The next six to twelve months will likely see some shocking changes to networks worldwide. As organizations start to return to everyday operations, things will look a lot different than they did before. While challenging, the coming months will serve as an excellent opportunity for networking teams to use a strategic approach to deliver a big impact.
Be agile while facing chaos
A few things that you can likely project in the future are the need to adapt to some form of hybrid work model and the need to leverage new technology solutions to stay safe. Outside of a few key assumptions, unpredictability doesn’t mean you should avoid planning. You can succeed in uncertain environments by developing organizational agility and identifying ways to save time.
As new challenges and uncertainties arise, it’s important that your network operations team is able to jump into action. They may have to deal with urgent employee VPN issues, a new corporate requirement for social distancing tech, or an overloaded Wi-Fi network. One place that can make a big impact on freeing up network operators’ time is troubleshooting, which is by far the #1 consumer of resources for a typical networking team, taking up 43% of their time.
The Wi-Fi network is often a significant contributor to troubleshooting efforts due to the inherent complexities of the wireless medium. With great problems come great opportunities, and Wi-Fi might be a good place to focus when looking for ways to operate more efficiently.
More data, more devices, more expectations
More is coming. Wi-Fi is now the dominant form of network access and faces huge expectations. 5G is starting to see global exponential growth, with speeds more than 10x as fast as LTE. Users will demand the same high performance on Wi-Fi and will want to offload large quantities of data. People going back to school and work will likely bring along more devices, placing extra strain on networks due to increased collaboration needs. Imagine an office building with 500 employees who want to collaborate seamlessly with remote workers. That means more cloud use, more video calls, and more chat applications.
Preparing the network for what’s next
The IT team is going to need to deliver on high expectations, despite being strained with existing challenges. But, if network teams can free up resources, they have the opportunity to be seen as heroes when they are able to operate in an agile way. By embracing new technologies, the Wi-Fi network will be ready for what’s next.
Wi-Fi 6 will help future-proof Wi-Fi networks to deal with cellular offloading, new IoT projects, more cloud use, and the return of employees and students with new devices. With up to 4x higher aggregated throughput, network teams won’t have to worry about whether a legacy Wi-Fi network is going to handle what’s coming next. Wi-Fi 6 will be a critical technology to help world economies recover from the pandemic by helping facilitate new use cases and business opportunities.
Embracing automation, particularly in regard to the Wi-Fi network, can help free up the network operations team. Automation can reduce the hours spent parsing through event logs, performance graphs, and alerts to pinpoint the reason a point-of-sale device was not registering on the wireless network. Instead, contextual and informative suggestions can provide automated remediation to enhance the Wi-Fi experience. Post-COVID-19, nearly half of organizations are expecting to increase reliance on advanced automation, and nearly the same amount want to increase their ability to remotely manage their network operations. Automation will allow these teams to reduce repetitive tasks and elevate their value. Individuals can become empowered to manage thousands of devices and transition from operators and practitioners to strategists and architects.
Learn more about how organizations using Meraki solutions can save 50-70% of their time when troubleshooting, deploying, and managing their networks.
Organizations are preparing for a digital future faster than ever before. More than half a million customers, including a majority of the Fortune 100, have now modernized their networks with Cisco Meraki. Cloud-management has created a fundamental shift away from on-site controllers, time-consuming troubleshooting, and complex security to a model that can be operated 100% remotely. To help organizations on this journey, we are doubling the size of our Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6™ family by releasing three new Wi-Fi 6 access points, adding enhanced troubleshooting capabilities, and additional security features.
The new Meraki Wi-Fi 6 Family
New Wi-Fi 6 access points
Organizations are experiencing increases in the use of bandwidth-hungry mobile video conferencing, Wi-Fi calling, and mobile device use. Wi-Fi 6 helps to deliver these mobile experiences seamlessly, and now Meraki can deliver Wi-Fi 6 both indoors and outdoors.
We are happy to announce three new Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6™ ruggedized and external antenna access points to deliver the newest Wi-Fi 6 standard to outdoor areas, and focused coverage areas. The MR46E, MR76, and MR86 join the MR36, MR46, and MR56 to offer screaming fast, high-performance Wi-Fi 6 everywhere.
MR46E, MR76, and MR86 Highlights
All three models are Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6™, supporting high-density features such as MU-MIMO, OFDMA, and power saving features such as target wake time (TWT). They all feature a quad-radio architecture with 2.4 GHz, 5GHz, security scanning, and IoT radios.
