Apple, Cisco dis 2.4 GHz, favor 5 GHz for enterprise Wi-Fi

Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) and Cisco are making it pretty clear they don't want their enterprise customers thinking about using the 2.4 GHz band.

In fact, in a document released Feb. 3, they say it's both Cisco's and Apple's joint recommendation that "the use of the 2.4 GHz band is not considered suitable for use for any business and/or mission critical enterprise applications."

Cisco and Apple strongly recommend a 5 GHz-only (802.11a/n/ac) wireless network for Apple devices, and the document, aimed at IT professionals deploying Cisco WLANs, focuses completely on a 5 GHz network layout as a best practice for all Apple devices. It gives no recommendations for a 2.4 GHz-only or dual-band networks.

Free of devices like Bluetooth, video cameras and microwave ovens that are typically found at 2.4 GHz, the 5 GHz channels generally offer reduced channel utilization and lower co-channel interference, according to the Cisco document.

How bad is the situation at 2.4 GHz? While crowded, the 2.4 GHz is still open for business. "It's just like a crowded room," said Clint Brown, director of product marketing in strategic alliances at Broadcom and a long-time Wi-Fi Alliance board member. "I think what Cisco and Apple are just acknowledging is that for the enterprise, if you want a really reliable, robust experience" -- which is available now with 802.11ac and hundreds of megabits of throughput – "you should be doing that in 5 GHz. That's the reliable park to play in."

While 2.4 is still going to be important for Wi-Fi, it's not going to deliver the speed, throughput and reliability that's available in the 5 GHz, Chris Szymanski, director of product marketing and government relations at Broadcom, told FierceWirelessTech.  

Brown said he thinks the FCC demonstrated a lot of vision because when it allocated two chunks of spectrum for uses that include Wi-Fi. The 2.4 GHz spectrum is analogous to a 1-acre park, with room for three channels, and it became the workhorse of Wi-Fi initially because it is almost ubiquitous around the planet. There are limitations on some of the upper channels in a few countries, but it's kind of been like the international park for Wi-Fi. The 8-acre park – 5 GHz -- was set aside as well, and it has a lot more rules; some countries won't allow Wi-Fi at 5 GHz. In the U.S., however, it's quite open.

For several years, enterprise products have incorporated both 2.4 and 5 GHz, operating as dual-mode. But according to Cisco and Apple, dual-mode isn't best practice.

The FCC is well aware of the crowded conditions in the 2.4 GHz band, with Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel just last month pointing that out in a speech for the New America and Open Technology Institute. Rosenworcel, a Democrat, and Commissioner Michael O'Rielly, a Republican, have banded together to advocate for the 5.9 GHz as a place for Wi-Fi expansion.

But it's been a topic of contention because the FCC set aside the 5.9 GHz band for anti-collision technology for the auto industry back in 1999 and there's been little movement on that front. Designed for dedicated short range communications service (DSRC), it's supposed to be used to reduce accidents. Rocenworcel is now calling for efforts to accelerate a roadmap to test sharing techniques so more people can actually use the spectrum rather than waiting more years for the automotive technology to get deployed.

Szymanski said the DSRC spectrum is important because it has safety-of-life applications, but the technology is based on an old standard, 802.11p. Considering that the same companies that make Wi-Fi chips will also likely be making products for the automotive applications, he's confident that a co-existence mechanism can be adapted to enable sharing, with enough separation between applications to prevent interference.

For more:
- see this The Next Web story
- see this Cisco document

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