What to expect from 802.11ac. Has the moment for enterprise networks arrived?

WLAN-150x150Currently there is a lot of noise in the press regarding the new so called Gigabit 802.11 ac standard. Of course the upgrade to 802.11 ac has some technical advantages, but even though, is now the right time to upgrade your enterprise network or is the new technology not yet finalized?

It is important to consider for this analysis company requirements, as it is the market to which Teldat products are focused towards. Whilst within a home/SoHo environment, one Access Point has to serve a small number of WLAN clients with excellent performance, in a typical enterprise application we will have a large number of Access Points to cover a large office area and the main need will be to serve a large number of roaming clients, unevenly distributed. This will be sufficient with a good average WI-FI performance.

802.11ac operates exclusively on the 5GHz network, but is backward compatible with the existing clients. Current chipsets promise data rates of up to 1.3 Gbit / s – this is the physical rate, whilst the net rate is about 50% lower. The performance gain is achieved mainly by two improvements. Firstly, instead of 20MHz channel bandwidth, 11 ac requires at least 80 MHz, and there is even a variant which requires 160 MHz of bandwidth. However, this very high bandwidth requirement complicates an overlap-free (and thus interference-free) channel planning within companies. Depending on the channel bandwidth, only one or two channels in the Indoor-frequencies bands are used. So especially due to the high channel bandwidth, it may well be that bottlenecks in enterprise networks are generated, as they tend to have many access points and many clients in each channel. Thereby less wireless clients can connect simultaneously to the Wi-Fi network. This could cause a huge problem for business networks.

The second improvement is that in addition to the 64-level quadrature modulation (64-QAM) it will now be adding a 256-level quadrature modulation (256-QAM). However, the use of 256-QAM requires a very good signal-to-noise ratio, which is only achieved at short distances to the access point. If the signal-to-noise ratio is not adequate, the devices switch back to 64-QAM.

An important point is the economic aspect. A possible migration to .11 ac should analyse the network infrastructure, as well as the costs involved in the planning. The current .11 ac devices are very power hungry and require a higher PoE power class (802.3at) – hence new switches will need to be purchased. In addition, the first .11 ac products are considerably more expensive than the best .11 n devices.
The new .11 ac standard comes with another technical improvement which is very important in raising the performance for many clients, especially enterprise networks. This feature is called MU-MIMO (Multi-User MIMO). Without MU-Mimo all 1×1 Mimo clients will always share the first stream or antenna of an Access Point (E.g. when connecting three 1×1 Mimo clients to a 3×3 MIMO Access Point). For MU-MIMO however, each client can receive its own stream from the access point. That means the system has a three times higher throughput or each Access Point can serve three times more clients. In any case a significant improvement.

MU-MIMO is therefore particularly interesting for applications in enterprises, as it is in this case less concerned with providing a single client with the highest possible data throughput, and is more concerned about connecting as many users with the best possible performance. The MU-MIMO is not yet in the current available chipsets – this is the most significant reason why 802.11 ac is still not quite ready for business use.

The R&D department at Teldat works closely together with semiconductor manufacturers and the latest technologies available, to launch in the next months a dual-radio enterprise access point that combines the advantages of 2.4 GHz .11 n technology and the new .11 ac technology together. This next-generation .11 ac will be both more efficient with energy consumption, as well as in the use of mobile .11 ac terminals.

Internet on the rails

TRANSPORT-150x150Cellular networks allow new services by making Internet access ubiquitous. Their increasing coverage, reliability and speed allow businesses and end customers alike to take advantage of new possibilities, although at the same time they increase dependence on Internet availability for everyday activities.

However certain areas do not receive reliable cellular coverage. A typical case is that of railway networks, which can include long stretches along uninhabited regions in which it is not cost-effective to deploy a cellular network. Even in areas with coverage, passengers’ access to cellular networks is hindered by attenuation in network signals produced by the train’s own body. Some passengers may also face high roaming tariffs to access the Internet. In addition to passengers, M2M units and the train staff could also greatly benefit from network connectivity, but they face the same challenges.