MR86 is an IP67 rated, rugged 4×4:4 Multigigabit access point, with a 3.5 Gbps max data rate for high-density outdoor environments
MR76 is an IP67 rated, rugged outdoor 2×2:2 access point with 1.7 Gbps max data rate
The MR46E is a 4×4:4 Multigigabit access point, 3.5 Gbps max data rate, with automatically-detectable external antennas. MR46E can re-use the same external antennas as MR53E.
The new outdoor access points enable organizations to extend Wi-Fi beyond current dense indoor areas. Retail shops or schools may be wanting to offer more Wi-Fi outdoors to accommodate social distancing. MR46E is able to offer focused wireless coverage, using directional antennas, for warehouses or manufacturing plants with high ceilings, or hospitals and schools with long hallways.
Simplifying wireless troubleshooting
As discussed in a recent blog post, Meraki dramatically simplifies the ability to troubleshoot a network from end-to-end. We are now excited to release deeper insights and analytics into wireless performance metrics. With historical color-coded performance metrics for signal quality and wireless latency, identifying and correlating problems has never been easier.
Want to know how your CEO’s Wi-Fi was performing today, yesterday, or even weeks ago? Want to know the impact a configuration change had on wireless latency or signal quality at one of your remote locations? It’s now all at your fingertips with expanded Meraki Health statistics.
Client Health Signal Quality
By deliveringCisco security technologies from the cloud, Meraki helps organizations get back to what they do best. The newest wireless firmware release includes security capabilities to help secure their networks.
Adaptive Policy is now available on Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6 access points, to help simplify policy administration using SGTs (Secure Group Tags). Profiling users, devices, services, and setting time of access has never been easier.
Identity PSK is now available without the need for a RADIUS server. IoT devices can be authenticated using the Meraki cloud.
WPA3 is now available across Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6 access points, which enables higher levels of encryption and more robust password-based authentication. This will be a welcome upgrade for organizations with sensitive data such as financial services and healthcare organizations.
New firmware upgrade option
To help simplify firmware upgrades, Meraki has released a new upgrade strategy to minimize client downtime. The network never has to go offline during a firmware upgrade, minimizing impact on end-users and devices are minimized during the upgrade. This new upgrade strategy option helps minimize disruption to mission critical wireless networks such as manufacturing, healthcare, warehouses, and airports.
Whether you’re working from home, or the office, the use of Wi-Fi continues to expand. Internet traffic is rising, with 50% increases seen in global regions, cities, as well as 228% growth of VoIP and video use, with much of that traffic going over Wi-Fi. Our connected world and economy is clearly relying heavily on Wi-Fi technology. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, Wi-Fi was already becoming bogged-down with the increase of mobile devices, IoT, new applications like 4K video and VR/AR. Wi-Fi 6 was released to help satisfy the needs of the hungry Wi-Fi ecosystem, but the growth of wireless always continues to outpace whatever is capacity gains are invented.
Source: Cisco Annual Internet Report, 2018–2023
Thank you to the FCC
Today, on April 23rd, the FCC Commission voted to approve 1,200MHz of additional spectrum to Wi-Fi. The information superhighway is getting supercharged with a whole host of additional high-speed lanes. As Ajit Pai, Chairman of the FCC, mentions:
“[The 6GHz band] would effectively increase the amount of spectrum available for Wi-Fi almost by a factor of five”
With these new approvals, Cisco Meraki is excited to help build the internet of the future. In fact, when I was interviewing for the role that I currently hold, our SVP & GM Todd Nightingale asked me what got me excited about Wi-Fi. I told him: ‘6 Ghz’. This was back in Nov 2018 and Ajit Pai had just announced his commitment to 6GHz. Fast forward and here we are, it is real!
Wi-Fi 6’s growth into the 6 GHz spectrum is a game-changer for two reasons – the availability of the additional channels and the ability to finally use 160Mhz for high bandwidth applications like AR and VR. 6GHz provides enormous opportunities to build new applications and experiences for both consumers and businesses.
In addition to new applications, newly available channels will translate to less RF issues and simplicity of maintenance. At Meraki, we look forward to supporting networks as they see significant increases in IoT, wearables, industrial sensors, 4K/8K video, critical telehealth, and remote learning in the coming years.
For more information about our Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6™ access points, read more here.
As we enter the middle of 2020, the year is shaping up to be an interesting one for Wi-Fi. With the explosion in remote work, we have seen increases in both video collaboration and Wi-Fi calling. On April 1st, AT&T saw an increase of 105% above average Wi-Fi calling. WPA3, the next generation of Wi-Fi security, is rolling out to deliver better encryption for sensitive data. Wi-Fi 6 continues to proliferate as new Wi-Fi 6 clients, such as the 2020 iPad Pro, enter the market.
