How to Get Better and Faster with Wireless-N

When will your business begin using next-generation wireless technology?

Wireless-N (802.11n technology) is already in users' newer devices—laptops, desktops, IP phones, and smartphones.

"Next generation" is not hyperbole. Wireless-N offers the wireless LAN user real-world throughput up to 150 Mbps—faster than Fast Ethernet. An 802.11n access point (AP) offers mobile devices 2 times the coverage, 11 times the capacity, and 5 to 8 times the data rates of an 802.11g AP. And 802.11n is backward compatible with 802.11a/b/g.

Why Go Wireless-N? Four Business Advantages

The 802.11n standard—the culmination of seven years of work and several draft versions—was published in October 2009. Now businesses are installing Wireless-N APs to:

  • Have reliable mobile access to multimedia and mission-critical applications, including streaming video and video surveillance, voice, and large data files.
  • Enlarge the coverage of a wireless LAN. Wireless-N reduces fading and dead spots, and an AP with 802.11i pre-authentication, such as the Cisco AP 541N Wireless Access Point, provides seamless roaming for voice.
  • Securely connect users. Security features such as MAC address filtering, client isolation, WPA2 (AES encryption), multiple SSIDs and VLAN support protect network access.
  • Extend the services of a wired Ethernet LAN. A wireless LAN (WLAN) can be a good fit where installing Ethernet cables is difficult or when most network users are on mobile devices.

How to Deploy Wireless-N APs

Best practices for making a Wireless-N upgrade efficient and cost-effective include:

1. Decide if you will start anew or incrementally.

To create a bigger, faster, and more reliable wireless network—and simplify your management—start fresh with all-new dual-band Wireless-N APs. Configure one radio band to support only 802.11n clients, and one to support legacy 802.11a or 802.11b/g clients for as long as they last. An AP that uses clustering intelligence to centralize control, such as the Cisco AP 541N, can save you many hours of time and the expenses of a controller. With an AP 541N, you configure one, and are done: it pushes out the configuration to as many as 10 APs in the cluster, and can automatically manage radio settings and security features.

Or you may want to begin incrementally with Wireless-N. Let most of your 802.11a/b/g APs support old clients, and dedicate 802.11n APs to supporting new coverage areas and applications that require faster, more reliable connections.

2. Make a home on the range, and users will be free to roam.

Don't just place a Wireless-N AP into the home of an old AP and expect the coverage you want. Here's why: 802.11a/b/g APs create circular WLAN cells, and must balance their overlaps just enough to prevent dropped connections without wasting time bouncing clients between APs. An 802.11n AP's multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) antennas stream data in different directions (multiplex) and stream redundantly over different paths, increasing connection throughput and quality. The streaming makes the shape of 802.11n WLAN cells more jagged. It also means Wireless-N APs can be deployed more densely to increase WLAN capacity.

To place a Wireless-N AP, use RF planning tools. Then measure application performance (not just signal strength) on 5-GHz channels, using a variety of client devices from various locations to refine the placement.

Setting up secure guest access is simple with the Cisco AP 541N. Its graphical guide shows you how to allow visitors online without compromising your business network.

3. Channel traffic into the best band.

Wireless devices connect to one another in one radio band at a time, either the crowded 2.4-GHz ISM band (used by 802.11b/g) or the 5-GHz UNII band (used by 802.11a). Congestion and overlapping channels in the bands causes interference.

Wireless-N APs reduce interference by doing it all: they can operate in either band, on any of their channels. They can also double 20-MHz channels to give a user 40-MHz bandwidth. Make the most of your 802.11n investment by connecting wireless voice clients to the 5-GHz band.

4. Optimize AP settings.

To get the fastest data rates, take advantage of the AP's multiple antennas, 40-MHz channeling, and features that increase transmission efficiency. For example, you can use short guard interval to shorten the frame acknowledgment pause.

5. Find an expert for integration, security, management, and ongoing support.

If WLAN technologies are not your area of expertise, find a technology partner who can:

  • Integrate Wireless-N with your existing network, such as the Cisco Smart Business Communications System
  • Provide strong centralized security and set SSIDs
  • Configure your WLAN management
  • Deliver responsive support. A three-year "peace of mind" service and support subscription is available with the Cisco Small Business Pro Series of network products.

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