Solutions Review lists five important questions your company needs to ask when evaluating Wi-Fi 6 access points.
The next generation of wireless hardware, 802.11ax (colloquially known as Wi-Fi 6), is finally here. Developed by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), this new Wi-Fi standard promises greater speed and capacity for wireless networks — two very tantalizing prospects for business and enterprise owners. Network hardware providers have stepped up to the plate to design and provide access points, routers, switches, etc. that allow customers to take advantage of the new Wi-Fi standard.
To help businesses narrow down solution providers, we listed five critical questions your company needs to ask when evaluating Wi-Fi 6 access points. Your business should have an answer to these questions as it starts evaluating companies in the Wi-Fi 6 space to know which solutions fit the bill for your Wi-Fi 6 access needs.
Do I really need to upgrade to 802.11ax right now?
802.11ax is the shiny new Wi-Fi standard, but it will take some time for it to become the golden standard for wireless business networks. Upgrading your entire wireless infrastructure is no small project: the time to deploy everything and the price tag are huge factors in determining how long it will take to bring 802.11ax to your entire network. As such, your business needs to weigh the benefits of 802.11ax against the estimated costs associated with an endeavor like this.
How many users/devices do I need to serve on my network?
One of the core improvements of 802.11ax over previous Wi-Fi generations is increased user capacity — allowing for more devices to connect to a network at once. Thus, you need to know how many users and devices your Wi-Fi network needs to serve at any given time so you can determine how many access points you’ll need to acquire. Businesses with public offices that allow guests to connect to the network also need to consider how many non-staff users they will need to accommodate.
How many access points do I need for full coverage?
Proper access point placement and configuration are always crucial. Different access points feature differing physical areas of coverage and support a different number of concurrent devices and users. Your business needs to know how much square footage you have to cover to deliver Wi-Fi access to all your employees before you purchase access points to know how many access points will be enough. Having a proper placement plan is also critical in getting the most out of your access points as possible.
Do I need indoor and/or outdoor access points?
Many wireless hardware vendors, especially larger ones, offer specific access points for indoor use and for outdoor use. Most businesses will only require indoor access points to satisfy their Wi-Fi needs, but companies with large campuses that need to extend wireless access beyond their buildings will want to look into outdoor access points. Well-known vendors like Cisco, Huawei, and Extreme Networks offer a number of outdoor solutions, but other vendors may only have one to offer — if they do at all.
How long will I expect to stay with 802.11ax?
802.11ax will not be the final Wi-Fi standard; the IEEE is already working on new proposed standards that will add even more improvements and refinements. It will be a couple of years before the next major Wi-Fi standards is deployed, however, which leads to the question: if your company is going to redesign its architecture to support 802.11ax, how long do you plan to keep this network before you consider upgrading? Rebuilding networks takes a long time, so you need to value the projected effort.
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