Outdoor 802.11ac – doing it right.

When you talk about seeing the proliferation of 802.11ac devices, most often it’s with regard to indoor devices or at least ‘under roof’ devices. Until recently, there have been very few options for putting 802.11ac outdoors. One of the very good reasons for this wasn’t because of environmentals (you can put an indoor 802.11ac Access Point in a protective enclosure), it was about getting enough signal to and from your clients to be able to see any actual performance benefits. Cisco just launched their 1572 outdoor 802.11ac Access Point and as you’d expect, it sports many features that make it ‘a cut above the rest’.

I’ve been fortunate enough to play with a unit for the past several weeks and there are two of these features that I’d like to highlight:

Feature 1) Radio performance: These things are loud. I think the phrase ‘hella loud’ is more akin to what is reality. At 30dBm transmit power in UNII-3 (here in the states, FCC), it’s significantly more than what you’d be able to get out of a typical indoor Access Point (usually caps at about 20dBm). This means that more power out gets a cleaner RF signal to your client which means better modulation, which means faster speeds. That’s only half of the story though. What stands out is that Cisco went the extra mile and dramatically improved the receive sensitivity of these radios. This means that the AP can hear the signal coming from the client more cleanly which improves the clients ability to talk faster and get off of the air sooner. In mobile clients, this is the end-game for improving battery life. When you couple both of these things with high-gain antennas, you get significantly larger cell sizes outdoors with the awesome byproduct of actually being able to *use* the AP from a distance.

Screen Shot 2014-10-11 at 6.25.15 PMFor comparison, you can see a sampling of the receive sensitivity values from a competitors outdoor AP. All values represented in dBm. Don’t forget that 3dBm is twice the power so each 3dBm is the equivalent of doubling your receive sensitivity!

Feature 2) PoE out. This is one of the most commonly asked feature that I find lacking in other solutions and it’s a simple one. The ability to hang a PoE powered surveillance camera off of an outdoor AP or even a PoE powered switch gives you the flexibility to take greater advantage of the investment you’re expending on the installation anyway. In short, if you’re going to run power, make it more useful to your infrastructure and business needs than ‘just to support an AP’.

If you couple these features with the other general awesomeness of the AP including ruggidization, real spectrum intelligence, 4×4 transmitters and receivers for 3 spatial streams, Fiber and cable uplink options, and field upgradability makes this the outdoor 802.11ac Access Point that you wish you had.

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