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AP for high density



Long story short, I'm wondering if the 2800 APs will perform as well as the 3800 APs in dense environments. High client counts, not necessarily high throughput. We don't need the extra features the 3800 offers (like local power plug, expansion module, mGig). Also, if there would be an advantage to the 2800 over the 3700.

Now for background. I work at a high school that is expanding and we need to buy about 40 APs. The spaces at the new campus will have a1000-seat auditorium, a gym, dorms (anticipating 20 high-traffic clients for each AP), a dozen smaller classrooms, and a couple dozen light-duty, low-density offices.

My initial thought was to get 3800s for the auditorium and gym, put a dozen extra 3500s we have now in low traffic areas, and get 3700s for the dorms and wherever else. Now I'm thinking we might just want to get 2800s only.

Our business manager loves to buy APs (new or used) on eBay. The 3700s are going for around $450, the 2800s $600, and the 3800s $700. Per-AP cost makes a big difference with 40 APs.

Any insight would be appreciated!

Here's some bonus information:

Currently, we have a 350-seat auditorium with (2) 3702i APs that work adequately since most clients, though associated, are not actively being used.

We also have a gym where we have assemblies with 1200 people, where we're working on installing (4) 3702i APs. We have had 4 APs installed temporarily during assemblies and they've performed adequately.

We have a ratio of one 3702i AP to every 3 classrooms (in some cases 4 classrooms), reaching around 75 clients max per radio, and one 3502i AP to every 2 classrooms (up to 40 clients). They perform adequately. Mostly it's a class with 20 or so students Web browsing on iPads, with associated but unused phones, and a teacher or two streaming video.


Leo Laohoo
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Our business manager loves to buy APs (new or used) on eBay.


Also, if there would be an advantage to the 2800 over the 3700.

2800/3800 has a secondary radio.  If the AP detect high amounts of CU with 802.11b radio, the AP will change this radio to operate from 802.11b to 802.11a radio.

In a wireless environment with large amount of co-channel interference, this is going to make life easy. 

However, there is a problem:  2800/3800 can pose issues with wireless NIC drivers that are not running the latest firmware.  Intel has recommended that any of their 802.11ac-capable wireless NIC must be loaded with bundle version 19.20.3 (and later).  

Now I'm thinking we might just want to get 2800s only.

In the past, the price of the 3500, 3600 and 3700 were the same.  The price of the 2600 and 2700 were also the same.  The 2800 now has the same price as the 3500, 3600 and 3700 but the 3800 is priced higher because some of the features exclusive to the 3800.  

Yeah, I saw that about the radios switching over. So the previous generations had two radios -- one 2.4 and one 5. But the 2800/3800 has a 5, plus a dual-band? But wouldn't that only be good if there were no 2.4GHz clients at all?

Whenever we are able to disable 2.4 GHz entirely, having the 2nd radio would be very beneficial. But I don't envision that happening any time soon. Although the primary job of our WiFi is for iPads, most employees have school-issued laptops, which are a mixed bag, plus we have a BYOD SSID.

Thanks for pointing that out about the driver issues. Do you know if they affect non-Intel devices? Apple devices in particular?

So, for what I'm doing, what would you recommend? All 2800s over the 3800/3700 mix?

My 2 cents is watch out:)  If you look at the code release notes, there are so many fixes/bugs on the 1800/2800/3800.  We run 3700's all over and did think about trying out the 3800 in an event center but with all the bugs, decided to wait and see until things stabilizes. 

While working at CDW, we deployed schools with one AP per classroom and or two of the student count was over 40.  I noticed that around 35 or less, the user experience is good and over 35, it tends to drop off.  These were students with Chromebools and or iPads.  It's good to hear that it's working fine with the high client count you mentioned because even at MS, users seem to notice a difference around 30-35+.


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Good thoughts, guys. Thanks for your input!

The good news is we won't be moving in to the new campus until late June, and students won't be there until late August. The offices that will be used right off the bat will have 3500s. So I'd like to hope that many of the kinks with the 2800s would be worked out by then.

Many times, when I've observed a high client (40-70 clients on one AP), I've walked over to it and done a speedtest with my phone and always got 15 Mbps or more, sometimes even right up to 30 (which was the max that phone could handle). That's enough for what people do here, and nobody ever complains about speed. And again, not all devices are being used simultaneously; probably half aren't.

All the APs pass their noise, interference, and coverage profiles on both radios, except the 2.4 GHz radio in the woodshop (I'm guessing due to electric motors running). At the moment, the highest count we have is 75 clients on a 2.4 GHz radio on a 3700, and its channel utilization is only 25% and interference is less than 5% (if I understand the numbers and graphics correctly).

That's good. Clients per AP depends on what the users are doing on the wireless also. One of the biggest issue I have seen is when teachers put a presentation in the cloud and students have to download. This is were the poor experience happens. I typically go around and ask the teachers and some students for input and data you collect from the controller isn't enough. Also at MS, when there is a sales conference for example, we need to hit the 35 or less per AP since many are still doing work and sending emails and or files. However when we have other conferences in which the uses don't work and just listen:) we can have much more per AP before the experience drops off. What I have also learned from speaking to users,their experience of what's good or bad varies. Many expect that wireless experience should be the same as if they were at home, other don't care and then some are okay if it's slower as long as it's working.  You will also get a different experience depending on device type, NIC type and driver versions can impact different devices. I have multiple devices I use to test with and that is 50% of what I want. The other 50% is feedback from users and actually observing users on wireless. 


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All 2800s over the 3800/3700 mix?

The only time one wants to fully enjoy the functionality of the 3800 one must invest in switches/line card that can support mGIG.  

I also agree with Scott (below) that the 1800/2800/3800 APs are not yet matured for full-scale deployment.  All our 2800 are still in their respective boxes and we are deploying the 3700 until we can no longer buy them.  

In regards to wireless NIC chipset, we have notebooks that have Intel chipsets in them.  However, the story is still the same with other brands:  Regularly update the drivers of the wireless NIC and they'll get better. 

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