One of the challenges with any wireless network, especially in enterprise and multi-tenant environments where there are often many APs, is minimizing the performance-sapping effect of interference. With more and more of us choosing WiFi as our primary source of network access, maintaining a clean RF environment becomes a top priority for the network engineer.

The MR34 features an additional radio inside the AP dedicated to ensuring high performance isn’t compromised by rogue APs or interference. We recently covered the third radio’s Air Marhsal WIDS/WIPS features; here we take a closer look at Auto RF.

The MR34’s third radio

The MR34 combines the third radio and the power of cloud management, leveraging sophisticated algorithms to perform spectral scanning and automatically re-balance channel assignments without impacting clients. A channel analysis takes place every couple of minutes and a channel reassignment window every 10 minutes, enabling APs to change channels if no clients are connected. Like other Meraki APs, the MR34 also scans on boot to ensure it doesn’t interfere with existing APs, and can recover in the event of a saturated channel by forcing a channel reassignment. Also like other Meraki APs, the network administrator can also manually initiate an update to optimize channel assignments.

An overview of the RF environment

We’ve introduced an intuitive way to visualize interference with a detailed spectrum analysis view in the dashboard. The third radio enables display of real-time data with no impact to client performance, showing live and recent activity to help identify sources of interference. The screenshot below shows a list of MR34 APs with a simple historical interference bar for both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz radios which builds over time. The lighter the colors, the greater the utilization of the channel.

View summarized spectrum analysis information of multiple APs at once

In-depth analysis

To look at the wireless conditions for a specific AP in more detail, simply click it. The example below shows a high utilization in the 2.4 GHz band.

On this screen you can see both real-time and recent historical utilization across the 2.4 GHz band. It’s probable that two-thirds of the users in this environment are having quite a laggy experience. To address this, we’ll want to check we’re using band steering to encourage more clients onto the less noisy 5 GHz band.

Designing high performance WiFi networks is becoming easier with the advent of new, faster standards like 802.11ac. At the same time, this performance is being shared among an ever-growing number of devices. The tradeoff will be with us for some time to come, so the tools Cisco Meraki is providing assist with delivering the best possible client experience, with detailed yet intuitive information for the network administrator.