Cisco has today announced a new wireless access point, the Aironet 3600 Series, which the company claims is the industry's first three spatial stream 802.11n access point with a fourth antenna.
The Aironet 3600 is designed to enable users to connect to the network seamlessly from any wireless device, even those with a weak wireless signal, such as tablets, with up to 30 percent faster performance than any other access point.
The new solution is designed to deal with the exponential growth in mobile devices, as well as increased adoption of bring-your-own-device (BYOD) strategies within organisations. Cisco predicts that there will be more than 7.1 billion mobile devices globally by 2015. It will also help organisations to take advantage of cloud-based services and run virtual desktops with less lag time.
Sujai Hajela, the company's vice president and general manger for wireless networking, explained that the wireless client on many mobile devices is often not as powerful as on a laptop, so the network has to compensate for devices connecting slowly.
"We want to make sure that the network accelerates all types of client device without compromise," said Hajela, speaking at the Cisco Live Europe conference in London today. "Whether you have a tablet, whether you have a laptop, whether you have a smartphone, you have to have an optimal experience on that device."
The Cisco Aironet 3600 series includes the new ClientLink 2.0, which can boost performance for any device connected to the access point, regardless of signal strength and spatial stream category. Its modular design also means that modules can be added to support additional devices as the user base grows.
Wireless access points also have to deal with interference from other electrical devices such as microwaves, video cameras and motion detectors, found in many offices and large commercial and communal spaces. The inclusion of Cisco's CleanAir technology means the 3600 can scan all 26 channels in the Wi-Fi spectrum for interference and security threats, enabling it to choose the best channel to serve traffic.
Meanwhile, the fourth antenna allows for greater mobile flexibility, extending the range of the access point and allowing more people to connect from further away. While it is possible to deliver three spatial streams with just three antennas, the fourth compensates for any failure that might occur, according to Hajela.
In supporting the 802.11r and 802.11u standards, Cisco claims it can provide fast, seamless roaming, and drive richer mobile experiences by allowing the network to communicate available network services to mobile devices. The modules also contain Cisco's own radio frequency chips, rather then industry standard chips, which the company claims makes them more reliable.
One organisation that is already testing the wireless access point is the University of Darmstadt, in Germany, which has 25,000 students. Thomas Vogel, local area network manager for the university, explained that in areas like lecture halls and learning centres, where there are large numbers of students coming together, a high-density deployment is vital.
He said that Cisco's Aironet 3600 Series Access Point has not only helped to improve coverage and provide greater range in a difficult environment, but has enabled the university to future-proof its solution.
"In leture halls there are very high ceilings, and it can be difficult to reach the access point, so the solution has to last for some time before you have to exchange again," said Vogel.
The Aironet 3600 with four external antennas is listed at $1,595. The company is also offering a more aesthetically-pleasing version with internal antennas for $1,495. Both will be available globally by the end of 2012. UK pricing has yet to be announced.