Since 1998 the CiscoLive! events, formerly Networkers, have been the network industry’s premiere event for education, product introductions, collaboration, and fun.  Speaking of fun, I make a special effort every year to get a hat at the Customer Appreciation Event (CAE) in the US.  The top of my work-desk at home reflects years of CiscoLive! participation.

Cisco Live Hats

With CiscoLive! Amsterdam (February, 2023) in our rear view mirror and Las Vegas ahead of us in June, I took time to reflect on how the event has evolved over the years. Obviously, it has grown in attendee count and requisite venue size. Content is offered digitally and streamed – no more 100+ page printouts! The progression of network programmability spawned our DevNet Zone. Social media has made the event more connected and personal.

A brief history of wireless technology

There’s been a LOT of change in technology over the years, possibly none more so than in wireless networking.  The initial release of the 802.11b wireless standard was in 1999. It transformed the industry with a shared medium sporting a whopping 11 Megabits per second on the 2.4 Gigahertz spectrum. It’s taken for granted now in phones, laptops, and tablets, but it was revolutionary to be connected to the network without wires!

To refresh our memories, consider the history of wireless technology –

Cisco Live Hats 2

Six generations later in 2019 Wi-Fi 6, also known as 802.11ax, was ratified. It offers many enhanced capabilities, but here are a few notable mentions:

  • a potential maximum link rate of 9608 Mbps across multiple channels
  • Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access (OFDMA) to subdivide channels into subcarriers and enable transmission to multiple clients simultaneously
  • Overlapping Basic Service Sets (OBSS) to improve network congestion

Wireless over the years at CiscoLive!

CiscoLive! San Diego had a Whisper Suite that year to observe the emerging technology for those with early-release mobile devices. The Wi-Fi 6 client ratios, in comparison to the overall conference, were very small at less than 0.1% adoption.

Cisco Live Hats 3Several months later at CiscoLive! Barcelona in January 2020 the Wi-Fi 6 ratio was almost 6% of all wireless client associations.  Finally, Wi-Fi 5 [or IEEE 802.11ac] was getting a challenger after years of being greater than 80% of the client associations!

Barcelona January 2020 was the last in-person event for a while until June 2022 with CiscoLive! Las Vegas. Something curious to note in reviewing the wireless statistics for our most recent CiscoLive! Amsterdam February 2023 is that a global pandemic did NOT prevent people from upgrading their phones, tablets, and laptops! We saw Wi-Fi 6 (on 5 GHz spectrum) pull in 62% of the wireless client associations – a notable jump in adoption rate!

Cisco Live Hats 4

Figure – A point-in-time snapshot of the wireless client ratios from the CiscoLive NOC

Wi-Fi 6E, the latest standard was released in 2020 and brought a new 6 GHz spectrum.  There was a small deployment of Wi-Fi 6E capable wireless access points in the Meet the Engineer/Expert village. We started tracking a new YANG model metric from the Wireless LAN Controller’s telemetry related to Wi-Fi 6E capable clients. For those embracing network programmability and DevOps/SRE trends, the NETCONF RPC payload we used to poll the WLC is seen below.

<filter xmlns="urn:ietf:params:xml:ns:netconf:base:1.0">
    <client-oper-data xmlns="http://cisco.com/ns/yang/Cisco-IOS-XE-wireless-client-oper">

The dot11-6ghz-cap metric indicates wireless clients that can use Wi-Fi 6E. For CiscoLive! Amsterdam 2023 we noted a maximum of 790 Wi-Fi 6E capable wireless clients, out of total event maximum of 13,225 clients.

Cisco Live Hats 5

So, how is this interesting?

If the total number of Wi-Fi 6E capable client counts increase dramatically, it means we have users with newer mobile devices capable of having a better wireless experience. Are they? Or are they associating to a lesser operational standard because of a lack of Wi-Fi 6E infrastructure? This may provide tangible metrics to help drive a network refresh and take emotion and conjecture out of the decision-making process.

If you’re interested in seeing 10 years of wireless network stats progression…and CAE hats, check out this associated video –

Augment your business insights and data analysis

Check out the rich telemetry and instrumentation that exists in your Cisco network — it can augment your business insights and data analysis!  Check out our product YANG models at Github.  For more information of NETCONF, gRPC, and telemetry look to these learning resources:

See you at Cisco Live!

I hope to see you at the upcoming CiscoLive! June 4-8 in Las Vegas.  I’ll be in the NOC or the DevNet Zone. Here are my speaking sessions:

  • DEVNET-1279 Learning and Using Kubernetes with a Cluster of Raspberry Pis – Part 1 of 2
  • DEVNET-2279 Learning and Using Kubernetes with a Cluster of Raspberry Pis – Part 2 of 2
  • DEVNET-1534 Practical Telemetry for the AppDev, DevOps and SRE
  • DEVNET-2200 Enhanced Automation of a Meraki-based Environment

Follow me on Twitter for the next event – I’d be happy to talk to you!



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Jason Davis

Distinguished Engineer

Cisco Developer Relations