Changes to WLAN Impact IoT and Wi-Fi Standards

By: Pam Baker| - Leave a comment

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Wireless networking professionals are bracing for changes to the wireless local area network (WLAN). Like all things IT, WLAN is being used in new and unprecedented ways, and enterprises need new tools to manage it all. Chief among the trends slated for this year are the continued growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) and the rise of new Wi-Fi standards.

While these changes present many opportunities, they also bring new challenges for wireless networking pros. Here’s a look at what to expect this year so you’ll be ready for both the upsides and the downsides.

IoT Brings an Avalanche of Data

IoT has been talked about for some time now, but it’s still considered an emerging trend as hardware-makers shift manufacturing to add sensors, drivers and software applications to existing products. Soon, almost all existing products — and some yet to be invented — will be collecting and transmitting data over Wi-Fi. The resulting information avalanche will provide unprecedented business advantages, including new profit centers, but it will also overwhelm many wireless networks.

IoT is slated to begin hitting networks in earnest later this year and continue to grow from there. IHS Technology predicts the total number of IoT devices will grow to 30.7 billion by the year 2020. Meanwhile, Dell’Oro Group predicts there will be 1 billion devices on corporate WLAN networks in the next five years.

“While not all these devices are publicly available for use — only their owners can use many of them — we expect that these wireless local area network devices will be the primary way that most IoT devices connect to networks,” the Dell’Oro Group noted. “In this context, we expect that businesses need more from their networks as they are increasingly interacting with their customers via mobile devices and from IoT devices. This puts in place a powerful driver to further WLAN infrastructure-building. And these network owners are incentivized to install Wi-Fi because they won’t incur a monthly charge that would be necessary in order to use cellular connections.”

While these changes will surely make a huge impact, they’re not the only shifts coming.

Evolving WLAN Inspires New Wi-Fi Standards

Many enterprises are still catching up to 802.11ac, but 802.11ax lies not too far ahead. Figuring out how to incorporate these new standards without replacing everything all at once is a big challenge.

“802.11ax is particularly aimed at high-density Wi-Fi deployments, improving not only speed but [also] the ability of connections to stay active even when interfered with heavily,” writes Jon Gold in a NetworkWorld post.

But 802.11 ax isn’t the only standard sitting on the horizon: 802.11ay is looming, too. While 802.11ax is mostly about improving efficiency in routing, 802.11ay is more about boosting speed.

“The backwards compatible 802.11ay amendment would amount to a transmission rate of 20 to 30 Gbps and a range of 33 to 100 feet with 11ay-to-11ay device setups, but once channel bonding, [multiple-input multiple-output] and other capabilities are exploited, you could be getting closer to 200 Gbps and reaching distances approaching 1,000 feet, according to industry players,” explains Bob Brown in a separate NetworkWorld post.

Taking advantage of the improved efficiency, speed and range found in these new standards is certainly a smart move, but wireless networking pros will have to plan carefully in order to keep from breaking the network or the budget. And that planning must be done quickly — the IoT data avalanche isn’t going to wait.

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About The Author

Pam Baker

Freelance Writer

Pam Baker is an award-winning freelance journalist based in Georgia. Her published credits number in the thousands, including books, e-books, e-briefs, white papers, industry analysis reports and articles in leading publications, including Institutional Investor, CIO, Fierce Markets and InformationWeek, among many others. Her latest book, "Data Divination: Big Data Strategies," has been met with rave reviews, was featured in a prestigious National Press Club event, is recommended by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for business executives and is currently being used as a textbook in both business and tech schools in universities around the world. Baker is a "big-picturist," meaning she enjoys writing on topics that overlap and interact, such as technology and business. Her fans regualrly follow her work in science, technology, business and finance.

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