Wi-Fi is becoming ubiquitous in both indoor and outdoor locations. In fact, it's almost impossible to go anywhere without seeing folks glued to a smartphone or tablet screen, whether it's a hospital waiting room, a university campus or even a live event at a stadium. And as the number of mobile devices increases, so does the pressure on Wi-Fi networks to support large numbers of people streaming video, surfing the Web and uploading files and photos.
Today, Enterasys announced IdentiFi, a new line of access points, controllers and management software designed to support what the company calls "hyper-dense" environments. A new line of indoor and outdoor APs, the 3700 line, provides 600 to 900 Mbits/second capacity and includes either two or three radios, depending on the AP. All APs support 802.11a/b/g/n. The company says each AP can handle up to 200 video sessions, with band distributions across both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz spectrums. Pricing starts at $595.
The company also announced a line of IdentiFi controllers, including both physical and virtual appliances. The controllers can support from 100 to 2,000 APs each, depending on the model. Controllers can be deployed in active/active mode to maintain uptime if one controller fails.
In a recent effort to enable on-demand Wi-Fi access to 70,000 fans at Gillette Stadium, the NFL home of the New England Patriots, the stadium owners chose IdentiFi.
According to IDC, the global market is expected to see a steady trend toward relatively low-priced mobile devices in 2012 and beyond, increasing the demand on wireless networks. The trend toward affordable mobile devices indicates that hyper-density will only become more pronounced as the need for connectivity increases.
At the same time, wireless has demonstrated itself to be a robust access medium. "All of the major concerns we've had over the years have been addressed, such as cost, range, throughput, reliability, capacity and management," says Craig J. Mathias, analyst for Farpoint Group, a wireless and mobile advisory firm.
"With wireless, there are a lot of channels available on the air," he says. "But we want to optimize for capacity, which means better management and a more detailed understanding of how the network is being used." He noted that this is especially true when it comes to our increasingly BYOD world.
The use of tablets and smart devices has become an integral part of consumer technology--and a growing number of end users bring those devices with them wherever they go and expect unfettered access. That's because more and more users view wireless connectivity as basic infrastructure and not an extravagance.
Other vendors are also developing and releasing products to deal with the onrush of Wi-Fi enabled devices. For instance, this October, Cisco Systems announced a new controller, the Wireless 8500 Series, which the company claims can support up to 6,000 APs. It also rolled out new AP lines, the Aironet 1600 and 2600.