Sep 22 2014

Feds Look for Dense Wi-Fi Coverage

Agencies see upgrading to 802.11ac as a way to future-proof their wireless networks.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services wants its employees to use the latest wireless technology effectively when they work, be it on a smartphone, tablet or notebook computer. That’s why the agency plans to replace 802.11n access points with new 802.11ac models over the next few years.

“The 802.11ac standard comes with additional radios inside the access points, so the devices support greater throughput,” says Scott Funk, branch chief for infrastructure operations. His group supports about 700 wireless users across 20 buildings in HHS’s Washington, D.C., headquarters and six smaller operating divisions.


The percentage of IT managers who say the need for improved throughput and overall performance would drive a wireless upgrade

SOURCE: Enterprise Strategy Group, “Campus and Wireless Network Trends,” August 2014

Mike Jacques, senior network engineer, adds, “What we’re looking for is that gigabit throughput.” After pricing out solutions, Jacques found that the cost of 802.11ac APs is roughly the same as what the agency originally paid for 802.11n gear. “From a cost-to-performance perspective, it makes a lot of sense because we’ll be able to support more devices as the computer industry keeps improving wireless devices,” he says.

Bob Laliberte, a former analyst for the Enterprise Strategy Group, believes that most federal agencies will upgrade to 802.11ac over the next few years. “As the federal government continues to look for more efficient ways to deliver services over the cloud, as well as consolidate data centers, upgrading to 802.11ac will allow for more effective use of wireless devices for unified communications and collaboration,” he says.

DISA Considers an Upgrade

The Defense Information Systems Agency continues to look at advancements in wireless technology to improve the functionality of its mobile services.

Greg Matthias, a technical director for the agency’s Enterprise Information Services, says DISA plans to evaluate 802.11ac for future implementation, though the existing wireless LAN at headquarters is still based on 802.11n equipment. “Our goal is to stay current and flexible with upgrades to Wi-Fi technology while balancing efficiency and cost,” he concludes.


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