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We are currently recommending the Implementation of 802.11ac Access Points (AP's) as the benefits include:
1. Works exclusively on the less crowded 5Ghz Radio Band, which has a much higher number of channels, which can eliminate interference from neighboring radios and provide individual data lanes, via Beam Forming (see graphic below) for each mobile device, thereby increasing data throughput and reducing data transmission times.
2. Supports increased data throughput to a theoretical maximum of 1.3 Gigabits per second (Gbps); realistically 433 Megabits per second (Mbps) on a single stream. Future mobile device support of 802.11ac data stream will vary, e.g, Apple’s newest products support (2) 802.11ac data streams for a maximum throughput of 866(867)Mbps.
3. Increases Wi-Fi capacity - provides an increased number of simultaneously usable mobile devices, i.e., higher density support.
4. Equipment is typically backwards compatible to support 802.11b/g/n standards.
5. When needing to support full HD video to a large number of simultaneous users, this is the only real solution.
Beam Forming (Focuses data transmission signals, instead of broadcasting an omnidirectional signal):
To illustrate the benefit of improved data transmission rates, a graphical comparison of 802.11n and 802.11ac speed and distance is shown below (NOTE: Higher Mbps is better):
High Density Support
High Data Throughput
A general note about Wi-Fi technology: the further away a mobile device is from an AP, the lower the signal level resulting in lower data throughput rates and longer transmission times. Data throughput rates (transmission) are measured in Kilobits or Megabits Gigabits per second (Kbps, Mbps, Gbps), with the higher number being faster and therefore better.It is important to note the 802.11ac technology is fairly new, with the IEEE Working Group standards just recently being finalized in November, 2013. This means most mobile devices do NOT currently have 802.11ac radios but will be implemented in the near future. Apple has been the first mainstream user of the 802.11ac technology, introduced in their MacBook Air 11, MacBook Air 13, iMac products. They support dual 802.11ac streams for a maximum throughput rate of 866Mbps (433Mbps per stream); however, it has been identified that software limitations in the OS X operating system limit throughput on several TCP/IP protocols. USB adapters for PC’s are also currently available, with some supporting dual streams and others just a single stream (433Mbps).Wi-Fi Selection Criteria:To fully qualify 802.11ac technology, it is important to identify several areas of criteria to select the best Wi-Fi technologies and AP’s for this project, including the number of perceived devices per room to determine density support requirements, physical dimensions of individual classrooms and overall building dimensions, current mobile device Wi-Fi technologies used, common denominator Wi-Fi technology used and it’s specific capabilities, Radio Frequency (RF) Spectrum environment analysis, and maximizing data throughput for each device:1. The number of potential mobile devices is an integral part of density support for AP selection. With Angela Rumpf’s assistance, I’ve determined the school inventory of mobile devices includes: (32) MacBooks, (45) iPads, (28) laptops, and potentially (510) Chromebooks. These will support approximately (30) students per classroom in (22) classrooms along with teachers and assistants. The calculated density support requirements for 4 simultaneous rooms (2 up & 2 down) is: (120) Chromebooks at (30) per room, plus (32) MacBook Pro’s, plus (30) iPads, plus (4) laptops for teachers along with Teacher iPads and Smartphones, and Wi-Fi enable printers, for a theoretical maximum of 200 mobile devices, or 50 per room. It is recognized classes would probably not use Chromebooks and iPads/MacBook Pro’s simultaneously, so 35 devices per room is more realistic. 