Cisco Accelerates Wi-Fi with Aironet 3600

By Sean Michael Kerner

January 31, 2012

New access point, includes four antennas and 802.11r support for fast roaming.

Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) is updating it WLAN portfolio today with a new flagship Aironet access point. The Aironet 3600 is a three spatial stream device with a simulataneous 2.4 and 5 Ghz, 4x4 antenna design. The total theoretical speed of the access point comes in at 900 Mbps.

Specified speed alone doesn't define the true capabilities of any Wi-Fi access point as things such as reach and signal integrity often are more important to end-users in an enterprise deployment.

"The cool thing about the extra fourth antenna is that we have a degree for redundancy that lets us speed up the slower clients," Sylvia Hooks, senior manager, wireless solutions at Cisco."We're able to speed mobile devices that need speeding up and there is no special software or standards required on the client side."

Hooks explained that the Aironet 3600 has four transmit and receive antennas that allows for more consistent upload speeds. The need for more consistent speeds is important to help consumer-grade devices like tablets that don't have strong transmit power capabilities.

"So even if the signal is weak from the mobile device, we're able to compensate," Hooks said. "On the reverse side, when we get a signal from a mobile client, we're able to calculate its' location and then send back to that exact location using beam forming."

She added that with the power to get stronger signals out to individual mobile devices, the access point is able to serve even more users, increasing the overall system capacity. Aironet 3600 users can also roam further than before. Users can go up to 130 feet away from the access point without dropping down to a slower speed. The integrity of the signal is further protected with Cisco's Clean Air technology that analyses the wireless spectrum for potential interference. Clean Air was first deployed by Cisco in 2010 on the Aironet 3500 series access points.

With the Aironet 3600, Cisco is also introducing support for the IEEE 802.11r standard which specifies Fast Roaming for wireless clients.

"It's a standard that defines how clients roam between access points on the same network, fast enough so there aren't any delays or lost connections," Hooks said.

Another standard that is likely of interest to enterprise buyers is the emerging 802.11ac standard for gigabit Wi-Fi. Currently 802.11ac chip technology is mostly at the consumer-level, according to Hooks. That said, she didn’t rule out the future possibility that the Aironet 3600 could get an upgrade.

"We haven't defined additional modules yet to snap into this access point although it does have the ability to snap in a totally new radio," Hooks said. "At this time, Cisco hasn't formally announced any plans but the intention of the platform is that it is modular enough to accept new technologies."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist



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