A few days before Mobile World Congress, the world’s elite Formula 1 teams tested their cars and skills at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona. F-1 racing is a thrilling blend of courage, precision, technology, and teamwork: the same things service providers use to compete in the race to deploy seamless, profitable mobility services.
This year was my first time at Mobile World Congress, and I got a rush from it as if I were driving an F-1. Cisco CEO John Chambers set the pace for the event, saying, “We are now entering the post-macrocell era, where small cells also will play a critical role in delivering the next generation mobile Internet.”
As part of this shift, Cisco extends its M.O.VE reference architecture for service provider mobility with two major announcements at the show. We announced the industry’s first standards-based small cell solution, providing coverage and capacity solutions built off Wi-Fi and Femto technologies. Read More »
Musings and mutterings from the just-completed Mobile World Congress 2012 . . .
Darned if this still isn’t the only place in the universe where there are waiting lines leading into the men’s rooms but not the ladies’ rooms . . . Obviously, the planners did not heed my carefully crafted suggestion for improvement made in the wake of the 2011 event.
Barcelona did get the weather right this year, though – Each day was darned sunny and fairly warm . . . a decided contrast to the last two Februarys.
The show was held two weeks later this year than in previous years, so no one had an excuse for being away on Valentine’s Day. “Sorry, honey, but I ‘have’ to go to Barcelona this week . . .” didn’t work this time.
All that aside, MWC continues to enhance its position as the largest, most important service provider-focused show of the year.
The projected attendance was 65,000, about 12% more than in 2011. It will be a few days before the official figure is posted, but, judging from the traffic inside and outside the Fira de Barcelona all four days, the estimate seems reasonable.
The most prominent theme this year was SP Wi-Fi/small cells . . . which just happened to align perfectly with Cisco’s key messaging and announcement. Not to mention numerous customer-focused mentions this week and last. Cisco focused “not only on what we make, but what we make possible.”
Other consistent themes included monetization, optimization, reducing capex and opex, and cloud applications.
ARPU continues to stagnate . . . a real problem for operators.
Another theme often heard is that service providers are more and more looking for advice from vendors. There was a time when that was not true. “They’re looking at the situation and saying, ‘We need some help figuring out what to do with all this stuff,” one analyst remarked. Another added, “It’s VERY important for a vendor to be considered a trusted advisor.” Hmmm – Does Cisco’s consulting arm – the Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG) – ring a bell?
Mobile World Congress has evolved – as it must – in its approximately 15 years of existence. Real old-timers remember when it was small and very clubby. Particularly in the last few years, it has changed and broadened as the concept of mobility has become more ubiquitous. “Three years ago, it was more of a pure infrastructure show with the Huaweis, Ericssons of the world holding forth,” said one. “Last year, companies like Samsung and Google got much of the attention. This year, it’s WiFi and small cells.”
“Four years ago here, a Hotspot was an oddity,” one analyst said. “Now, it’s the norm.”
In a Cisco analyst/media event about small cells, Telstra CTO Dr. Hugh Bradlaw said, “It’s the network, stupid. That’s what makes the cloud possible.”
Machine-to-machine continues to grow in importance. One analyst firm characterized it this way: “M2M = M3 . . . Make More Money”.
Overheard while standing in line at the men’s room: “Operators are chasing the consumer too much and not realizing that a lot of SMBs and mid-market companies are dying for solutions that are right in their [the operators’] sweet spot.”
Over a billion mobile devices are online today. Just last quarter, Apple sold 52.4 million iPhones and iPads. The airwaves are humming, and there’s already traffic congestion along the mobile services highway.
The Cisco Visual Networking Index (VNI) report released on February 14, 2012 predicts that the volume of mobile data traffic will grow 18 times over by 2016. That totals 10.8 exabytes per month by 2016, nearly 11 quintillion (1018) bytes: a staggering number, five times the volume of the entire global Internet in 2005.
Will your mobile infrastructures be ready for all that traffic?
It has been quite an exciting day, and it started with me traveling on a red double-decker red bus and then on ‘the tube’ -- well, we are in London!
Cisco’s CTO Padmasree Warrior delivered her keynote speech, “Zero to Zetta,” on the macro industry trends driving the industry today. She discussed many of today’s hottest IT topics, from the relentless explosion of devices and content on the Internet, the rapid ascent of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), the emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT), to the new models of consumption of cloud computing. Within this backdrop, she talked about Cisco’s unique architectural approach to innovation and its focus on building the Intelligent Network to optimize the infrastructure in light of the changes facing the industry today.
Not too long ago I was assigned to a troubleshooting and remediation project for a hospital here in the SF bay area. The problem, after much troubleshooting and lab recreations, was determined to be due to an unique issue with client roaming and authentication. During the course of troubleshooting my coworker and myself often found ourselves explaining 802.1X and 802.11i to others working on the troubleshooting effort, or requesting technical updates. So based on that experience, I started thinking this might a be a good topic to cover here.
Let’s review the some of typical components of the enterprise wireless security model.
What is 802.1X?
802.1X is not a protocol, but rather a framework for a “port-based” access control method. 802.1X was initially created for use in switches, hence the port-based terminology, which really doesn’t fit too well in wireless since users don’t connect to a port. In the end it’s meant to be a logical concept in the 802.11 world. 802.1X was adopted for wireless networks with the creation of 802.11i to provide authenticated access to wireless networks. At a high level. the framework allows for a client that has connected to the WLAN to remain in a blocked port status until it has been authenticated by a AAA server. Essentially the only traffic allow through this virtual blocked port is EAP traffic, things like HTTP would be dropped.
What is EAP?
EAP (Extensible Authentication Protocol) is the authentication method used by 802.1X. It can take on various forms, such as PEAP, EAP-TLS, EAP-FAST, to name a few. There is one thing to remember when determining what EAP type to use in your network, is that it is dependent upon what your client and AAA server supports. This is it, your AP or AP/Controller hardware or code version will play no part in version is supported. Unless your AP/controller is acting as the AAA server, but I’ll stay away from that in this post. I think this can be a point of confusion for people who haven’t read much or anything about EAP methods. So, if some one asks what version of EAP the AP will support, all you need to do is ask them, what does their Client and AAA server support.
What is 802.11i?
Simply put, 802.11i is an amendment to the original 802.11 standard to address the well documented security short comings of WEP. It incorporates WPA as a part of the 802.11i amendment and adds the fully approved WPA2 with AES encryption method. 802.11i introduces the concept of a Robust Security Network (RSN) with the Four-way handshake and the Group key Handshake.