A Hybrid Wireless Approach

I’d be interested in hearing from other schools about how they are doing with 5 ghz N wireless systems.

From what I understand, 5 ghz will likely be the dominant frequency in the future, because of speed benefits over the 2.4 ghz range. The challenge is that 5 ghz is A and N protocols only, meaning that older devices or mobile devices that are B and G protocol will only work on 2.4 ghz.

Secondly, it’s my understanding that 2.4 ghz radios supporting B and G protocols can penetrate walls with their signals and support wireless laptops in several rooms at once (even through floors). 5 ghz radios supporting A and N reflect off of walls instead of passing through them, meaning that the quality of the signal and reception and throughput of a 5 ghz N client in the room with the access point can be very high, but clients in the adjacent room or through the floor or ceiling may not have any connectivity at all.

Thus, the “grid” of a 5 ghz wireless deployment may need to be significantly more populated than a 2.4 ghz b/g/n deployment. This means more investment in more access points that may cost more than the 2.4 radios did. Apple now sells access points that broadcast on both frequencies, but these are still more “home use” access points that are a bit of a challenge to maintain in a large, dense environment.

At the moment, we’re using a hybrid wireless system. We have high-end, single cell, self- balancing 5 ghz access points supporting high density areas, but a broader net of inexpensive, not self-balancing or single cell access points doing 2.4 ghz for a “base layer” of wireless coverage. It seems that really doing a full 5 ghz solution everywhere would be very expensive, because of the range limitations, and having the dual radios (2.4 and 5 ghz) in the same access points still means a lot of access points to complete the tight and dense grid.

Complicated, but we’re working. I’d be interesting in hearing others’ experiences.

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