Today, Thousand Oaks CA-based Xirrus, which makes high-performance wireless networks that are sold through channel partners, is making two separate announcements which address both the high and low ends of its market reach. On the high end, Xirrus is bringing out Xtreme Density 2 (XD2) Wi-Fi, its 802.11ac Wave 2 Wi-Fi solution, which comes to market later than some competitors’ Wave 2 offerings, but has some enhancements over them because of the delay. On the low end, Xirrus announced the launch of new low-cost 802.11ac Wi-Fi access points for the price-conscious market.
“The Wave 2 is the really big news here,” said Bruce Miller, VP of product marketing at Xirrus. “Wave 2 is faster and has other advantages over Wave 1, and the market is clearly moving in this direction. These products are completely compliant with the new standard, and will make it easier for customers to upgrade and get up to speed with the latest technology.”
Apart from the speed, Miller said the biggest change with Wave 2 is that it allows multiple users to communicate at the same time to the same AP on the same radio, whereas Wave 1 only allowed one user to communicate in the same situation, which means waiting for access.
“An analogy would be to the way the Ethernet was in the 1980s before switching came out,” Miller said. “It has been the same way in wireless now, decades later. Wave 2 means that people won’t have to wait for connectivity.”
The catch, as Miller acknowledged, is that the Wave 2 market is still in its infancy. Most devices today are unable to get its benefits, and treat the Wave 2 gear as Wave 1 technology. He also indicated that there is a price premium for Wave 2. Together, these factors mean that the early adopter market is somewhat limited.
“Customers who buy now are less sensitive on cost,” he said. “Some are ones with true performance requirements, although that is less common. The biggest driver is customers looking at larger scale investments who want them to last a long time. It’s not going to be an SMB play.”
Broader adoption is likely a couple of years off.
“Today analysts say the adoption rate is in the low single digits, less than 5 per cent, but the message we are giving is that if you can buy it, put it in today. Within a couple years, Wave 2 is likely to be majority of units shipped, with the cost-sensitive customers being the last to move.”
Short-term however, frustrated convention-goers unable to get reliable wireless access at events likely won’t see much of a change, even where Wave 2 gear is installed.
“While it will help some, you have to have clients that understand the Wave 2 protocol,” Miller said. “The more Wave 2 clients that get out, the more benefits you will see. Today’s clients aren’t capable of taking advantage of it.”
Miller said that the market immaturity of Wave 2 was one of the reasons they waited to enter the market.
“Our competitors who announced product earlier are using different chipsets that don’t support all the specs,” he said. “We waited, and now have the technology on the silicon itself, and a full solution that could fully support the standard. We lost the first mover advantage, but didn’t have its’ flaws. Our philosophy is to wait a bit, not just jump in quick to make market noise.”
The full support of Wave 2 that the Xirrus XD2 offers includes having two Wave 2 radios per AP, each capable of up to 3.47 Gbps, which is three times faster than Wave 1.
“Competitor solutions already on the market only have one Wave 2 radio per AP,” Miller said.
In addition, the XD2 has double the speed of competitive Wave 2 solutions with 7 Gbps per AP, four-stream multi-user MIMO (MU-MIMO) compared to three-stream MU-MIMO supported by other solutions, and the ability to enable both radios to Wave 2 with the click of a mouse.
“Even though we offer more functionality, the price is equal to or less than competitors, because it doesn’t need a separate controller,” Miller said. “It makes it both less expensive, but more capable.”
The XD2-240 Access Point 2 radio 11ac Wave 2 AP with integrated controller lists at $USD 1295. Shipping is scheduled for October 2015.
The other new offering, the X2, is a new low-cost 802.11ac AP priced lower than the 802.11n APs it replaces.
“It’s newer technology at a lower price than the 802.11n version,” Miller said. “It’s a nice story for cost-sensitive SMBs, who don’t have to compromise by buying old technology.”
The X2 provides affordable, fast, reliable cloud managed Wi-Fi, particularly for the small/medium enterprise, hospitality and education markets.
“We have a set of cloud services that operate this whole infrastructure, which automatically upgrades and provisions new units as they are plugged in,” Miller said. “The cloud applies, on all our products, but it’s even more valuable in the low cost market because it makes things easier for the customer. It also makes partners’ lives simple when they install them.”
Miller also said the cloud environment will help with what they are seeing more off, increased selling into managed services.
“We are getting more deployments around wi-fi-as-a-service, and cloud based service makes this much easier,” he said. “It’s a very important enabling technology to roll wi-fi out ubiquitously.”
Xirrus X2 is now generally available, starting at a list price of $USD 445.