The classrooms, libraries, and stadiums of the future offer endless possibilities. Today, we see students mainly carrying only laptops and smartphones with them to college and university campuses. But tomorrow? We will see students with as many as 10 devices on them at all times as they work, learn, and collaborate everywhere on campus. And if that wasn’t enough, more IoT and high-bandwidth devices are being incorporated into campus plans for smart lighting, smart parking, security, immersive learning, and more. Because of this, the number of devices hitting the network and the amount of bandwidth they need will exponentially increase. Are higher education leaders ready for this drastic shift?
Many higher education institutions today are already preparing for what the future of technology will bring. Wi-Fi 6, the latest wireless standard, not only promises to bring higher density, throughput, and reliability to higher education networks, but also ensures that students and staff can focus on collaborating and learning, rather than losing connections or having technology troubles.
Identifying where bandwidth problems already exist, learning what the new standards offer, and thinking through a Wi-Fi 6 strategy are great first steps. With bandwidth requirements approximately doubling every three years, in addition to serving inherently high-density environments, the Butler University IT team has had a constant challenge to provide always-on, reliable connections for students and staff. For example, each large lecture hall currently has three 802.11ac wave 2 access points (APs) to accommodate around 100 students. But with several large lecture halls right next to each other, the APs end up cannibalizing each other. Michael Denny, Network and Security Architect at Butler University, explains, “By deploying a Wi-Fi 6 AP, we hope to have a single AP that can handle all of the students load at the same time without needing as many APs to accomplish the same job.”
But it’s not just about supporting the students of today, it’s preparing for the lecture halls of tomorrow. Pete Williams, Associate Vice President of IT and Chief Information Officer at Butler University, highlighted, “Classroom requirements are changing. Just take a look at 4K, VR, AR, and the capabilities and the requirements they’re going to drive from a throughput perspective. We believe that Wi-Fi 6 is going to help us meet that need.”
At Pikes Peak Community College (PPCC), their new Meraki Wi-Fi 6 APs not only provide better connections for students and staff, but prepare them for the increasing number of IoT devices they predict will hit the network. Over the last year, the PPCC IT team has received a dramatic increase in requests to implement more technologies on campus to improve student experiences. Wireless door locks, medical devices, AR/VR, Apple TVs, security cameras, and other devices continue to be added to the wireless network. With Meraki Wi-Fi 6 APs, PPCC is ready for this increase in IoT devices, while being able to do more with less hardware. Cyrille Parent, CTO at PPCC, explained, “We’re able to actually cover more ground with the new Meraki Wi-Fi 6 access points than with previous technology, which will provide a better experience for students and faculty.”
Soon, higher education institutions will need to make a choice: To support the increasing number of student and IoT devices by either deploying more 802.11ac Wave 2 APs and turning down the bandwidth on each to minimize interference, or by deploying a smaller number of 802.11ax APs.
Albany State University (ASU) chose to embrace the new standard and has less APs with better performance by deploying Wi-Fi 6 compatible Meraki MR55 APs. Students noticed an immediate difference. With APs deployed in the student union, housing common rooms, and gaming areas, students could tell that the internet no longer slowed down, even when at capacity in these high-density areas, allowing them to watch videos, stream music, and use social media with their friends, all at the same time. Noore Ghunaym, Director of Infrastructure, added, “Students have a much faster experience. They can watch videos, have their headphones in, stream music, snap — they’re able to do all the things that college kids do. Wi-Fi 6 helps us meet those throughput and speed challenges and allows us to scale our network accordingly.”
Meraki cloud-managed Wi-Fi 6 compatible access points raise the bar for wireless performance and efficiency in higher education and beyond. Designed for next-generation deployments, with high throughput and enterprise-grade security, higher education IT teams can experience easy deployments, central management, intelligent troubleshooting, and greater scalability. As bandwidth requirements and the number of devices continues to increase, higher education institutions will need to be ready for whatever technology comes their way. To learn more about how higher education institutions are deploying Wi-Fi 6 and embracing new technology, watch this on demand webinar with Albany State University.
In case you haven’t already heard, the next generation of wireless is upon us. Wi-Fi 6 promises higher throughputs, substantially better performance in high density environments, and energy savings for connected clients. It’s an exciting time for the entire tech industry, and consumers will soon begin to realize the benefits that this new wireless standard brings, especially when using their devices in congested environments.
