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Cisco's new 11n gear boosts legacy Wi-Fi performance with beamforming

In tests, beamforming boosted throughput by 65% for 11a/g clients and provided coverage in areas that previously had no signal

By , Network World
January 13, 2009 05:50 PM ET

Network World - Cisco today unveiled a new 802.11n WLAN access point designed to simplify enterprise deployments, lower costs, and improve performance for existing 11g and 11a wireless clients. New financing, trade-in options and consulting services round out the news.

Watch a slideshow of Cisco's access point.

The new Aironet 1140 access point uses the same mounting hardware as Cisco's existing Aironet 1250 11n products. But it has two important new additions. First, it can deliver full 11n performance, with data encryption active, on an existing 802.3af Power-over-Ethernet infrastructure. Second, Cisco plans to introduce in April 2009 a new feature based on an optional part of the 11n draft standard, called beamforming

With beamforming, the 1140 access point can tailor its transmissions to 11a/g clients, creating a stronger signal and higher throughput. Cisco is citing a test report by Miercom that shows this new beamforming feature, dubbed ClientLink, created an average throughput boost of 65% for 11a/g clients and provided coverage in hard to reach areas that previously had no signal at all.

As part of the announcement, Cisco Capital is launching new programs to help enterprises finance large-scale 11n deployments. New WLAN migration consulting services also are available, and Cisco is offering 15% - 25% trade-in credits for existing WLAN gear, to give enterprises an incentive to swap out 11b/g infrastructures in favor of 11n. (Compare enterprise WLAN products

The new 1140 access point is available now in two versions: a one-radio model for $1,099 and a two-radio model for $1,299. Pricing is the same as for the existing Aironet 1250 11n product.

The 1140 has a 2x3 antenna configuration, for two spatial streams. The antennas now are housed under a trim, sleek new casing (the 1250 antennas were externally mounted, and separately priced). It has one Gigabit Ethernet port, and supports 802.11i, Wi-Fi Protected Access and WPA 2, and 802.1x authentication.

The maximum data rate is 300Mbps for each radio. That rate requires bundling two 20MHz channels into wider 40MHz channels, in keeping with the IEEE 11n draft standard. Each radio can support 11abg and 11n clients and operate in either 2.4 or 5GHz bands. The two-radio model can run both transceivers in 11n mode at the same time, without compromising performance, according to Cisco. (Network World blogger Ken Presti talks with Cisco about the 1140 on our Cisco Subnet podcast.) 

New AP runs on existing PoE gear

Both 1140 models can use existing 802.3af PoE infrastructures, a huge gain for Cisco and its customers. As with most rivals, Cisco's previous 11n access point needed additional power, via additional hardware such as power injectors, to run at full 11n performance, especially with two radios. For the 1140, Cisco engineers sifted through the electronics design to boost efficiency and trim power use wherever possible, according to Chris Kozup, Cisco senior manager, mobility solutions. The new product also cuts power consumption by up to 20% by lowering the 1140's energy use during inactive periods.

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