For the 119th U.S. Open Championship at Pebble Beach, Cisco delivered the most connected U.S. Open in history. With over 200,000 expected in attendance, the USGA wanted to provide new ways for fans to consume and share content, both on-site and around the world. As 156 golfers and hundreds of thousands of fans walked the course, Meraki provided first of its kind, course-wide Wi-Fi. This included wireless for indoor, outdoor, and the first-ever test of Wi-Fi 6 access points at a major sporting event.
“For the first time ever, thanks to Cisco, we had the confidence that our fans would be able to stay connected to all the action inside the ropes and with friends and family back home no matter where they went on the course.” – Amanda Weiner, Senior Director, Digital Media, USGA
Hundreds of access points were deployed in a matter of days to blanket an ultra high density environment, and close to 39TB of internet traffic was transferred during the event. 70,000 unique clients roamed across the four-mile long Pebble Beach course, during a nationally televised event with 32 million people watching.
While Meraki Access Points are deployed in stadiums, golf courses add several unique challenges. These include the size of the course, weather conditions, and variability of Wi-Fi hot zones. Physical mounting, directional antennas, and RF settings must be configured to ensure a seamless fan experience. In addition, high-density areas like the media center and U.S. Open merchandise tent needed to be carefully planned to ensure high performance. The onsite media center at the course required connectivity for over 2,000 daily unique clients.
With Meraki Wi-Fi as the first point of network access across the course, we were able to introduce a number of innovative features within our U.S. Open App and video boards to enhance the fan experience.” – Amanda Weiner, Senior Director, Digital Media, USGA
The visibility of the Meraki dashboard and simplicity of configuring Wi-Fi was critical in delivering the connected course. The team was able to detect hot zones, deploy and tune the entire network in under a week. New Wi-Fi 6 APs were installed to allow the high density merchandise pavilion on the course to transfer close to 3TB of data. We will be hosting a live webinar with USGA on October 22nd, to understand their technology strategy, and learn how the Meraki Wi-Fi network helped deliver a connected fan experience.
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!
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.