Micro cell Wi-Fi meltdown

May 2011 IT infrastructure

Fourth generation Meru Virtual Cell Technology leaps into the future.

The growing number of wireless devices and wireless applications are the driving force behind the most significant trend we see in the market – the fundamental failure of legacy microcell wireless networks to handle high-density environments, what is referred to as the ‘Wi-Fi meltdown’.

What is considered a high-density environment? As employees, customers, and hotel guests introduce two to three wireless devices each at any given location, the ability to support 80, 84 or anything less than 100 wireless devices is simply not enough. Meru defines high density as an environment which supports over 500 wireless devices – like a convention centre, campus auditorium or hotel lobby. A meltdown happens when the wireless LAN fails to support hundreds of wireless devices at a time.

The world took notice at the WWDC Conference in San Francisco in June 2010, when Steve Jobs attempted to launch the demonstration announcing their widely anticipated iPhone 4, but the demonstration derailed by overloaded airways as over 1100 attendees attempt to go online at the same time.

Once again MWC 2011 kicked off with zero Wi-Fi. SA’s most prominent networking and Wi-Fi vendor took a look around at the thousands of attendees, declared itself overloaded and packed it in.

Why does a Wi-Fi meltdown happen?

The problem here is microcell. This inherent desire of enterprise Wi-Fi microcell-based equipment to avoid interference and operate as if it does not exist, in particular the ones that attempt to adapt to changing RF conditions, causes high susceptibility to RF interference and noise and creates a network with a single point of failure at the users’ connection, particularly in high user-density situations. When Wi-Fi was initially adopted by the enterprise, it was deployed primarily as a spot network – conference room here and there, the commons areas, etc – basically a network of convenience.

What they never envisioned was today’s explosion of devices coupled with pervasive coverage needs of a primary access network and its implications on the underlying deployment architecture. Simply adapting radio signals does not work in these situations. Continuously avoiding other APs, at some point, breaks down and significantly affects clients attached to the network. Adapting is an attempt to compensate for poor architectural design that forces the IT staff into labour intensive designs and increases the technical requirements on support staff in terms of what training is required to run the network. Unfortunately, as user growth continues to outpace all expectations, adapting falls far short of solving the problem.

How to avoid a Wi-Fi meltdown

Meru’s virtualised architecture is purpose-built to support the proliferation of wireless devices and applications and more critically, avoid a Wi-Fi meltdown. This is demonstrated in its WLAN 500, where it took over 500 iPhones, iPads, and other wireless devices in a 500 square foot area – streaming voice, video and data concurrently. Meru’s architecture, based on virtualisation, is designed from the ground up to account for interference and work with it, for two simple objectives:

Make Wi-Fi support enterprise mobility – whether it is small enterprises or large conventions.

As the RF gets more complicated and users increase, place the burden of managing RF and everything going on over to the system and allow IT to do what it does best – manage networks and IT systems.

To see what is possible on a Virtual Cell wireless infrastructure, view the video at http://www.merunetworks.com/technology/resources/videos/index.php.

For more information contact Core Networks, +27 (0)11 314 3124, info@cn.co.za,

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