Thursday, October 1, 2015

Ubiquiti Networks reloads 802.11ac with new access points

Since the 802.11ac standard for wireless networking was ratified back in 2013, enterprises have been in the midst of deploying the new, faster access points. Historically, these upgrade cycles span 4-5 years before a previous standard (802.11n in this case) phases out, and a future standard is released. However, if one assumes an approximate 5-year life cycle in WiFi gear before upgrading to the next standard, budgeting for enterprise level APs begins to resemble a new car purchase for many businesses -- and that's not even counting ongoing licencing costs!

Ubiquiti Networks flies in the face of those traditionally expensive models, positioning themselves as the price-disruptive solution to enterprise wireless systems. Currently, their indoor 802.11ac access point (the Unifi AP AC) retails for just under $300, and with no licensing, antennas, or extra power supply needed, it's by far the cheapest enterprise 802.11ac option (per AP) out there.

Ubiquiti now announces even more options when it comes to their 802.11ac portfolio, with the addition of four new AP models to the product line: UAP-AC-LITE, UAP-AC-LR, UAP-AC-PRO, UAP-AC-EDU. The below chart compares these new models, along with Ubiquiti's 1st generation of AC access points.

Perhaps the most noteworthy innovation in these new models is the addition of a loud speaker / PA system on the UAP-AC-EDU unit. This allows users to make announcements over WiFi without the use of any additional hardware - a very useful feature for K-12 deployments, or anywhere else where intercoms are regularly used. Furthermore, 802.11ac can now be had for only $89.00 in the UAP-AC-LITE.

It's worth mentioning that when compared to other enterprise solutions, Ubiquiti doesn't offer as many configuration options or support. Admins managing Ubiquiti hardware will do well to book mark for any configuration assistance. The forum is quite active, and Ubiquiti fans are generally eager to help out their fellow users. Having a wireless professional in your back pocket to call upon is also a good idea in case the forums fall flat in resolving any issues you encounter.

Some frown on Ubiquiti's lack of official support for their products, but if budgets are tight, and breaking into 802.11ac speeds is a primary need, UBNT is certainly a viable option for may businesses that couldn't otherwise afford the technology. Because mixing 802.11xx standards on your network generally yields undesirable results, it can become particularly expensive to replace ALL of your 802.11n APs. Ubiquiti's cost savings is even more pronounced when businesses need to consider upgrading multiple APs.

The new line of access points is expected to reach distributors and be available for purchase over the course of the next two months.