The billion dollar question for IT admins remains: when will consumers start using Wi-Fi 6 client devices in earnest? Here’s some information that should help you decide on a timeframe for deploying new Wi-Fi 6 compatible networking hardware, whether you’ve already set aside budget for a network refresh or you’re still considering whether Wi-Fi 6 is worth all the hype.
When will the Wi-Fi 6 spec be officially finalized?
The development of a new wireless standard can take years, and that’s certainly been the case with Wi-Fi 6, whose feature set has been incubating since 2013. Just as with previous standards like 802.11n and 802.11ac, the Wi-Fi Alliance has released a draft spec that hardware makers are basing their new devices on, ahead of the release of the final spec. It’s entirely possible that the Wi-Fi 6 spec won’t be finalized until the last few months of 2019 or even early 2020, and this final version could include additional improvements in terms of performance or energy savings.
That said, there’s no reason to hold off on buying hardware built on the draft Wi-Fi 6 spec. The Wi-Fi Alliance only releases a draft spec once it is committed to no longer making any major changes. Over the next few months, Wi-Fi 6 vendors will understand the mandatory and optional features for the WFA Certification, which will drive future product strategy. However, those who upgrade now will be happy to know that Cisco Wi-Fi 6 compatible hardware has been thoroughly tested with Samsung and Intel Wi-Fi 6 clients.
When will Wi-Fi 6 devices start to hit the market in meaningful numbers?
Wi-Fi 6 compatible access points and switches are coming fast and furious. Almost every major networking vendor, including Cisco Meraki, has announced or is already shipping Wi-Fi 6 compatible hardware. On the other hand, Wi-Fi 6 client devices are still few and far between as of May 2019.
This will all change quickly, though. Wi-Fi 6 devices are expected to be more than half of the devices sold in 2020. Qualcomm, which supplies modems and chipsets for most of the smartphone industry, recently unveiled the Snapdragon 855, which includes support for Wi-Fi 6 and will be included in most Android flagships that debut this year. Other smartphone, computer, and tablet makers across the industry, like Apple, will also undoubtedly unveil support for Wi-Fi 6 soon.
In short: Wi-Fi 6 networking hardware is available from almost every networking vendor today, and by the end of 2019, most new flagship devices should come with the newest generation of Wi-Fi.
When is the best time to invest in new Wi-Fi 6 compatible networking equipment?
Every new Wi-Fi standard comes with a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem: network admins don’t want to be caught flat-footed with outdated networks once newer client devices start appearing everywhere, but these same admins also don’t want to rush to deploy new networking hardware if Wi-Fi 6 client devices won’t appear for a while. The latter scenario is especially relevant if a network refresh comes at the cost of other, more higher priority initiatives. The way to proceed is a bit nuanced, depending on the kind of network environment you’re managing.
If the network you manage supports high density use cases — say, if your users are using Wi-Fi in a crowded office environment, stadium, dining hall, or park — try to prioritize a Wi-Fi 6 deployment. This is doubly true if users are complaining about slow and/or unreliable performance. Even though most users today don’t have Wi-Fi 6 client devices, they will still enjoy some improvements in upstream and downstream throughputs and reliability thanks to the new 8×8 radio architecture of new Wi-Fi 6 APs. Once Wi-Fi 6 client devices start appearing everywhere, the full benefits of Wi-Fi 6 will become immediately apparent: much improved reliability, faster speeds, and improved battery life.
Some IT admins don’t need to worry about high density use cases or may have just undergone a network refresh under the Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac Wave 2) spec. If this is the case for you, it might make sense to wait to deploy Wi-Fi 6 compatible networking equipment until Wi-Fi 6 client devices hit a critical mass. Note that the new Wi-Fi 6 standard is fully backwards-compatible: Wi-Fi 6 client devices will be fully compatible with APs equipped with 802.11ac (or older), and older client devices will still work perfectly fine with Wi-Fi 6 compatible APs.
Wait, what about 5G? Shouldn’t I wait to see how that plays out?
Indeed, Wi-Fi 6 isn’t the only cool new standard hitting the airwaves (pun intended). The other new kid on the block is 5G, a new generation of cellular connectivity that promises dramatically better performance over the current standard, 4G LTE.
