multiple users at the same time. Regular Wi-Fi networks can only send data to one user at a time. It's not a magic cure for congested airwaves, though: To benefit from MU-MIMO, access points and terminals must both be compatible with the technology.

IDC expects 802.11ac to be used in a majority of new deployments next year, buoyed by the arrival of Wave 2 products.

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Mikael Ricknäs

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