Gigabit Wireless Surveillance Review (802.11ac)

Author: Ethan Ace, Published on Jan 10, 2012

This month, an upcoming wireless standard called 802.11ac, more colloquially known as 'Gigaibit Wifi' is starting to gain significant attention. At the CES show, a number of large mainstream electronic vendors including Broadcom, Buffalo, DLink and Trendnet are already starting to announce products. There's definitely big momemtum behind this but what does this mean for video surveillance? In this note, we examine the potential impact and applications.

Overview

802.11ac is the fifth generation of the 802.11 wireless Ethernet standard. Three key improvements to 802.11a/b/g/n are claimed:

  • Increased throughput: First and foremost, 802.11ac specifies maximum speeds of over 1 Gbps. Current 802.11n APs are capable of 150 Mbps, making this a 6-7x increase in throughput. This is accomplished through an increase in channel width from 40 MHz in 802.11n to 80 MHz, or optionally 160 MHz in 802.11ac. The number of spatial streams is also increased from four to eight, allowing better MIMO performance.
  • Frequency and modulation change: 802.11ac will operate in the 5 GHz band only, unlike 802.11, which operated in both the 2.4 and 5 GHz spectrum. 802.11ac also uses 256-QAM modulation versus 11n's 64-QAM method, allowing more data to be encoded on a carrier.
  • Beam steering: Simply put, beam steering allows the wireless AP to better "aim" signal towards clients. This allows speed or range to be increased, but not both. Maintaining the same distance from the AP, better and more consistent speeds can be maintained, as the stronger signal handles interference better.

For a lower level examination of 802.11ac , we recommend AnandTech's solid primer on 802.11ac technology.

Potential for Surveillance

While all of the above improvements will likely make 802.11ac more useful for the consumer and business markests as a whole, they may be of limited use for surveillance purposes and may even cause problems:

  • Line of Sight Restrictions: 802.11ac's use of the 5 GHz spectrum results in poorer penetration of obstructions than existing technologies, limiting it strictly to applications where line of sight is clear. 
  • Distance Limitations: Typically the higher the bandwidth supported, the more limited the distance achievable as higher signal to noise ratios are needed.
  • Additional Bandwidth Unnecessary: The increased throughput of this standard is overkill for a single camera or a handful of cameras, even multi-megapixel models. We expect that low-cost non-802.11 solutions such as Ubiquiti and Mikrotik will still be most popular in these applications.
  • Pollute the 5Ghz range: Currently, the 5Ghz range is much less congested than the 2.4Ghz range. As more people use 802.11ac, this will increase probability of interference with surveillance systems that choose the 5Ghz range to avoid the congested 2.4Ghz.

The main application which comes to mind when thinking of high-throughput line of sight wireless is backhaul. 802.11ac's throughput is likely high enough to carry dozens of cameras and beyond. However, 802.11 wireless is not typically used for backhaul, due to concerns of security and reliability.  Proprietary radios are usually chosen for this application for their generally better handling of interference, which results in better distance and availability.

802.11ac will have the most impact on in-building wireless. However, in-building wireless has seen the least movement from surveillance. Wireless cameras based on 802.11b/g, generally, have been available for years, but very few commercial systems use wireless connectivity. Even if wireless connectivity is available and reliable, cameras must still be powered, requiring 120VAC power to be located near wherever a wireless camera is to be installed. Typically, power over Ethernet and/or low-voltage 12VDC/24VAC power are much more cost effective, limiting even 802.11ac's use in this application.

This standard may be of use for users implementing devices such as tablets and smartphones, on which video may be viewed by a mobile guard force, for instance. 802.11ac will provide better coverage and speed for these devices, potentially allowing for increased resolution and framerate to be delivered to the client device.

Pre-Standard Product

While a number of consumer-focused network hardware providers are announcing product, to date, no surveillance-focused wireless manufacturers have announced any 802.11ac gear. We have found none that are willing to even discuss plans for its implementation, as the standard is not yet adopted. This will likely occur in the next 12-18 months. While typically, the draft of the standard does not vary grealy from the final product, some changes may occur. Early adopter manufacturers claim that any changes may be handled via software updates, as the chips will not change, but users should be aware of this potential risk.

