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Xirrus unveils high-capacity 802.11ac Wave 2 access point

Xirrus plans to release in October an 802.11ac Wave 2 access point. The device is expected to fill a niche in the wireless market.

Xirrus Inc. is the latest of a small number of Wi-Fi access point makers to introduce products that are designed to deliver the higher speed and capacity of the latest version of the 802.11ac standard.

Xirrus introduced this week the Xtreme Density 2 (XD2) AP that includes two 802.11ac Wave 2 access-point (AP) radios. The configuration lets the device communicate with considerably more mobile devices than first-generation 802.11ac Wave 1 APs.

"Two Wave-2 radios in a single AP is unusual today," said Craig J. Mathias, analyst at Farpoint Group, based in Ashland, Mass.

Supporting more mobile devices per access point is a major advantage of Wave 2. The increased capacity is the result of a technological advancement, called multiuser multiple input, multiple output (MU-MIMO).

Each of Xirrus's radios has four MU-MIMO antennas and can communicate with four mobile devices at one time. Older Wi-Fi radios without MU-MIMO can only support one device at a time.

In addition to more capacity, 802.11ac Wave 2 access points deliver faster throughput than its predecessor, Wave 1. The former has a theoretical maximum of 7 Gbps versus 1.3 Gbps for the latter. Xirrus claims each XD2 radio can achieve a maximum rate of 3.47 Gbps.

802.11ac Wave 2 access points are a niche market

Smartphones and tablets supporting Wave 2 have yet to hit the market, analysts said. Therefore, only companies that need to support the devices when they arrive should pay the premium for a Wave 2 AP.

"The advice I give people in this space is be wary of current Wave 2 deployments, since there isn't a large value proposition," said Matthew Craig, analyst at Nemertes Research, based in Mokena, Ill. "If possible, wait another year."

Places where a Wave 2 deployment could make sense include convention centers, large hotels and stadiums, which often have to support 10s of thousands of people on a wireless LAN (WLAN). If these places need to upgrade their networks today, then deploying Wave 2 "could squeak a few more years out of their deployment," Craig said. But, in general, "high density [APs] are still more of a niche area."

XD2 is available with a 2 GbE uplink port and lists for $1,295. The device is scheduled for release in October. 

Xirrus is also providing the Wave 2 radios as modules that plug into the chassis of the company's XR APs. Only APs with 802.11n or 802.11ac Wave 1 radios can be upgraded to Wave 2.

The module is scheduled for release in the fourth quarter. The price is pending.

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