Some industry watchers have claimed that 5G means the end of Wi-Fi. After all, they say, now that cellular networks can be as fast as Wi-Fi networks, who needs Wi-Fi?
But the data caps and performance penalties that affect 4G LTE today will likely come with 5G as well. It’s unlikely that an office worker will rely exclusively on 5G bandwidth to get work done for 9 hours a day (or that her office manager will want to pay for it). Additionally, 5G radio frequencies delivering the greatest performance improvements won’t be able to penetrate far indoors and cover those environments as well as Wi-Fi can; it’s no wonder that 5G networks will actually offload more traffic to Wi-Fi networks than LTE networks do today because of the coming influx of more data-hungry devices and applications.
Wi-Fi will continue to have many advantages from a cost standpoint and is superior for most indoor use cases. As a result, IT teams will continue to deploy the latest and greatest in Wi-Fi technology going into the future.
The introduction of Wi-Fi 6 is a watershed moment for the tech world, and as digital technology has become more and more ingrained in consumers’ everyday lives, Wi-Fi 6 will change how we all work, play, and interact with one another. Hopefully you now have a better sense for when the right time is to invest in the next generation of wireless.
To learn more about Wi-Fi 6, check out our white paper and watch the launch webinar for the Meraki MR45 and MR55, our newest APs that are Wi-Fi 6 compatible. And be sure to chime in on the Meraki Community with your thoughts on Wi-Fi 6!
Cisco Live comes to America! Cisco’s largest event is going to be held in San Diego from June 9-13, 2019. Expecting close to 30,000 attendees, the San Diego convention centre will have a stellar lineup of events covering blockchain, AI/ML in the cloud, 5G, Wi-Fi 6, and so much more.
While Cisco Live presents an exciting opportunity to meet our product team and explore our brand new launches, you’d be remiss if you didn’t take full advantage of the breakout sessions featuring our entire product line, APIs and other integrations. All of our sessions help you derive additional value from your Meraki network through intelligent data gathering and increasing operational efficiency. Our hands-on lab sessions will help you experience and deploy a host of Meraki solutions from scratch.
Register for the session on Meraki APIs and learn how you can build programmable cloud networking tools to thoughtfully address your changing customer needs. Interested in how cameras can be used for more than just security? Our session on MV smart cameras highlights how they act as sensors by transforming video data into actionable information.
Learn how to make your network management simpler and more intuitive by registering for our session on Intent-Based Networks (IBN). Be sure to register for our deep dive into Meraki-powered SD-WAN and find out why Meraki MR + Cisco Umbrella is a match made in heaven for wireless threat protection. Do you have a network with both on-cloud and on-prem solutions? Learn how to automate and deploy these securely in our session on hybrid networks.
Today, the need for higher density, higher throughput and higher capacity are critical to wireless networks. These are the things that everyone wants from their wireless network–especially schools. These are the promises of Wi-Fi 6.
Wi-Fi 6 (known in more technical terms as 802.11ax) is the latest emerging wireless standard, offering several new improvements to make it the highest performing set of wireless protocols to date. Not only will Wi-Fi 6 boost overall performance on paper, but it is specifically designed to perform efficiently in real-world scenarios that Wi-Fi currently struggles in, such as when 25 students all hop on the classroom Wi-Fi at the same time. This allows end users to experience always-on connectivity without bottlenecks or performance degradation.
While every industry can benefit from the promises of Wi-Fi 6, one in particular is ready to benefit from this change: education. While most of us remember those school days spent searching through binders of papers, sharpening pencils in the middle of a test, and carrying heavy books from class to class, classrooms of today are transforming into central hubs of technology innovation and experimentation around the world. This shift has led to the need for secure and persistent Wi-Fi.
So what challenges will Wi-Fi 6 help the schools of tomorrow solve?
With an expected 50% increase in networked devices per person by 2020, equivalent to about 3.6 connected devices per person, schools are in for more of a bandwidth challenge than most. Additionally, more schools are deploying Internet of Things (IoT) technologies to increase school safety, improve operations and save costs. Together, this changes the requirements for many school networks. Traditionally, schools would add more access points to high density areas to try and combat reliability issues, but this has been found to cause congestion with overlapping signals. Plus, just having connections in classrooms is no longer enough; high density access points will be required everywhere on school grounds in order to accommodate students roaming with several mobile devices and wireless IoT devices.
