Going to a foreign city for a conference can be an exhilarating experience, but it can also be a bit frustrating when it comes to your wireless network. Does your home carrier work in the conference city? How easy is it to go from one public network to another? What’s the security like? How is the network speed?

If you went to the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, Spain this past year you already know that Cisco had you covered. How? By using Passpoint authentication which revolves around Next Generation Hotspot (NGH) technology. NGH provides an experience for connecting to Wi-Fi akin to how your device automatically connects to LTE. Passpoint users enjoyed a seamless and automatic Wi-Fi connection that is securely encrypted so network users don’t need to login or use a password.

US carrier customers with AT&T, Sprint or T-Mobile service automatically become Passpoint users as they already have a profile for connecting to roamed networks loaded into their device. Canadian carriers such as Shaw and Telus, Orange from Europe and others are Passpoint enabled users too.

The network was huge. According to recent statistics, there is 1.6 million people living in Barcelona, the MWC brought over 110,000 attendees to the city. Over 86,000 unique clients connected to the network and nearly 20 percent of Mobile World Congress attendees connected to Wi-Fi through NGH. That was a 400% increase from the 2017 MWC conference!


The Team Behind the Network

Cisco, working with the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) industry forum and network access providers such as Boingo, BSG Wireless, Accuris Wireless and iPass came together to form the fast, secure Wi-Fi network. This network stretches from the Barcelona El-Prat airport to the Barcelona subways to Fira Gran Via Convention Center and all over the city.

Cisco provided the infrastructure to make sure that users are always connected to a cutting-edge wireless network. Boingo, BSG and Accuris worked together to implement a global roaming exchange (GRX) for the access provider roaming credentials. This exchange allows for transparent, automatic and secure authentication for the Wi-Fi access networks at the Fira and throughout Barcelona. GRX easily authenticates users on a network by being a central location where cellular operators can connect with each other and verify device roaming agreements.

Intent-based Networking

Cisco is leading the networking industry through one of the biggest transitions in its history. Intent-based networking represents a fundamental shift away from the manual and time-intensive methods by which networks are traditionally managed. These intent-based networks capture and translate business intent into network policies, activate them across the infrastructure, then assures the network is working as intended. In Barcelona, Cisco deployed its full suite of intent-based networking hardware and software to deliver a dynamic, secure wireless experience for attendees. Let me point out some of the highlights:

  • Wireless Access: The hardware that all of this cutting-edge software is run on, started with the Cisco Aironet Access Points (APs). There were 2,260 APs deployed throughout the city making sure that everyone (not just conference attendees) had lightening quick Wi-Fi. Cisco and its partners deployed 1,700 Aironet 3700 and 3800 Access Points between Barcelona’s El-Prat airport, the subway system and the Fira Gran Via Conference Center. Not only that but 560 outdoor Aironet 1570 Access Points have been deployed throughout the city.
  • Automation and Segmentation: Cisco updated the software and hardware infrastructure of over 700 switches-including the highly advanced Cisco Catalyst 9000 switches within the Fira de Barcelona and City. The new switching infrastructure supports Software Defined Access (SDA) which is built on the principles of the Cisco DNA and provides a transformational shift in building and managing networks.
  • Assuring Performance: The Cisco DNA Center dashboard provides an intuitive and simple overview of network health and clear drill-down menus for quickly identifying and remediating issues. Advanced assurance and analytics capabilities use deep insights from devices, streaming telemetry, and rich context to deliver an uncompromised experience while proactively monitoring, troubleshooting, and optimizing your wired and wireless network.
  • Securing the Network: Encrypted Traffic Analytics (ETA) was use for identifying malware communications in encrypted traffic through passive monitoring, the extraction of relevant data elements and supervised machine learning with cloud-based global visibility.

Cisco and their partners worked with the city of Barcelona, and its progressive approach to Wi-Fi internet connectivity, to provide attendees to MWC a city-wide experience.

Mission accomplished.



Byron Magrane

Product Manager, Marketing