Aruba Announces 802.11ac Wave 2 Wireless Access Points

The company's new APs will come with an enhanced version of its ClientMatch technology and integrated beacon capabilities.


Aruba Networks is unveiling a new series of 802.11ac Wave 2 access points that officials say will address the growing demand for greater WiFi performance.

The company, which Hewlett-Packard is in the process of acquiring for about $3 billion, on May 27 introduced the Aruba 320 series of access points (APs), which come not only with the dynamic multi-user multiple input/multiple output (MU-MIMO) capabilities enabled by the Wave 2 standard, but also with Aruba's Bluetooth Low-Energy (BLE) beacons.

In addition, the new APs come with an enhanced version of Aruba's ClientMatch technology that includes awareness of Wave 2 MU-MIMO clients, which officials said will lead to greater overall network capacity.

The new APs, which will be available in the third quarter, come as the pressure on wireless networks continues to grow as more of the world goes mobile, the number of mobile devices like smartphones and tablets continue to proliferate, the Internet of things (IoT) takes hold and the use of video rapidly increases.

Aruba officials noted that by 2018, 75 percent of workers in large organizations will interact with bandwidth-intensive video three times a day. In its latest annual Visual Networking Index released May 27, Cisco Systems officials said that by 2019, video will account for 80 percent of all Internet traffic, up from 67 percent last year. In addition, the Cisco report found that by 2019, 53 percent of monthly Internet traffic worldwide will come from WiFi connections, up from 42 percent in 2014. The number of Internet users and connected devices will grow rapidly, machine-to-machine (M2M) will increase and adoption of Internet of everything (IoE) technology will accelerate.

The market for 802.11ac-compliant product—from APs to routers—is growing rapidly. According to a report in April from ABI Research analysts, by the end of the year, about 71 million consumer WiFi devices based on the 802.11ac standards will ship worldwide. The overall global consumer WiFi device market grew by 5 percent last year, the firm found.

The 802.11ac standard was ratified by the IEEE at the end of 2013, offering up to three times the speed and improved bandwidth increases over its predecessor, 802.11n. As a result, more devices can be connected to the network without impacting the network performance too much. In addition, 802.11ac works in two bands—the 2.4GHz band, where WiFi previously was limited to, and in the 5GHz band.

Wave 2 will bring even greater speeds and wireless ranges, enabling better performance over Wave 1. With MU-MIMO, 802.11ac Wave 2 will make it easier for the growing numbers of mobile devices to share WiFi bandwidth and ease performance issues on the network. Tech vendors are working to answer the call for Wave 2-enabled products, from APs to systems-on-a-chip (SoCs) to devices, with ramping expected later this year.

A key capability in Aruba's 320 series APs is the enhanced ClientMatch technology. Company officials first launched ClientMatch in 2013 as part of its ArubaOS 6.3 operating system. Before ClientMatch, devices tended to decide which access points to connect to, choosing what Aruba officials at the time said weren't always the best ones. ClientMatch shifted the connection decision away from the devices and to the OS to ensure that as they move around the enterprise, they always connected to the best possible Aruba AP.

The enhanced ClientMatch—which will be available next month as part of ArubaOS 6.4.4—takes Wave 2 MU-MIMO clients into account, automatically steering and grouping the devices together on Aruba 320 series APs and enabling the APs to transmit data to multiple Wave 2-enabled devices at the same time. This will increase network capacity, resulting in up to a 42 percent improvement in performance over Wave 2 solutions from competitors that don't have the new ClientMatch technology, according to Aruba officials.

In addition, integrating BLE Aruba Beacons into the 320 series APs means organizations can remotely manage, monitor and configure their battery-operated Beacons through the cloud rather than having to install a USB version of the Aruba Beacon on the company's access points.

The 320 series APs will start at $1,395 when they become available in the third quarter.