Who are the first people to generally test out new technologies? Students. As a result, school networks are the first to handle hundreds of new devices at the same time. Not only are Wi-Fi 6-supported mobile devices already hitting the network, but the traffic per smartphone is expected to grow 10x by 2022. And if that isn’t enough, bandwidth-intensive video is expected to grow from 3% of all IP traffic in 2017 to 22% in 2022, already challenging networks with high throughput demands. To top it all off, 8K streaming is just on the horizon (and we know students will pick the highest streaming video quality they can!).
In the classroom, virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), collaboration applications and other bandwidth-intensive technologies are already starting to provide a more immersive learning experience. With teachers already using video and other wireless technologies for instruction, having higher throughput will ensure learning goes on uninterrupted and teachers have more freedom to bring new capabilities into the classroom.
All this change will come faster than you think. For Jaymon Lefebvre, Director of IT Services at Wild Rose School Division (WRSD), the rapid increase in student and IoT devices poses unique networking obstacles for the district to overcome. As a rural school district in Alberta, Canada, WRSD has many students who don’t have Wi-Fi access at home. Therefore, WRSD is not only accommodating devices for learning, but also students’ personal devices, which they use to download content and homework while at school so they can continue using their devices at home.
Additionally, learning no longer just takes place in the classroom. At any given time, students are learning wherever they go, using high-bandwidth applications in the hallways and outside. Teachers are starting to use tiny, single-board computers more regularly, like Raspberry Pis and VR headsets for instruction. With up to 30 students per classroom, each with several devices, Lefebvre’s team wants to make sure there are no limitations to new and creative learning techniques.
The IT team has started deploying Wi-Fi 6 compatible APs to continue supporting the current technologies used by students and staff, while still getting classrooms ready to support new technologies. The Wi-Fi 6 APs not only provide higher density and throughput to support students and staff, but also enable the team to support over 15,000 wireless devices and focus on providing better experiences for the school division.
In the face of a new digital era, reliable connections allow students at WRSD to have the same learning experience as kids anywhere in the world, opening up new opportunities that were not possible before. To learn more about WRSD and how they are using Wi-Fi 6, watch the on demand webinar.
Last week, we outlined some of the technical advances included with the newest wireless standard, Wi-Fi 6 (also known as 802.11ax), including OFDMA, BSS Coloring, and MU-MIMO. Wi-Fi 6 truly incorporates some impressive technology that makes it a game-changer for the entire tech industry.
For those who are less technically inclined than the engineers who have made Wi-Fi 6 a reality, this alphabet soup of acronyms belies some of the benefits of the new standard. The truth is that the move to Wi-Fi 6 will be far more meaningful than any previous Wi-Fi standard, because it comes at a pivotal time for the industry. We’re on the verge of some incredible technological innovation over the next decade, from autonomous vehicles to VR hitting the mainstream, and the advancements that come with Wi-Fi 6 will help make these things possible.
Here are the main benefits that will come with the new generation of Wi-Fi.
1. Better high density performance
Unless you’ve been under a rock for the last decade, you’ve undoubtedly observed — and probably been a part of — the growth of smartphone usage in every public space imaginable. Nowadays, it’s impossible to go to a stadium, concert, university campus, park, or music festival without seeing crowds of people all trying to use their phones.
Local governments, college campuses, and event venues have all been involved in wiring these spaces for wireless coverage, to the point where “Free Public Wi-Fi” signs abound. The crush of hundreds or thousands of users puts a huge strain on these Wi-Fi networks, which often aren’t equipped to handle so many users, overlapping wireless signals, and data-hungry applications. This can result in a subpar wireless experience.
Fortunately, one of the key benefits of the new Wi-Fi 6 standard is dramatically better high density performance. Wi-Fi 6 access points use a variety of technologies to prevent interference between devices and transmit packets more efficiently. The result: more resilient networks that continue to deliver fast speeds even as more devices connect to the network.