In order to access the Internet aboard a moving train, different approaches can be followed.
The first option is for the cellular network operator to deploy additional cellular capacity along the railway tracks. This solution is rarely cost effective and in any case the signal reception is still obstructed by the coachwork of the train. In addition passengers need a cellular contract with that particular operator in order to enjoy network access.

Another option is to use signal repeaters (possibly even aboard the train). However this is only feasible in areas where there is some signal available to begin with, and network capacity is seriously affected.
A better option is to establish an independent network aboard the train. M2M systems can be connected using Ethernet cabling and Wi-Fi can be deployed to reach every corner. An onboard router controls upstream connections and can combine different network access technologies (including cellular with external high gain antennas, satellite, and Wi-Fi along the tracks) to ensure failsafe and high speed connectivity. Additional routers may also be deployed to ensure higher redundancy.

Having a full network with high speed Internet connectivity aboard the train opens many new possibilities to streamline rail operations and at the same time creates customer loyalty by offering an incentive to travel by train instead of driving or taking a plane.
Among the many new services which can be deployed we can mention some related to the train operation, such as:

•    Real-time central access to on-board cameras for security purposes.
•    Remote monitoring and management of on-board systems.

But we should not forget services catered to the passenger:

•    Internet access (free or at a cost).
•    Display of information on internal screens including maps, schedules of connecting trains, and advertisements.
•    Access to on-board cafeteria or restaurant for orders.

When deploying various services, the routers aboard the train must ensure that all of them operate independently and do not interfere with one another. The routers must also control that at times when there is limited bandwidth available the most critical services are catered to first. In addition it is important to secure sensitive information using strong encryption techniques, as well as to provide flexible management and failsafe operations.

Teldat has built a range of routers and access points which are especially designed and certified for the demanding environment found aboard a train. The H1 Rail routers and W2002T-n access points combine to offer endless possibilities aboard rolling stock.

In order to remain competitive in an increasing complex market, train operators need to streamline their operations and find new ways to ensure customer loyalty. Having full Internet connectivity aboard the trains is a cost-effective way to quickly improve both these areas.

Securing Business via Resilience networks

WLAN-150x150One can safely say that currently businesses of any kind require WAN resilience, as part of their network  set up, because independently of a company’s size (SME’s or Corporations) or business environment, WAN outages hit hard. There is no doubt in that. Some years ago only large corporations would have a resilience programme, in order to protect their mission critical data and were classified as disaster recovery networks, because of the scenario and what they had to protect. Obviously these networks were extremely expensive.

Since then, the business environment has developed very quickly. Now, even for a small or medium company, not being able to secure the communication line can be classified as a disaster. Being connected 24 hours, 7 days a week is a must, as the flow of data between companies, whether internally between different branch offices or externally with their clients and their suppliers is essential. Moreover, as is widely known, a current cut in the data communication will also mean a company being left without telephony with the increasing amount of ToIP (telephony over IP).

So a part from the direct results of what a WAN outage brings, what are the consequences for a company of being left without data and voice connectivity? Obviously, the current business which should take place will be directly lost. New business opportunities would be lost as potential clients cannot contact you or vice versa, you cannot contact them. Competitive advantages are becoming increasingly difficult to obtain, but a period of time without connection and they disappear with lower customer satisfaction. This will consequently turn into employee dissatisfaction and during the WAN outage itself, obviously employee frustration will prevail.

With all the above in mind, it is clear that any risk of WAN outage has to be eliminated. Over the last few years, the market has developed many forms and formats of WAN failover or backup, but it must be said that not all can be classified as being as effective and efficient.

