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Behind the WiFi Network @ Mobile World Congress 2014: Setting the Stage

Every year a new attendance record is set at Mobile World Congress by networkers participating from over 200 countries across the globe. This grand attendance of industry-defining vendors, technology enthusiasts and exhibitors triggers an explosive growth in the number of Wi-Fi capable devices being brought to the event. For MWC 2014, Cisco partnered with Fira Gran Via and GSMA to pull off one of the most successful high density Wi-Fi network deployments in the history of global tech events. This blog kicks off a series to provide a glimpse of behind the network, into the design stages, and the course of actions undertaken to implement a robust high density wireless network which served more than 22,000 concurrently connected unique devices and a total of 80,880 devices throughout the event. Full details in whitepaper here.

Setting the Scene

Divided into eight massive exhibition halls, Fira Gran Via covers around 3 million square feet (280,000 square meters) of area which also includes outdoor areas, restaurants, conference rooms, network lounges and a continuous elevated walkway flowing through the entire venue. Higher the environmental complexity, the more fun and challenging it is to achieve the right wireless design for a pervasive network that meets all the needs.

An aerial view of Mobile World Congress 2014 arena at Fira Gran Via, Barcelona

An aerial view of Mobile World Congress 2014 arena at Fira Gran Via, Barcelona

Generally, the physical design of large convention and exhibition halls bear an impish knack of unfavorable conditions for a ubiquitous high density Wi-Fi network, owing mostly to the lofty ceiling heights and construction components. Read More »

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Get Your WLAN Ready for Google Android L and Apple iOS 8

July 24, 2014 at 5:00 am PST

This fall your wireless networks will experience many devices upgrading to the new Android 5.0(L-release) and Apple iOS 8 releases (cue: IT managers groan). There have now been many blogs attempting to capture the enhancements expected with these releases. Today I am going to focus on describing how Android L and iOS 8 may affect customers deploying Cisco enterprise grade Wi-Fi networks based upon our research and testing of the Apple seed. Our verdict: Carry on with business as usual.

Here are four features we predict will have the most impact your networks:

1. Chromecast and Google Cast Enhancements (Android L)

Rishi Chandra, the Director of Chromecast Product Management announced that, starting with the Android L release, users have the ability to cast to your neighboring devices such as a TV without having to connect to your Wi-Fi network. In the demo, a phone used the cellular connection to connect to chromecast through the cloud. A variety of techniques are used to authenticate the users in the same room OR use a pin-code as an alternative. Users can Google Cast an ecosystem of applications or even their own applications over any Android or iOS device as well as Cloud based apps on Chrome.

Predicted Impact: Given that this feature works transparently to the Wi-Fi, it is expected that there is no impact on the WLAN in your classrooms or dorm rooms or auditoriums where this will most likely be used.

2. Peer-to-peer AirPlay discovery and playback (iOS 8)

Starting with the iOS 7.1 release, AirPlay devices will discover an AppleTV via the bluetooth network. Users could also secure their AppleTV via a 4 digit pin-code. With the iOS 8 release, Airplay devices can also mirror their content via Airdrop. This feature offers an alternative method for customers to discover and mirroring of Bonjour traffic without accessing the corporate Wi-Fi network.

Predicted Impact: Again this feature operates transparent to the Wi-Fi and therefore customers using this feature should not see any impact on the WLAN. Cisco wireless customers also have the ability to use the Service Discovery Gateway on Cisco IOS based switches, routers or wireless LAN controllers or the Bonjour Services Directory on AireOS controllers. Read More »

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Winning Back the Weather Radio Channels Adds Capacity to 5GHz Wi-Fi Spectrum

In my last blog on 5 GHz spectrum, I discussed the recent FCC ruling that permitted outdoor access points to use the U-NII 1 band (5150-5250 MHz).

But the story doesn’t  stop there. As mentioned last time, there are significant technical challenges to using the 5 GHz band. It is not cleared spectrum. It contains incumbent uses that are important for national security and public safety. Therefore, it is imperative that Wi-Fi not create harmful interference to these incumbent systems. Cisco will not settle for less.

On the topic of interference, a particularly interesting component of the same  FCC ruling that opened the U-NII1 band for outdoor AP’s is that it also re-opened the Terminal Doppler Weather Radar (TDWR) band (channels 120, 124, 128) with new test requirements for DFS protection. Hold on, let’s backtrack a bit before diving into what this means:

What is TDWR?

In brief, Terminal Doppler Weather Radar (TDWR) “is a Doppler weather radar system used primarily for the detection of hazardous wind shear conditions, precipitation, and winds aloft on and near major airports situated in climates with great exposure to thunderstorms in the United States.” TDWR uses the frequency band from 5600-5650 MHz which is why wireless network equipment needs to be proven to “do no harm” to TDWR. If you’re curious for more information on TDWR, then please click here and/or here.

A Brief History

Many of you reading this will recall that the FCC closed the use of the TDWR band several years ago as the result of numerous reports of wireless equipment creating interference with TDWR. Read More »

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Portland State University rolls out 802.11n and 5760 Series Controller

May 5, 2014 at 10:46 am PST

Portland State University is Oregon’s largest and most diverse public university encompassing 50 city blocks, eight schools, 226 degree programs, 29,000 students, including 1,700 international students from 91 countries, and 126,000 alumni. For the second year in a row, the US News & World Report has named Portland State University a top 10 “up-and-coming” national university in its Best College rankings, released online Sept. 10.

In 2010 Portland was one of the first schools to adopt the Cisco CleanAir capable Access Points 3502 to address the frequent sources of interferences found in a typical school environment. In this blog, I will describe how the students adopt technology to learn as well as share some details about our conversation with Tamarack Birch-Wheeles, the manager of Network Team in charge of the WLAN deployment with the 5760 Series Wireless LAN Controller.

psu Read More »

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Interference Detection and Mitigation with Cisco CleanAir

The previous blog on CleanAir went in depth on how MSE uses CleanAir information to locate interferers and the impact zone for each interferer. This blog takes a step back and gives an overview of the CleanAir technology.

How Interference Affects Your WiFi

802.11 devices operate in the 2.4GHz and 5GHz unlicensed bands. These are unregulated and experimental bands. As such, there are way more non-802.11 devices, including but not limited to cordless phones, video cameras, microwave ovens, Bluetooth headsets, DECT phones and even X-Boxes. Now even more devices are coming out that emit in these bands. These devices interfere with your WiFi network since they don’t work cooperatively with 802.11 devices, causing reduced network capacity and coverage, poor quality of voice and video, and link failures.

When an 802.11 device is ready to transmit and it senses interference, it will hold off transmission until it is finished.  If it is in the middle of a transmission where it has sent a packet and never receives an acknowledgement, then it will try to send the packet again. Issues like these  impact the throughput and capacity of your Wireless Network. An interferer like a microwave oven, which emits interference on a 50% Duty Cycle, will reduce the throughput by 50 percent. In the case of an interferer like a video camera, which emits interference at 100% Duty Cycle, when seen at Access Point above CCA threshold will stop the Access Point from beaconing. Due to this clients will not attempt to associate. Read More »

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