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Cisco’s Big News at Mobile World Congress: Introducing Service Provider Wi-Fi

Picture this: you’re at a major sporting event, along with 100,000 of your closest friends and neighbors. You want to share this experience with your other jealous friends who didn’t shell out $1,000 like you did to attend the game, and you want to take pictures on your smartphone for your Facebook account and Tweet about the last touchdown that just happened. The only problem is, around half of the crowd at the game is trying to do the exact same thing. How can a service provider possibly manage to provide enough cellular coverage to allow everyone to do this?

With Cisco’s help, that’s how.

Today, Cisco is working with global service providers to allow service providers to offload their cellular data onto Wi-Fi networks, giving customers a superior user experience with seamless authentication and roaming, whether on a cellular or Wi-Fi network. Cisco’s vision is to elevate the status of Wi-Fi as a trusted radio network on par with cellular radio access network – and on February 14 at Mobile World Congress 2011, we’re taking one step closer to that vision with the launch of the Cisco Service Provider Wi-Fi Solution – our carrier-grade Wi-Fi offload and services enablement strategy.

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Virtual Domains with Cisco WCS

I wanted to spend some time on a feature that helps Cisco WCS offer multi-tenant capabilities, and helps organizations address the following needs; You may find a use for deploying this feature outside of the two most common models, as well:

  • Use a single WCS installation, and offer virtual management consoles divided on a geographical basis: Such a way to deploy WCS is very common among the larger enterprise, or branch/retail customers where the WCS installation may be in a datacenter, but there’s a need to delegate and assign network management tasks to individuals at the regional, branch, store, or site level.
  • Use a single WCS installation and offer virtual management consoles to different customers: Such a way to deploy WCS is common among the service providers, or managed service providers who are likely to host and operate the WCS installation but would still like their customers to have a view into managing their own networks.

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Big, Bigger, And Then Texas Stadium

It’s been a most interesting week in my wireless corner of the universe. A number of very cool things happened, but I’d have to say that for me, the meeting of the week award goes to a wireless deployment site visit at Cowboy Stadium with an all access pass.

The scale and scope of that building is beyond hyperbole. There simply is no single word to describe the Cowboy Stadium. It turns out that $1.3 billion buys an awful lot of steel, glass, concrete, and electrical infrastructure. For the Super Bowl there next week, you’ll be spending approx $23K per seat near the 50 yard line at the lower level. A measly $3K each will get you one of the highest seats in the house- and believe me, they’re way, way up there. Think of watching a sporting event from the roof of a 20 story building a block away- literally.

It’s a structure that rivals anything I’m aware of that mankind has built in terms of scale. Math, engineering, tools, design knowledge, and maintenance resources seem almost infinite now. The Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt pales in comparison as the Cowboy stadium has about 6X the square footage. Mind you, to the best of my knowledge, Jerry Jones wasn’t restricted to papyrus, hand calculations, and rudimentary tools, so the ancient Egyptians are still able to amaze us- 4,600 years later.

One thing I’m fairly certain of is that the Egyptians didn’t install wireless. A good thing too, because the complexity of installing over 900 access points would impress even the best of their engineers. It’s pretty daunting today; there are, on average, 40 AP’s for every 100 feet of walkway inside the perimeter of the Cowboy Stadium. Each technician verifying and fine tuning the design walked dozens of miles to ensure every AP would properly service the local clients. Just for kicks, I took an RF measurement at dead center on the playing field- it came in at around -70 dBm. This would rank as another one of those “that really shouldn’t work that well here” experiences I’ve had in nearly every deployment I’ve attended around the world.

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Wi-Fi ‘CleanAir’ Coming to Defense Industry in 2011

A key segment in the Public Sector wireless market to keep an eye on in 2011 is the U.S. DoD and Global Defense industry which is in the early stages of a major transformation around secure mobile communications and next-gen wireless LANs.  One such transformation is the U.S. Department of Navy’s transition from NMCI to Next Generation Enterprise Network (NGEN) which supports over 700,000 users in over 3000 locations and includes requirements for 802.11a/g/n for voice and data support.

The ramp of WLAN technology into large Military installations (Air, Land, and Sea) and Defense operations is being driven by the obvious benefits associated with secure 802.11n networking along with critical WLAN functionality such as purpose-built Spectrum Intelligence for Wi-Fi communications (i.e. Cisco CleanAir). For the Defense industry, Cisco CleanAir changes the game for wireless in a big way as it delivers on the promise to run mission critical communications over the unlicensed (and sometimes messy…) RF spectrum of Wi-Fi. But there is a catch…without the required product approvals and security certifications, Defense agencies are limited in what they are allowed to deploy…but that’s soon to change in 2011–more on this later.

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Cisco Extends Wireless Security Beyond PCI Compliance – Protecting Your Wireless Retail Transactions

Ever wonder who might be trying to access your credit card information when you make a wireless transaction at a gas station kiosk, buy a beer at a baseball game from your seat, or return a rental car right at the parking lot?

Cisco does, and knows how retailers are increasingly using wireless technology to conduct point-of-sale transactions in many of your favorite stores. In fact, more than 33% of retailers that responded to an InsightExpress survey (commissioned by Cisco), today use wireless to transmit cardholder data, while more than 35% of financial institutions reported doing so in the same survey. To help these retailers address wireless security concerns, Cisco is announcing significant improvements to its wireless network solutions that allow retailers to secure their wireless networks from attacks and improve security where point-of-sale data is transmitted wirelessly.

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