2. Faster speeds
Wi-Fi 6 will not only help deliver more consistent performance across a large number of devices, but also faster speeds to every device. Higher throughputs will unlock a new set of software and services, like augmented reality and complex SaaS apps, in the same way that previous Wi-Fi standards made things like wireless music streaming and cloud productivity apps possible.
The time is nigh for these throughput improvements. The total amount of internet traffic from 2017-2022 will be higher than in the previous 32 years of the internet, and from 2017 to 2022, bandwidth-intensive 4K video is expected to grow from 3% to 22% percent of all IP traffic. Video isn’t even half of it, though. According to estimates by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the average household with two teenagers will own around 50 Internet-connected devices by 2022, including many IoT (Internet of Things) devices, from sensors to smart home devices.
Another reason the faster throughputs in the Wi-Fi 6 standard matter is because Wi-Fi 6 is hitting the market around the same time as 5G. Customers will expect Wi-Fi networks to deliver speeds at least as fast, if not faster, than the cellular network, and 5G networks will be offloading significant amounts of traffic to Wi-Fi. Cisco plans to take advantage of the next wave of wireless by introducing a new technology called OpenRoaming, which makes it easier for people to transition between different networks without the pain of logging onto each one individually. OpenRoaming aims to link together service providers, device manufacturers, and network operators to create greater interoperability between networks. With OpenRoaming in place, consumers will be able to seamlessly roam between 5G and Wi-Fi 6 networks without having to deal with the many annoying interruptions in service they encounter today.
3. Energy efficiency
Though the devices we carry around everyday have experienced startling improvements in myriad ways — faster processors, larger screens, incredible cameras — battery technology hasn’t advanced much in the last few years. Consumers still hanker for the days when their phones could last for a week without a charge, instead of petering out in the middle of the day. (Most consumers also wish their phones didn’t shatter when dropped, though that’s beyond the scope of this blog post!)
Fortunately, Wi-Fi 6 enables greater energy efficiency by reducing the battery burden on devices connected to the wireless network. A feature called Target Wake Time (TWT) lets APs dictate a schedule for sending data packets to connected clients. When devices aren’t scheduled to check for data, they enter a lower power mode. TWT can help devices achieve up to 67% lower power consumption, which could make tomorrow’s phones, IoT devices, and applications last longer.
It won’t be long before Wi-Fi 6 APs and devices are everywhere — Wi-Fi 6 devices are expected to be more than half of the devices sold in 2020. At Cisco Meraki, we couldn’t be more excited about the wave of new benefits that come with this new wireless standard. As Wi-Fi 6 becomes the new normal, consumers will have a significantly better experience connecting to wireless networks.
Learn more about the just-introduced Meraki Wi-Fi 6 compatible APs by watching our launch webinar.
A lot can happen in a week at Cisco Meraki, and a lot usually does. With so much going on, we wanted to find a new way to get the word out about all the great work we and our customers are doing, in a format that’s convenient for our audience. As the wise say, for every challenge there’s an opportunity.
Our webinar program does a great job of informing and educating, covering products, features, and customer stories. There’s even an opportunity for newcomers to get their hands on free Meraki gear! No surprise then, that the microphones in our webinar room are consistently busy. Later in the day though, they’ve usually been allowed to rest… until now.
We had an idea…
The hard-working microphones of Meraki
We’re delighted to announce the arrival of our very first podcast, we’re calling Meraki Unboxed.
Its goal is very simple: to share more of what we’re doing and how we go about it, in an engaging, informative, and convenient format. Sometimes we’ll be talking about a product or feature, other times we may be talking to a customer, or sharing some of what goes on behind the scenes at our offices around the world. Meraki is more than a company name; it conveys the way we do things, putting soul, creativity, and love into our work. But what does this actually mean? The goal of Meraki Unboxed is to answer that very question, and we’re excited to be able to share it with you.
A new episode of Meraki Unboxed will be shared as often as we can make them, and you can subscribe via all the popular podcast tools: Apple, Google (currently US & Canada only), Spotify, and others (RSS users can use this link to directly access the feed).
In our pilot episode, available now, we discuss some of the great benefits of Wi-Fi 6. There’s a lot to learn about this emerging standard, which raises the bar for Wi-Fi performance and efficiency to new levels, so we take some time to explore the detail behind the headlines with Jeevan, our Head of Product Marketing.
