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The latest Wi-Fi standard is 802.11ac. It’s a game-changer, a step ahead, a paradigm shifter – call it what you will. The point is, it’s another example of technology making giant leaps forward, and forcing businesses to think about how they respond.

In this case, it’s likely that millions of businesses will be thinking seriously about making a change to their wireless networks. Because any wireless network that’s more than three years old is probably not up to the job of meeting today’s demand for connectivity.

Just think back five years. We had the launch of the first iPad while still awestruck by the iPhone 3GS, neither of which are much use today as serious business tools. And the latest Wi-Fi network standard was 802.11n, with connection speeds of up to 600 megabits per second.

By 2011, IDC Research was telling us that more devices were being shipped without an Ethernet port than with one. And Deloitte reported that 425 million tablets and smartphones were sold, as opposed to 390 million desktops, laptops and netbooks.

Today, ABI Research estimates that there are close to 8 billion Wi-Fi-enabled devices competing for connection to the world’s wireless networks. The 802.11ac standard, introduced in 2013, delivers up to 1.2 gigabits per second – twice the speed available just two years earlier.

It’s certainly commonplace now for office workers to bring a smartphone, a tablet and a laptop to work – and maybe even a Wi-Fi-hungry watch.

And, unlike in years past, those workers are not only surfing the web and using email, they are regularly video conferencing and working with other types of data-demanding applications. Mobility and security have become critical issues, especially for organisations that allow people to connect their own devices to their Wi-Fi network.

So if you and your team are getting frustrated with slow-responding business applications, or failed phone or video calls, it’s likely that the devices and applications you’re using are asking more from your network than it can handle. It’s time to upgrade, or go for a complete replacement.

But, as always with technology, ‘new’ doesn’t always mean ‘best’. And very often, if you’re worried about picking the right wireless solution for the future, it’s worth partnering with a provider that understands the past, and why the technology is evolving in the way that it is.

Wireless in particular has a venerable heritage. Wi-Fi essentially uses the same principles Edison and Marconi were tinkering with in the earliest days of radio.

A deep understanding of the principles of radio is needed to ensure that the signal is delivered efficiently and at peak performance, wherever people need it.

The Wi-Fi standard itself – IEEE 802.11 – was actually established in 1999. Through acquisition, Zebra Technologies was part of the alliance that helped to author the standard.

That heritage is still relevant and valuable to many of the customers we’re working with. It’s needed because the sheer speed and power of an 802.11ac wireless connection is rarely enough to provide the infrastructure today’s businesses need.

Similarly, the flexibility and ease of management that’s needed to accommodate constantly changing patterns of demand – and to maintain security – has to be designed into the core of the technology.

The good news is that the latest wireless technologies are future-ready. So investing in your wireless network today will give your business the secure, mobile and agile infrastructure it needs to compete successfully for years to come.

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