Cisco recently asked me to test out a new access point/antenna combination called the Cisco Catalyst 9104 Stadium Antenna. I agreed but I was not at all prepared for what I was about to receive! To make a long story short—these things came on a pallet. They are huge, and for good reason.
Above is the new Cisco Catalyst 9104 Stadium Antenna. It’s an integrated high-gain, ultra-high-density solution. It sports a software configurable antenna that allows for both beam switching as well as beam steering of the RF signal, making it versatile for nearly any large event venue, warehouse, or outdoor environment–like San Jose State University (SJSU).
This AP/antenna combination has the ability to manage 12 concurrent RF beams via the Cisco Catalyst 9800 Controllers starting with IOS-XE version 17.6. It gives you the ability to control the beam width via software. This is Cisco’s first truly software-defined antennas, not to be confused with software defined access, which is also very cool but we can discuss that in an upcoming blog.
The software configurable antennas make the new access point flexible for large venues. It’s easy to change the configuration and reconfigure the antenna beam for different events and venue configurations. Additionally, with the antennas and the access point fully integrated, it eliminates the need for additional cables. This makes for a very clean installation and removes multiple points of failure.
This is a great access point/antenna solution for stadiums and large concert venues as it can service clients at 150 to 200 feet at -65dB. For a while there was a trend in stadiums to install access points under the seats and use the human bodies to absorb the signal and create a “small cell.” With COVID and lower crowd density we’ve seen that these under-the-seat configurations do not work well with a lot of empty seats, making a CCI nightmare. Also under-the-seat designs are very expensive to install and retrofit.
A Novel Approach to Stadium Wireless
The Catalyst 9104 changes the game for large venues by reinventing the way they deploy wireless. It’s more cost effective and much simpler to deploy with its superior overhead design. I don’t want to limit your perspective here with high density and forget the long-range aspect. The Catalyst 9104 enables various other environments such as warehouses, parks, downtowns, lawn areas and more.
Another cool feature with the Catalyst 9104 is the ability to mount it in landscape or portrait orientations, depending on which direction you want to focus the beam width.
Multiple Use Cases Across the Campus
One of my reasons for the Catalyst 9104, outside of our stadium and arena use cases, was to solve a specific problem. SJSU has large lawn areas without cable, power infrastructure or even light posts. The Catalyst 9104 access points allow me to provide Wi-Fi from second story roof tops at 150 feet from users with impressive results. Check it out below:
Another cool perspective of the Catalyst 9104 is that in some venues we have mounting points at different heights for different types of events. The Catalyst 9104 is a good fit in these areas as it allows me to use software to change the RF beam width to accommodate different elevations of the platform.
With outdoor wireless in many areas, aesthetics is a concern which is another place that the Catalyst 9104 shines. It looks sharp and you can mount it at a distance without sacrificing performance.
For more information on the Cisco Catalyst 9100 series access points, check it out here.
Take a deep dive into the Catalyst 9104 with Matt Swartz, Cisco Distinguished Engineer, on Cisco Champion Radio
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