Is it time to take the 802.11ac Wi-Fi plunge?

802.11ac's mind-bending specifications will allow you to enjoy speeds of up to 1Gbps which is the Holy Grail if you are looking to rip out those nasty cable runs and start wirelessly transferring large files such High Definition video and Audio, but what does that mean for businesses?

The new standard will take the choice cuts of the current standard and evolve those technologies. One of the key features of the 802.11n standard is MIMO (Multi-in Multi-out) this technology revolutionised the wireless industry, 802.11ac will expand this technique with MU-MIMO (Multi-User Multi-in Multi-out) Currently AC's life is only in phase one which only supports SU-MIMO (Single-User Multi-in Multi-out) This essential means that only one client rather than multiple clients can take advantage of potentially up to eight spatial streams. AC is yet to be ratified and MU-MIMO won't be a working feature until phase two of the AC standard which may not arise until 2015.

Other matters to consider are range and interference. AC supports wider channel widths such as 80MHz and 160MHz. Typically as the channel width increases the power will decrease to compensate. This will have an effect on the overall range of the access point and therefore the potential coverage area will be less, more access points may be required to cover the same area as a 802.11n access point. Also as widths increase the available usable channels will decrease, using 80MHz for example will hog four channels of the 5GHz spectrum leaving it more open to co-channel interference. Using the full 160MHz will leave virtually nothing.

No one can deny that AC has huge potential to take wireless networking to the next level but in its current state it is just not ready. Wireless's reigning champion 802.11n is still the weapon of choice for enterprise level projects and will be for some time. Most manufactures for enterprise level wireless products are holding back until AC's potential can be fully harnessed before releasing any product.