Will the enterprise succumb to the 802.11n hype?

Will the enterprise succumb to the 802.11n hype?
There's certainly a significant amount of buzz surrounding pre-802.11n with all major consumer CPE vendors eager to roll out products to capitalize on consumers' desire for higher speed and better throughput. The Wi-Fi Alliance will begin certifying 802.11n Draft 2.0 products in late June. Will WiFi enterprise vendors succumb to the hype?

Already, Trapeze Networks, Meru Networks, Colubris Networks and Ruckus Wireless have announced plans for pre-n access points aimed at the enterprise. Industry heavyweights Cisco and Aruba, however, have not made any commitments. In fact, Aruba recently released a white paper detailing why enterprises should wait for the real standard, which might not come until the first quarter of 2009.

"We will have 802.11n compliant APs when the standard is ratified," Michael Tennefoss, Arbua's vice president of marketing, told FierceWiFi. "But until the standard is completely done, there is no assurance enterprises can upgrade. For consumers it's no big deal but for enterprises it's a big deal."

That said, Tennefoss says it has built pre-n access points just to stay on top of the market, but notes that many users don't need 802.11n today because existing wireless LANs are underutilized. Besides, every Aruba controller is 802.11n ready because it has more than enough throughput. Moreover, 802.11n migration requires new clients and gigabit Ethernet rewiring, both of which are expensive propositions, notes Aruba.

So why are competitors introducing pre-n equipment? First, not every enterprise faces the gigabit Ethernet rewiring problem. And it just might be that pre-n technology provides the dramatic increase in throughput and capacity that enterprises just can't ignore until the standard is ratified in 2009. The 802.11n Draft 2.0 standard may give enterprises for the first time the potential to match the performance they get on wired local area networks. And if vendors can somehow give assurances that migration from pre-n to the standard will be a relatively smooth experience, why wait? I don't believe Cisco and Aruba will be able to wait until 2009 either.

On another note, Motorola's Thomas Mioraj, business development lead for North America, clarified his comments at Interop regarding the use of WiMAX for backhaul. FierceWiFi's WiMAX Beat picked up an article from InformationWeek that indicated Mioraj said that WiMAX was not well-suited for backhaul. Mioraj said his comments were taken out of context. He said the WiMAX Forum has chosen to focus on the multiple access portion of WiMAX rather than optimizing the technology for backhaul.

"Backhaul is still an important option," Mioraj said. "Our intent was not to say that it can't be used for backhaul but to identify the fact that all of the big players have decided to put their energy into the access portion of it." That's a whole other story in itself! --Lynnette

P.S. Join Barry West, CTO, Sprint Nextel & Scott Richardson, CSO, Clearwire along with other thought leaders at WiMAX Strategies, the only WiMAX event at NXTcomm. Register before June 1 and save $200!