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April 29, 2019updated 06 Jul 2022 4:06am

Cisco Unveils New Programmable Wi-Fi 6 Stack, Developer Centre

"The culmination of efforts to reinvent our entire access portfolio."

By CBR Staff Writer

Cisco has unveiled a new Wi-Fi 6 stack. The releases include new access points, switch gear and a wireless developer centre replete with a range of new modules from Cisco’s DevNet programme. The access points are open and programmable down to the chipset level, the company said today, as it aims to get ahead of the new, faster standard.

Wi-Fi 6, or more formally, 802.11ax, comes with theoretical maximum speeds of 9.6 Gbps; triple average current maximum Wi-Fi speeds. Cisco said the blisteringly quick new wireless LAN standard will arrive before broad 5G availability – and that it has already conducted field trials of its stack with BMW, NASA and Samsung.

Wi-Fi 6 uses OFDMA – a radio modulation technique that lets users customise at very low level channel use to match client and traffic demands – for faster wireless connectivity. Roll-out has started already. Cisco said that the products, available now, represent the culmination of its “efforts to reinvent its entire access portfolio.”

Wi-Fi 6 map

Credit: Cisco

Cisco has completed Wi-Fi 6 interoperability testing with Broadcom, Intel and Samsung “to address the inevitable gaps that come with a new standard.”

Samsung, Boingo, GlobalReach, Presidio and others are also expected to join the Cisco OpenRoaming project to solve one of today’s biggest wireless pain points, the company added, referring to issues seamlessly hopping between Wi-Fi and LTE networks. (Crudely speaking, users can expect to use 5G outdoors and Wi-Fi 6 indoors).

Built on the same fundamental wireless innovations as 5G (including software-defined traffic management), Wi-Fi 6 will reshape how businesses and consumers interact with the world, Cisco said in a series of blogs today promoting the new product suite.

“Beyond being significantly faster than the previous generation, Wi-Fi 6 delivers up to 400 percent greater capacity and is more effective in high-density settings like large lecture halls, stadiums and  conference rooms. Latency is vastly improved, allowing for near real-time use cases. Wi-Fi 6 is also easier on connected devices’ batteries and provides an overall more predictable user experience.”

“Every leap in connectivity enables the next wave of profound innovation. 5G and Wi-Fi 6 represent a new era of connectivity,” said David Goeckeler, EVP and General Manager, Networking and Security Business at Cisco.

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“Developers are already creating the next generation of wireless-first, immersive experiences. With billions of things connecting to the network, this growth will create unprecedented complexity for IT. Cisco is building a multi-domain network architecture to simplify complexity for IT, allowing CIOs to deliver against their innovation agenda.”

Wi-Fi 6: “The Network is Critical Infrastructure”

The new products include new access points across the company’s Catalyst and Meraki portfolios. All are multilingual, with the ability to communicate with multiple IoT protocols, including BLE, Zigbee, and Thread and programmable chipsets. Today’s releases also include a new Catalyst 9600 core switch family: the hardware that provides a single networking fabric that brings wired and wireless together.

Wi-Fi 6 and 5G represent an enormous opportunity but require businesses to tackle big challenges. Today, the workplace is wherever we work. Users are more dependent on mobile experiences and have no tolerance for downtime. To meet these demands, the network must be wireless-first, cloud-driven and data-optimised, Cisco said.

Cisco’s Scott Harrell said: “The network is critical infrastructure. And the kind of network we’re relying on is changing. In the past, for devices that needed constant connectivity, we’d wire them to our core. Today, our critical devices are just as likely to be wireless: the cart with medical equipment, the roving inventory-picker robot, the handheld ticket scanner. These devices can no longer connect using ‘best effort’ wireless as they might have in the past. The wireless network has to be as rock-solid as wired. It has to provide uninterrupted and unplugged access for users and devices.” 

“Additionally, the bulk of incremental devices landing on the network are unmanaged, not laptops or phones that are managed by IT. This means classical pieces of the security kill chain – endpoint tools such as antivirus software, Mobile Device Management, and Endpoint Detection and Response – don’t come into play.”

“The increase in device and OS diversity can also lead to a dramatic rise in alerts from legacy network security tools, making them essentially ineffective for SecOps departments already suffering from alert fatigue. Finally, unmanaged devices can also be weaponized by attackers; they’re often highly vulnerable to botnets, like Mirai, which continue to rapidly evolve.”

See also: Cisco Snaps Up UK Supplier Ensoft

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