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HDX Blog Series #4: Optimized Roaming

Editor’s Note: This is the last of a four-part deep dive series into High Density Experience (HDX), Cisco’s latest solution suite designed for high density environments and next-generation wireless technologies. For more on Cisco HDX, visit www.cisco.com/go/80211ac.  Read part 1 here. Read part 2 here. Read part 3 here.

If you’ve been a long time user of Wi-Fi, at some point you have either observed someone encounter (or have personally suffered from) so called “sticky client syndrome”. In this circumstance, a client device tenaciously, doggedly, persistently, and stubbornly stays connected to an AP that it connected to earlier even though the client has physically moved closer to another AP.

Surprisingly, the reason for this is not entirely…errr…ummm…unreasonable. After all, if you are at home, you don’t want to be accidentally connecting to your neighbor’s AP just because the Wi-Fi device you’re using happens to be closer to your neighbor’s AP than to your own.

However, this behavior is completely unacceptable in an enterprise or public Wi-Fi environment where multiple APs are used in support of a wireless LAN and where portability, nomadicity, or mobility is the norm. In this case, the client should typically be regularly attempting to seek the best possible Wi-Fi connection.

Some may argue that regularly scanning for a better Wi-Fi connection unnecessarily consumes battery life for the client device and will interrupt ongoing connectivity. Therefore the “cure is worse than the disease”. But this is true only if the client is very aggressively scanning and actually creates the complete opposite of being “sticky”.

The fundamental issue with “stickiness” is that many client devices simply wait too long to initiate scanning and therefore seeking a better connection. These devices simply insist on maintaining an existing Wi-Fi connection even though that connection may be virtually unusable for anything but the most basic functionality. Read More »

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Bringing the Cellular Roaming Experience to Wi-Fi

Today marked an exciting milestone in the continuing convergence of Wireless LAN (Wi-Fi) and cellular technologies as the Wireless Broadband Association (WBA) and the Wi-Fi Alliance (WFA) co-announced  that the industry’s first HotSpot 2.0 (HS 2.0) trials are scheduled for later this summer and the HS2.0 certification test beds will be available in mid 2012.  HS 2.0  is an industry initiative to develop standards-based interoperable Wi-Fi authentication and handoff.  In a nutshell, this enables a seamless handoff between cellular and Wi-Fi networks that allows mobile handset users to roam between the two networks without the need for additional authentication — much as you experience roaming between cellular networks while using your cell phone.

Industry organizations and standards bodies working on the HS 2.0 initiative include the WFA, focused on interoperability; the WBA, the industry group organizing the field trials; and the Global System for Mobile Communications Alliance (GSMA) that ensures the HotSpot 2.0 spec is aligned with the 3GPP framework.

Cisco is a strong supporter of the HS 2.0 initiative and is participating in the upcoming trials with its SP Wi-Fi Carrier Solution.  I will continue to provide updates as we move forward with this timely and critical initiative. In the meantime, take a look at this white paper, “The Future of Hotspots: Making Wi-Fi as Secure and Easy to Use as Cellular,”  which explains the technology behind HotSpot 2.0. 

Sarita Kincaid
skincaid@cisco.com
Twitter: @saritakAR

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