2. Dimensions of classrooms and the building are as follows:Room size (Ex. - Room 107 - 24.3’ x 45.2’), Rooms 110 & 112 are 8’ deeper in the back of the classroomNorth End Corridor - 97.4’ x 45.2’Center Corridor - 45.9’ x 64.9’South End Corridor - 145.7’ x 45.2’Overall - 304’ x 45.2’ 3. The current School mobile device Wi-Fi technologies in use are:iPad 2’s - 802.11a/b/g/n, supporting dual Frequencies 2.4Ghz and 5GhzMacBook Pro’s – 802.11a/b/g/n, supporting dual Frequencies 2.4Ghz and 5GhzDell Laptops – varies, but commonly 802.11b/g/n; however not all 802.11n radio’s support 5GhzHP Chromebook 14’s - 802.11a/b/g/n, supporting dual Frequencies 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz4. Currently, the School’s most advanced Wi-Fi technology in common with all devices is 5Ghz 802.11n running on the 40 Mhz bandwidth to support maximum data throughput between 150Mbps to 300Mpbs with a range of 230’.5. A survey of RF Spectrum was conducted to get a view of the current radio frequencies in use, map a range of coverage for each band, identify potentially conflicting radios, determining other interference or blockage, determine if additional AP’s need to be implemented, and optimize the location of the AP’s. NOTES: The current Apple AirPort Extreme and AirPort Express AP’s support 802.11b/g/n with (2) radios on the 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz Frequencies. 2.4Ghz has wider range in distance than 5Ghz, but data throughput capabilities are lower than 5Ghz capabilities. 2.4Ghz is susceptible to interference from Microwave Ovens, cordless phones, and neighboring 2.4Ghz Wi-Fi radios, etc. The graphical results of my Signal Level analysis are as follows:1st Floor – 2.4Ghz:1st Floor – 5Ghz:2nd Floor – 2.4Ghz:2nd Floor – 5Ghz:Legend: Observations and conclusions (NOTE: Green indicates best signal level):1. At the North end of the school, the school is seeing a couple of radios from neighboring homes, but bandwidth isolation will prevent any interference.2. At the 2.4Ghz Band, the 1st and 2nd Floors have complete coverage of all classrooms; however, there are weaker signals in the Southeast corner of Rooms 101 and 201 and a bit weaker signal in the South end of 212. For Rooms 101 and 201, I believe this can be rectified by placing the AP from the 101/103 Workroom to a wall mounted location more central on the South wall of room 101. It is expected a commercial grade AP will improve overall signal level to resolve Room 212.3. At the 5Ghz Band, the 1st and 2nd Floors have complete coverage, but more weak signal areas. Again, it is expected a commercial grade AP will improve overall signal strength throughout the facility. Additionally, 802.11ac 5Ghz radios utilize beam-forming that extend overall range. 6. MHOC ‘s projected AP’s Requirements:a. Increase Wi-Fi capacity for more simultaneously used mobile devices.b. Provide enough data throughput (network speed measured in bits per second, typically kbps or mbps) for each device. The higher the data throughput the better. Manufactures state 802.11ac will provide 1.3Gbps thoughput, divided amongst multiple streams, in this case (3) individual streams of 433Mbps. Mobile devices support of the number of streams will vary, so the maximum data throughput achieved could be 433Mbps, 866 (867)Mpbs, or 1.3Mbps.As of this writing, equipment that supports 802.11ac:Access Points (Commercial Grade):Aruba Networks AP-220 SeriesCisco Aironet 3600 Series, Cisco Aironet 3700 Series, and Cisco Meraki MR34D-Link DAP-2695 rev A1Huawei AP7x30DN-AC modelsMeru Networks AP832 modelsUbiquiti UniFi AP-ACEnd-User Mobile devices:Apple – MacBook Air 11, MacBook Air 13, and iMacHTC One M7 SmartphonesSamsung Galaxy S4 SmartphonesHP TPC all-in-one PCRecommendation:I’ve researched and analyzed potential solutions in this emerging technology that meet the above criteria along with a stated goal of migrating to new 802.11ac technology. Based upon price and performance, one product stands out above the rest.In addition, I investigated complimentary products including WaveGuide technology to propagate an antenna in every classroom; however, the cost became prohibitive.I recommend the Ubiquiti “Unifi AP AC” Access Points. These support 802.11a/b/g/n/ac and speeds of up to 1.3Gbps in the 5 GHz radio band and up to 450 Mbps in the 2.4 GHz radio band. These AP’s offers simultaneous dual-band operation with 3 data streams of 3 (3x3) Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (MIMO) technology for each band. They each have a range of up to 400 feet. They can be configured in a Wireless Mesh configuration, utilizing Ubiquiti’s Zero Hand-off technology, allowing mobile devices to roam within the facility without dropping off the wireless network. They utilizes two Gigabit Ethernet ports to maximize data throughput to the network switch and firewall/gateway to the Internet. They support 802.3at PowerOverEthernet (PoE+) so power adapters are not needed at the AP installation location. However, each unit does come with a PoE+ injector. Individually they can support 200+ simultaneous users. They can be Wall or Ceiling mounted.They include a 1-Year Warranty. Defective products shipped to Ubiquiti Networks under a RMA must be freight prepaid. Ubiquiti Networks will pay the return freight via a service of Ubiquiti Networks’ choosing.