Next Generation Wireless: Evolution, Advancements, and Considerations for Deployment

Aug. 24, 2016
Deploying a robust cabling infrastructure will yield future dividends for the next generation of wireless.

Where We Are & Where We’re Going

The global proliferation of wireless devices continues to drive data consumption at an impressive rate. As the industry standards entities continue to take steps to enable faster data transmission, multiple options are presented to infrastructure owners on how to best implement the new technology developments. New developments in BASE-T, combined with Power over Ethernet, will add further demands upon the copper infrastructure that supports wireless access points. Those options must be carefully weighed in order for the owners to successfully implement the next steps and place themselves in the most advantageous position for future generations of wireless deployment. Deploying a robust cabling infrastructure today using Category 6A or higher components, will continue to yield future dividends through minimized disruptions and increased flexibility for the next generation of wireless deployments.

Rapid Growth Leads to Rapid Advancement

Wireless consumptioncontinues on a path of rapid growth. As new technologies evolve and are adopted, the expectations and stresses upon the WiFi infrastructure will grow exponentially. Cisco recently updated (2016) its Visual Networking Index: Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update, projecting wireless growth between 2015 and 2020.

The prognosis is continued strong growth in both wireless and WiFi bandwidth consumption. In 2015, for the first time, more mobile device traffic was offloaded to WiFi than remained on the cellular network. Projections for the next five years are that the average smartphones will create a nearly five-fold increase in overall network traffic, rising from 929 MB per month in 2015 to 4.4 GB per month in 2020.

This growth will continue to be driven in large part by video consumption, which represented 55% of the total data consumed in 2015 and is projected to rise to 75% of total data by 2020. Video consumption tends to be centered in “prime time,” unlike more traditional web usage, which will have a dramatic effect on average and peak traffic loads. In 2015, the global peak traffic was 66% higher than the average; by 2020 it is expected that the difference will substantially increase to 88%. This predicted growth in peak and average consumption will place a heavier strain upon WiFi infrastructures.

Concurrently, the expectations placed on WiFi deployments are also increasing. Providing the adequate bandwidth for data-intensive applications, ensuring a strong signal to maximize speeds, and servicing a continually increasing number of devices are now the major factors driving speed and capacity upgrades to ensure clients are served in an acceptable fashion.

IEEE 802.11ac Drives Base-T Expansion

As recently as 2014, a single 1000BASE-T drop was adequate to service the backhaul requirements of most wireless access points. A IEEE 802.11n wireless access point (WAP) is limited to a theoretical maximum of 600MBps, which is well below the capacity of 1000BASE-T. Only in high-density client environments did designers place specialized 802.11n WAPs with multiple 1000BASE-T ports to provide for the data and power demands of multiple antennas on a single platform.

Client device densities that were considered extraordinary prior to 2014 are now more representative of today’s average wireless-enabled environment. To address growing demand, IEEE 802.11ac was developed to increase the bandwidth available to each wireless device. Released in waves, the first deployments of 802.11ac continued to be satisfied by a 1000BASE-T drop, as the maximum aggregate capacity of the access points was approximately 850Mbps. However, later generations have seen that number increase above 1GBps, with the expectation that eight antennae WAPs could reach an eventual maximum of 6.9Gbps. This increasing aggregation of throughput is fueling the need for copper backhaul capacity greater than 1Gbps, which the IEEE 802.3, owner of the BASE-T technology, is quickly addressing. However, there are additional technical developments underway that will place further burdens upon the infrastructure.

Next Generations to Push More Through Air and Copper

Anticipating the continued growth of the wireless market, IEEE 802.11ax is in development with the expectation of providing increased speed, flexibility and capabilities to wireless networks. There are several goals set forward by the task force, but targeting a 4X improvement over 802.11ac in average throughput is high on the priority list. This will be achieved by improving spectral efficiencies. Rather than using new frequencies, the task force will improve the encoding and deliver more bits per Hertz.

Increasing throughput to a client could be achieved through increased received signal power. However, due to the broadcast signal power limitations placed upon the equipment, increasing signal strength to a client is not as simple as “turning up the volume” and will likely require higher densities of access points. Issues being studied include:

  1. Access point density: maximizing performance and minimizing interference in high density WAP environments (e.g. between 10-20m)
  2. Client density: Efficient transitions between servicing clients becomes more important as the number of devices waiting to broadcast and receive data continues to increase.
  3. Doppler effects: Mobile clients are expected to move within the access point’s coverage, causing frequency shifts in the broadcast and received signals. Pedestrians move at approximately 2-3 mph but faster-moving vehicles will cause larger shifts in frequency due to physical movement of the client or reflections from their surfaces.
  4. Diversity: Not all devices will need a large allocation of wireless capacity. Low speed devices are expected to proliferate, and their periodic status reports will need to be efficiently interleaved with clients with fast response and high bandwidth expectations.

Refinements to existing standards are also expected to lead to new applications and use cases. IEEE 802.11az will utilize and improve upon the existing technologies in 802.11n, 802.11ac and 802.11ad, providing the ability to determine the position of a client within two meters. Essentially, this would provide ultra-fine positioning capabilities within a building, leading to numerous use cases that could include:

  1. Asset tracking in areas such as medical facilities where the ability to quickly and precisely locate equipment may be of vital importance.
  2. Delivering personalized data such as directions in a public building to a seat or office and selective video promotions to wearables like glasses and watches based upon client position and facing direction.
  3. Optimal product placement or display in a retail environment through analyzing the patterns of customers’ movements.
  4. Positional home audio that follows the end user by activating or deactivating localized speakers as the end user moves throughout the house.

It is anticipated that many new applications will be enabled through these developing wireless standards. While there is a desire to provide as many new capabilities as possible in the existing deployment architecture, some of these technology improvements will need to reduce the WAP coverage to areas perhaps as small as 1000 sq. ft. However, the addition of new capabilities will lead to increasing data consumption further enforcing the need for a cost effective technology to be rapidly and easily deployed today.

How will the proliferation of new technologies such as 2.5/5G and high-power PoE affect wireless deployments? What are best practices and recommended solutions? How does zone cabling fit into the equation? Click here to download Berk-Tek’s full white paper: Next Generation Wireless: Evolution, Advancements, and Considerations for Deployment.

About Berk-Tek

For more than 50 years, Berk-Tek has been a leading manufacturer of more than 100 different network copper and fiber optic cable products. The company has led in the development of high-performance and enhanced fiber optic and UTP cables designed to transport high-speed data and voice transmissions. Berk-Tek has manufacturing facilities at New Holland, PA, and Fuquay-Varina, NC. For more information, visit

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