Comments : PRO Members only. Login. or Join.

Related Reports

Retired Mercury President Returns As Open Options President on Mar 18, 2019
Open Options experienced major changes in 2018, including being acquired by ACRE and losing its President and General Manager, John Berman who...
Large US University End-User Video Surveillance Interview on Mar 18, 2019
Schools have become targets in modern days of active shooters and terrorist fears. The need for video and access security is high. Universities...
Church Technology Director Security Interview on Mar 07, 2019
With 40+ years of experience in IT from a wide array of verticals, including US and foreign military, and large corporate and industrial settings,...
Private School IT Manager Surveillance Interview on Feb 22, 2019
This IT manager describes himself as the "oft-maligned IT person" whose "opinions may not always be appreciated by the integrator crowd." But he is...
Outdoor Camera Mounting Hardware Guide on Feb 21, 2019
Mounting cameras outdoors can be challenging, requiring understanding different types of equipment and methods. In this guide, we teach this...
BluB0x Company Profile on Feb 20, 2019
BluB0x has doubled in revenue every year since its founding in 2013, according to CEO Patrick Barry. We originally reported on them in 2015. At the...
Security Installation Tools Guide - 22 Tools Listed on Feb 19, 2019
In this guide, we cover 22 tools that security installers frequently use. This is one part of our upcoming Video Surveillance...
Ubiquiti Favorability Results 2019 on Feb 18, 2019
Ubiquiti has quietly grown into a $1+ billion annual revenue company, with offerings across wireless, wireline network and video surveillance (see...
Cisco Meraki Cloud VMS/Cameras Tested on Feb 13, 2019
Cisco Meraki says their cameras "bring Meraki magic to the enterprise video security world". According to Meraki, their magic is their management...
Dahua Intercom Tested on Feb 07, 2019
Video intercoms are a growing market with video surveillance manufacturers expanding into this niche. IPVM is continuing its series of video...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Avigilon Launches 'Renewed Products Program' on Mar 19, 2019
There are lots of 'pre-owned' cars but pre-owned IP cameras? While such programs are common in other industries, in video surveillance, they are...
Hanwha Tax Evasion Probe, Camera Division Implicated on Mar 19, 2019
A Hanwha group subsidiary was raided as part of a tax evasion probe. While a Korean news media report listed the raided entity as 'Hanwha...
Genetec Security Center 5.8 Tested on Mar 19, 2019
Genetec has released Version 5.8. This comes after a wait of more than a year that caused frustrations for many Genetec partners. Our previous...
Retired Mercury President Returns As Open Options President on Mar 18, 2019
Open Options experienced major changes in 2018, including being acquired by ACRE and losing its President and General Manager, John Berman who...
Large US University End-User Video Surveillance Interview on Mar 18, 2019
Schools have become targets in modern days of active shooters and terrorist fears. The need for video and access security is high. Universities...
Hikvision Favorability Results 2019 on Mar 18, 2019
Hikvision favorability results declined significantly in IPVM's 2019 study of 200+ integrators. While in 2017 Hikvision's favorability was...
ONVIF Favorability Results 2019 on Mar 15, 2019
In the past decade, ONVIF has grown from a reaction to the outside Cisco-lead PSIA challenge, to being the de facto video surveillance standard...
Installation Course - Last Chance on Mar 14, 2019
This is the last chance to register for the March Installation course. This is a unique installation course in a market where little practical...
City Physical Security Manager Interview on Mar 14, 2019
This physical security pro is the Physical Security Manager for the City of Calgary. He is a criminologist by training with an ASIS CPP credential....
US Drafting Separate Rule for NDAA Dahua/Hikvision 'Blacklist' on Mar 14, 2019
The most debated provision of the NDAA ban of Dahua, Hikvision, Huawei, et al. is the so-called 'blacklist' provision which would ban any company...

The world's leading video surveillance information source, IPVM provides the best reporting, testing and training for 10,000+ members globally. Dedicated to independent and objective information, we uniquely refuse any and all advertisements, sponsorship and consulting from manufacturers.

About | FAQ | Contact