ISDN was initially the most common form of establishing a communication failover, however this is decreasing rapidly. Then xDSL lines started being used for failover, whether as a backup for larger main line connections such as Metro Ethernet or in other scenarios, xDSL lines were duplicated to have resilience. Although landlines are very stable, they can bring certain problems if used as a resilience line. Firstly, if the main line and resilience line belong to the same carrier, failover has a high probability of not working. Secondly, even if the failover line is from a different carrier, but the outage is produced in the last mile of the network, the failover will not work. Thirdly, carrier pricing for resilience landline connections and services tend to be more expensive than other forms. Moreover, if the office or company site needs additional wiring for the landline resilience service, again this increases the cost.

So a cellular backup and failover line can reduce or even eliminate the disadvantages that landlines have. However, can a cellular line offer all the requirements that a company data resilience network requires? Perhaps some years back, it would have been difficult to say, but in 2014 we can safely say that a cellular line can perfectly act as a resilience network for a main landline network for two reasons. One, cellular lines are increasingly being used to transmit data. Some companies even use them as main lines. Two, 3G, 4G / LTE can now give the bandwidth that most resilience networks require and latency is no longer an issue either.

However, how does a cellular line eliminate the disadvantages that a resilience landline has? Perhaps the most important point is that a cellular 3G or 4G / LTE line is a totally independent network! It is not related in any manner to the fixed main line carrier cabling. Secondly, the cost of a 3G or 4G / LTE connection is much less than a landline. Thirdly, within the company office or site, cellular resilience network is fast and easy to deploy, primarily because no additional cabling is required.
However, there is one issue that must be looked into very carefully when deploying cellular as a resilience network. What type of equipment should be used to enable the 3G or 4G / LTE failover network to be set up? Initially, if the company has a modular router for the main line, a cellular daughter board can be placed into this router as failover. Yet, does this router have a slot available and if it does, is the router positioned in a spot with good 3G or 4G / LTE coverage? If the company can comply to theses issue, then this option is a good and safe option.

Nonetheless, in most scenarios this is not so. Here the company would have to look into adding a specific cellular device to establish the connection of the 3G or 4G / LTE resilience network. One should also bear in mind, that not any cellular device will do! Companies have to make sure that the 3G or 4G / LTE device installed is capable of carrying out all the routing functions that the main fixed line router currently carries out. This is of utmost importance; otherwise a full failover network will not be set up.

These type of devices do exist on the market, although perhaps not as many as are currently available for fixed line connectivity.
Teldat does have different options to offer full cellular network resilience; compact cellular routers or a totally unique device, Teldat-4Ge which connects to the cellular network directly with the main fixed line router.

In all, it can be said that resilience is of vital importance for any type of business and economically viable independent of company size.

A start, that is actually a boost.

internal_red-150x150This is the first post of our blog “Communicate with Us”. For Teldat and everyone who make up the company, this is the beginning of an important project.

Some say that the beginning of something means half the effort, but for us this is not so, as we have been striving to be the best for a long time. Hence for us, launching this blog more than a start is a boost to a project that has been alive for more than thirty years. Thirty years of development, growth and very intense work to get where we are today. This is what we want to be reflected in our first post title.

Why a boost? That’s because in recent years the company has changed considerably, and has gone from serving a local market to being present in all continents and more than thirty countries. Along this path an important number of customers, partners and collaborators have joined our project worldwide. With all of them we have the obligation of establishing active, bidirectional, fast and effective communication channels.

Teldat has a main objective that our clients and partners know what we are doing, in which direction we are heading, those issues that are of our concern, why we are experts in our field and what we can offer. Also for those who know how we work, it’s equally important for us to know what the client demands are, what problems they have and how we can help them. Indeed, this is the base of our business model, and Teldat is one of only a few technological companies in which the needs expressed by the clients are taken into consideration when planning future developments.

This is the project that we start today with this blog, which will integrate with our social media network. Through this, we hope that all those who work with us, those who trust in our company and those who don’t know us yet, will have a simple and effective way in which they can “Communicate with Us”.

To all those who read us, we want to give them through this first post our warmest welcome.

Ignacio Villaseca