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Saudi wireless networks: Upgrade ‘imperative for businesses’

The technology revolution that gripped Saudi Arabia and made it the largest IT market in the Middle East is spilling over into the consumer space.
With smartphone penetration exceeding 60 percent, the Kingdom ranks high in global reports of smart device usage.
And now, with the growing demand for Internet access on these devices, both at home and in corporate environments, wireless networks in the country are running out of capacity fast.
Wi-Fi, the primary mode of access to high-speed Internet for most mobile users, has transformed the way in which users interact with their devices.
Businesses in the Kingdom are beginning to realize the potential for Wi-Fi as a platform for innovation — helping them transform the workplace, deliver new services and thus grow their revenues.
High-speed networks are now required by all sizes and types of businesses, from SMBs to large enterprises and even government and public sector offices.
Ammar Enaya, regional director at Aruba Networks Middle East and Turkey, based in the company’s Saudi office, says that older 802.11n wireless enterprise networks are however not capable of meeting user expectations.
The number of wireless devices is exploding in the enterprise with 3 devices per person on an average.
Luckily, the next generation of enterprise Wi-Fi has arrived. The 802.11ac standard provides better signal and coverage for lower cost than its predecessors.
In enterprise networks, the higher rates and increased capacity of 802.11ac will break down the last remaining barriers to the all-wireless office. There should be enough capacity in an 802.11ac WLAN for users to see equivalent performance to wired Ethernet.
While the advantages of 802.11ac are evident, its uptake in Saudi Arabia still lags behind the global average. One of the key factors keeping IT decision makers in the Kingdom on the fence is that the advancements and features offered by the 802.11ac standard will come in multiple waves.
Currently, there are Wave 1 products available and most of the industry is expecting Wave 2 products to start showing up in 2015. But waiting for Wave 2 products to emerge could seriously hamper businesses today. A simple answer to the question, “Why not just wait for Wave 2 products in late 2015?” is that Wave 1 802.11ac products offer features that solve huge problems that organizations face today.
Wave 1 802.11ac is able to meet the performance and density demands of today’s mobile environment and the future.
With achievable speeds reaching 750Mbps of TCP to a single 3 stream client and up to 250Mbps to a single stream client like a smartphone, it is able to deliver a 3X performance boost to the network without demanding a large price premium.
Since Wi-Fi is a shared medium, the speed with which each client communicates has a direct relationship to the number of clients that the network can support.
As Saudi businesses look at rolling out a new network or adding capacity in certain areas of their networks, they should select the best performing products available today.
Delaying the rollout will mean increased downtime for employees as they spend more time waiting for file transfers.
With more than 100 Wi-Fi Alliance certified 802.11ac Wave 1 products shipping today, incorporating the Wi-Fi Alliance certified Wave 1 AP’s into the network architecture enables organizations to deliver high performance for these 11ac clients while maintaining backwards compatibility with the existing 802.11n devices.
In fact Samsung alone has shipped over 40 million 802.11ac clients with their Galaxy S4 smartphones and all new Mac computers now come equipped with 802.11ac, with many PC manufacturers following closely.
Leveraging the enhanced RF designs and faster CPUs in today’s 802.11ac products, even legacy 802.11n devices will see better range and performance from an 802.11ac access point.
802.11ac Wave 1 is really the last generation of Wi-Fi that allows IT departments to leverage their existing switching infrastructure without requiring major upgrades.
With future Wave 2 speeds likely to reach 2 Gbps over the air, the uplink performance requirements will exceed the existing Gigabit Ethernet (GigE) ports and will require the use of either multiple GigE ports to the access point or even 10GigE.
As has always been the case, innovation will continue with Wi-Fi since the demands for throughput capacity and density will continue to push the networks. 802.11ac addresses the most pressing consumer and business needs today, and is set for rapid expansion across the entire Wi-Fi ecosystem.
Businesses in Saudi Arabia, being early adopters of technology, have in the past reaped the benefits of advancements in IT. 802.11ac is no different and the sooner they act, the greater will be their rewards.