The march toward broader 802.11ac wireless deployment is continuing, with new devices at both the entry level and the high end from WiFi vendor Xirrus. At the entry level is the new X2 platform. The new Wave 2 802.11ac-powered XD2 takes a place at the high end.
"The X2 is our new entry-level 11ac solution," Bruce Miller, Vice President, Product Marketing at Xirrus, told Enterprise Networking Planet. "We continue to sell the XR-520 11n AP, but most of our sales are moving to 11ac."
The X2 is a two-radio 802.11ac Wave 1 device capable of up to 1.2 Gbps bandwidth per access point. In contrast, the XD2 is a dual-radio 802.11ac Wave 2 device capable of up to 7 Gbps of total Wi-Fi bandwidth.
Miller noted that Xirrus has not yet announced what the actual silicon is on the XD2 product yet, but it is different silicon than what competitors have announced and shipped to date.
Given that client devices generally can't yet support 802.11ac Wave 2 speeds at this point, Miller said that for customers, futureproofing is the primary benefit.
"The lifespan of APs are expected to be five years plus, so customers investing today will have the longest runway by deploying a product that supports the full Wave 2 specs, even if they won’t be able to fully benefit immediately," Miller said. "There are plenty of Wi-Fi networks in need of upgrading today, so if you are going to spend the money, Wave 2 should be a consideration."
While faster bandwidth is a key selling point for 802.11ac Wave 2, so too is the new MU-MIMO standard. Miller explained that the primary benefit of MU-MIMO is enhanced support for multiple clients communicating at once.
"This will benefit smartphone-heavy scenarios in particular, since they are typically single-stream, meaning you can get up to 4 on a radio at once," Miller said. "Both the AP and the client must support Wave 2 to take full advantage of the new spec."
Making the move to 802.11ac will in some cases require a rip-and-replace of older access points. Miller said that if an existing Xirrus customer has a modular AP (XR-2000/4000/6000 series), they will be able to upgrade to Wave 2 by swapping out radio modules when the new Wave 2 modules are available. It is a simple snap in/out procedure, plus associated software upgrade.
"If they have fixed AP, then it would be a full AP replacement – same as any other vendor," Miller said.
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at Enterprise Networking Planet and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.