Question: What is the most high performance yet cost-effective wiireless access point for environments like classrooms, meeting rooms or auditoriums?
One of our customers recently carried out exhaustive tests to answer this question. Their high density requirement was for classrooms full of students carrying 802.11”ac” capable tablets with 2x2 MIMO antennas built in. Every classroom had an existing old wireless access point which was not keeping up with demand and needed to be replaced.
The school reasoned that, as they could only justify replacing their wireless access points approximately once every five years, they needed to buy equipment which gave them the best link bandwidths. This would also cover the increasing demand on wireless bandwidth that changing teaching methods would influence.
Five of the leading wireless vendors were invited in to supervise tests on their equipment, where the only constraint was that the equipment was to use the existing CAT 5e cable connected to a 1Gbps switch, as changing cabling around the school was considered to be cost-prohibitive.
The winner was the Xirrus XR-630 access point, with 2 software configurable “ac” radios that can be configured on the fly to be 1 x 2.4GHz and 1 x 5Ghz or 2 x 5GHz “ac” combinations, with 3x3 MIMO antennas. The tests showed that this access point could sustain throughputs approximately twice that of its nearest competitor. In one test, High Def video streaming, 18 laptops were able to simultaneously show the 1080p video without jitter or buffering compared with 7 from the next best competitor.
Xirrus 4 Way Access Point
Xirrus 8 Way Access Point
Logically this result was to be expected as no other vendor had two “ac” radios in the one access point. By some clever engineering Xirrus are able to negate interference from adjacent 5Ghz radios so their full bandwidth potential can be reached. With bonded channels of 80MHz each, the total theoretical throughput per access point would be 2.6Gbps but real-world results show speeds closer to 548Mbps; not enough to saturate the 1Gbps Ethernet link back to the switch.
Xirrus have built a host of features into to their access points to increase their manageability and further increase efficiencies:
1. Air Cleaner Filters – to minimise broadcast packet re-transmission through the access points.
2. Providing the Layer 7 Quality of Service required to support Multimedia Applications. Xirrus Access Points have full multimedia capabilities integrating Deep Packet Inspection, 802.11e, WMM, QoS, stateful Firewall, wired to wireless mapping and traffic management services based on device, user and/or traffic types. This includes priority queuing for multiple traffic types as well as multicast snooping and pruning. Additionally, all Access Points should provide the ability to optimize multicast traffic by converting to unicast and/or optimize multicast traffic transmit rates to better match speeds of connected users, this reduces bandwidth consumption on the network and minimizes the impact of any corrupted video packets, resulting in the highest quality video service
3. “Line-rate“ Security - implement at the edge. This includes the option of a dedicated 24/7 threat sensor radio, stateful firewall, integrated RADIUS, integrated ACLs, 802.11i, 802.1x and always line rate encryption, no matter the traffic volume or encryption protocol in use.
4. Mobile Device Management (MDM) integration that controls BYOD (Bring Your own Device). Just because users have the credentials to access the network, that does not mean they should gain access to all network resources (or any). For instance, with Xirrus you can set policies where User A is allowed access with her Tablet/Laptop, but blocked when using a Smartphone’s Wi-Fi connection. Different user groups can be created with each group being mapped to specific VLANs, access control list, and QoS parameters. By assigning devices and users to a specific group, IT administrators can easily control who has access to which resources and from what devices.
Xirrus have been designing high-density access points for many years, but their latest products now include a full range of models to suit different bandwidth requirements. The flagship AP has 16 modular radio cards in a single device for use in large auditoriums or sporting venues, dropping down in steps of performance to their ultra-low cost dual radio wall-plate access point.
Xirrus 16 Radio Access Point, or 'Array'
Does your wireless network need upgrading? For more information on the testing methodologies or results – or which models suit your requirements please contact BES.