This year's opening keynote speech at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) broke the mold: Dr. Paul Jacobs, CEO of Qualcomm, delivered the first non-Microsoft presentation in a dozen years. Though Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer did make an appearance, the presentation was dominated by a core technology for release by Qualcomm this year.
In fact, 802.11ac-supported products are across the marketplace, available not only by Qualcomm, but also by Broadcom, Marvell, Mediatek, Quantenna, and Redpine. The product offerings by this wide array of chipset manufacturers ranges from routers and tablets to a selection of handsets, a.k.a. cellphones.
Though vendors are highlighting many technologies at CES, the most easily adoptable and (in my opinion) most impactful technology is the 802.11ac standard. This latest rev of wireless tech brings some real flash-bang delivery to a highly adopted mobile user base.
The new 802.11ac standard has some dizzying tech-speak surrounding why it's head and shoulders above previous iterations. The geeks reading this can follow the 802.11ac for more information. For the less geeky, the answer is simple: 802.11ac supports more users with faster delivery of content. When dealing with tech, faster is better -- every time.
Though the 802.11ac standard has been out for more than a year, the adoption curve is just hitting the marketplace. Market offerings for routers ranging in price from $137 to $230 are available from Asus, NetGear, D-Link, Belkin, and Buffalo, a variety that announces 802.11ac is here to stay.
You can find the real punch in the devices carrying chipsets that leverage the 802.11ac connectivity gains. There's a range of quad core processing chipsets in a variety of devices that truly make this nominal investment in new hardware well worth an upgrade. Cellphones, tablets, smart TVs, laptops, and gaming consoles -- you name it, the device will have this chipset. The range of 802.11ac-enabled devices will grow as the year progresses.
The routing edge is not the only place to see an increase in functionality with a small price upgrade. If your laptop, smart TV, or wirelessly linked PC is in need of a faster and richer connection to the content-filled web, you can use an add-on dongle or in-box card (PCI). Ranging in price from $17 to $35, this inexpensive add-on tech, paired with an upgrade at the routing edge, is a real bang for your IT buck.
For the IT pros who are adding an 802.11ac-enabled Wireless Access Point (WAP) to existing networks, it's not a bad idea. After all, you can support all those newly purchased tablets, smartphones, and current generation laptops with a richer experience, without upgrading the routing core, with an 802.11ac WAP or wireless repeater.
A major gain within the framework of the 802.11ac standard includes doubling the number of real users supported by any given access point, avoiding previously encountered bottlenecks at the users' edge. Now that's an argument you can use to free up those tightly held IT budget dollars.
Though the New Year will bring many flashy tech gains, including 802.11ac in your first quarter IT plan is a huge gain at the point of integration -- the user experience. Why not leverage this new tech with a low dollar buy? After all, supporting 802.11ac is the right move for your users, providing speed and depth of user experience -- whether it's for a residential network, small office environment, or a campus-wide implementation -- for a small outlay.
— Michael Starnes is CEO of Orlando-based Starnes Consulting.