New episodes are currently incubating and we hope they’ll entertain you on your commute, during your workout, or even out walking the dog. Subscribing is the best way to ensure you don’t miss a thing.
As with everything we do, we’d love to hear your feedback so we can ensure Meraki Unboxed achieves its goal. Please share your thoughts with us in the Meraki Community, and let us know what you’d like us to feature. Happy listening!
The 802.11 wireless standard has come a long way since the Meraki founders started a 2003 project to offer 802.11b/g mesh networking technology at their MIT university campus. In those days, 4G LTE, social media applications, iPhones, iPads, streaming music, YouTube, and AWS did not exist. Today, technologies like self-driving cars, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and 5G cellular networks are all on the verge of going mainstream.
The new 802.11ax amendment, also known as Wi-Fi 6, will help usher in new wireless technologies by providing higher throughput, higher density, and overall higher efficiency. While the 802.11ac standard gave us immense throughput improvements, Wi-Fi 6 hopes to improve the average throughput per user by a factor of four in dense environments. Wi-Fi 6 will achieve these improvements using technologies such as OFDMA (Downlink and Uplink), MU-MIMO (Downlink and Uplink), 1024 QAM and BSS Color.
The new MR45 and MR55 access points that we just announced are Wi-Fi 6 compatible. Sure, they are screaming fast on paper, but with the efficient technologies incorporated in the Wi-Fi 6 amendment, they also improve the performance of real-world wireless networks. Take a look at a few of the highlights below:
8×8 with MU-MIMO and OFDMA and 1G/2.5G/5G Ethernet
5.9 Gbps maximum data rate
2.4 GHz and 5 GHz operation
Support for MCS Rates 10 & 11
Sleek “vessel” design
PoE+ requires 802.3at compliance
4×4 with MU-MIMO and OFDMA and 1G/2.5G Ethernet
3.5 Gbps maximum data rate
2.4 GHz and 5 GHz operation
Support for MCS Rates 10 & 11
Sleek “vessel” design
PoE+ requires 802.3at compliance
Meraki continues to set the standard of access point performance and management simplicity with Meraki dashboard and Wireless Health. However, the exceptional efficiency-improving benefits come in when adding on new Wi-Fi 6 technologies.
OFDMA is technology adopted from cellular standards, and perhaps the most important feature of Wi-Fi 6. With OFDMA, an MR45 or MR55 can package up different types of traffic from wireless clients with varying bandwidth requirements and send them all at the same time, rather than sending these packets separately. Imagine a game of Tetris, with different shapes representing VoIP traffic, Twitter traffic, and IoT traffic, all neatly packaged into a single transmission. Sounds efficient!
BSS Coloring is one of the improvements that helps Wi-Fi 6 enabled products operate efficiently in dense environments. It helps reduce medium contention by adding a simple color bit to help differentiate between overlapping radios. The analogy here is that an AP can put on a pair of filtered glasses that allows it to ignore frames being sent that are associated with a different color, or radio.
MU-MIMO was introduced with 802.11ac (or Wi-Fi 5), allowing multiple clients to be addressed simultaneously. When combined with OFDMA, MU-MIMO APs become more powerful by gaining the ability to serve multiple users and multiple bandwidth needs of those clients.
Re-introduction of 2.4 GHz provides additional spectrum that can be used for outdoor use cases or IoT applications. Wi-Fi 5 did not utilize the 2.4 GHz spectrum, but with OFDMA and MU-MIMO, Wi-Fi 6 hopes to unlock the full potential of the crowded 2.4 GHz spectrum by enabling more efficient performance.
1024 QAM is a new modulation scheme that increases data rates by 25% compared to the 256 QAM technology of Wi-Fi 5. This new modulation scheme works for the 2.4 and 5 GHz spectrum.
Target Wake Time has been shown to improve battery life for Wi-Fi 6 devices by as much as 67% in industry tests. The MR45 and MR55 use TWT to negotiate wakeup times for energy-conscious Wi-Fi 6 mobile and IoT devices so they can sleep soundly, while conserving energy.
The new Wi-Fi 6 compatible MR45 and MR55 will be able to efficiently send lots of packets! By combining the Meraki Wi-Fi 6 access points with our new access and aggregation switches, network admins can rest easy knowing they’ve reduced any chance of bottlenecks in the network.