First wave of 802.11ac access points for the enterprise deliver speed, management features
Earlier this year we tested several consumer-level 802.11ac routers. Here, we take a look at two enterprise-level access points. They’re a part of the so-called “Wave 1” phase of the 802.11ac standard: both access points support up to three spatial streams and 80 MHz wide channels, offering theoretical data rates up to 1.3Gbps. But just as we saw with the 802.11ac routers, you won’t get throughput rates nearly that fast.
Our test subjects were Cisco’s Aironet 3602I AP with their 802.11ac module and Ubiquiti’s UniFi AP AC. For the performance tests we used two clients: the Edimax AC1200 Wireless Dual-Band USB Adapter (two-stream 802.11ac) and the ASUS AC1750 Dual-band Wireless PCI-E Adapter (three-stream 802.11ac).
(Product review: Consumer-focused 802.11ac routers)
We found maximum throughput speeds in the range of 360M to 380Mbps range, similar to the rates found in the 802.11ac routers we tested earlier this year.
Cisco Aironet 3602I AP with 802.11ac Module
Cisco sent its Aironet 3602I Access Point ($1,495) loaded with their 802.11ac module ($500). Although the access point supports the standard Control and Provisioning of Wireless Access Points Protocol (CAPWAP), we used their Cisco 2504 Wireless LAN Controller for the testing.
The access point comes with two integrated 2.4GHz/5GHz dual-band radios. The 802.11ac module that attaches to the bottom of the access point adds a 5-GHz radio supporting three spatial streams. The access point supports broadcasting up to 16 SSIDs. There’s a 2dBi gain internal omnidirectional antenna for 2.4 GHz and 5 dBi gain internal omnidirectional antennas for 5Ghz. The maximum transmit power for both integrated dual-band radios is 23 dBm and 22 dBm for the 802.11ac module.
The access point has a similar form factor as the Ubiquiti AP: a rounded-square panel, but is about an inch larger in height and length. Its depth is about double of the Ubiquiti AP. And with the 802.11ac module installed the access point is about 3.5 pounds; more than triple the weight of the Ubiquiti AP. On the front of the access point is a LED light to indicate the access point status. On the back you’ll find the Mode button, a Gigabit Ethernet port, and a console Ethernet port. Plus there’s a DC power jack, which is required to power the 802.11ac module if using 802.3af PoE instead of 802.3at PoE+.
The access point setup and configuration process was fairly straightforward, but could be complex for those without Cisco experience. The web-based interface of the controller is akin to other Cisco products. All the controller and access point settings are highly configurable and customizable. The Cisco AP performed anywhere from 4% to 22% better on our throughput tests than the Ubiquiti AP.