To take full advantage of the new Wi-Fi trends and new clients in 2020, a Wi-Fi 6 network infrastructure needs to be in place. Deploying Wi-Fi 6 access points will ensure 802.11ax clients experience high-quality and low-latency performance.
Official Wi-Fi 6 certification
The MR36, MR46, and MR56 have now received official certification status for Wi-Fi 6 from the Wi-Fi Alliance.
Whether you are on a call or video conference, Wi-Fi 6 can help enable high levels of efficiency and low latency. OFDMA and MU-MIMO in both the uplink and downlink direction help support a multitude of devices with up to 75% lower latency. While working from home over a secure Meraki Wi-Fi 6 access point, you can experience seamless video conferencing or VoIP calls, while your family watches Netflix in the next room. Hospitals and financial services organizations can offer critical connectivity while supporting the highest security standards, with WPA3.
To hear more about recent Meraki Wi-Fi updates, listen in to episode 22 of Meraki Unboxed, which discusses:
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Wi-Fi 6 is designed to support a modern world of hyper-connectivity. While exciting, this digital world will also see more challenges such as high client density, IoT everywhere, and more high-bandwidth requirements. This leads to increasing demands on the network, and organizations relying on connectivity more than ever before. One of the most important challenges a network faces is maintaining the relationship between the clients and the wireless network.
Many will agree that a great relationship is built on a strong foundation. For the wireless network, this foundation might be careful capacity planning and a proper site survey. But, even with a strong foundation, relationships between wireless clients and the network can hit rough patches. Without knowing the root-cause of the problem, it can be hard to improve that relationship.
Many wireless network engineers today spend at least a day every week troubleshooting Wi-Fi. This can be due to lack of visibility, increased network complexity, and human error. Time spent troubleshooting is a missed opportunity, as those countless hours could have been spent transitioning IT to meet modern organizational needs.
Visibility beyond wireless
This week, we are adding new capabilities and visibility to the Meraki dashboard to help simplify troubleshooting. Users can now pinpoint issues more quickly, and ensure excellent connectivity for clients. These updates are designed to not only provide insights about the health of Wi-Fi clients, but also to provide end-to-end visibility. Enhanced visibility will now allow for immediate identification of whether wireless is problematic, or if, for example, an upstream device is misconfigured.
Cisco research reveals that 63% of users blame the wireless network for problems, while the issue could be elsewhere. Now, network admins can gain insight and focus precious time on the actual root cause.
Once problematic clients or access points are identified, new snapshots are available to help quickly remedy the root cause. Users can now view wireless health metrics as they navigate through their dashboard. From an individual client’s page, a user can immediately assess the health of that specific client.
Below is an example of how to troubleshoot a troublesome wireless client with Meraki:
The end-to-end visibility snapshot, health snapshots for individual access points and clients, as well as updated event logs are all available today for Meraki Wireless users. These new metrics and capabilities, along with the centralized Wireless Health engine make the process of optimizing connectivity simple.
The last decade has seen Wi-Fi grow to reach shocking milestones, with over $2 trillion of economic value delivered. This new decade is on track to be the era of Wi-Fi dominance, as 59% of all internet traffic will use the technology. The next 10 years will see new device types, and diverse high-density wireless environments, which is why we want to offer an expanded range of Wi-Fi 6 options. The Meraki Wi-Fi 6 portfolio, combined with Wireless Health and our recent security innovations, will help organizations prepare for a reliable and secure wireless future.
The MR56 is our best-in-class 8×8 Wi-Fi 6 access point, designed for ultra high-density, and ultra high-performance.
MR46 is our newest 4×4 Wi-Fi 6 access point, which will serve high-density, high-performance environments.
MR36 is Cisco’s first 2×2 Wi-Fi 6 access point, designed for high-performance requirements, and large scale deployments with an eye on value.
The three Wi-Fi 6 models feature all of the newest 802.11ax capabilities, including OFDMA and MU-MIMO for both downlink and uplink. These features are critical for environments with large amounts of wireless clients and high bandwidth requirements. For example, Meraki access points at the U.S. Open last year saw vast amounts of uplink traffic, as 200,000 attendees uploaded photos and videos to social media and iCloud.
The Meraki cloud will help deliver Wi-Fi 6 at scale across distributed sites and large quantities of mobile devices. Armed with Wi-Fi 6, IT admins can meet performance levels across a broad range of challenging Wi-Fi environments. For example, 4K video or new applications such as VR and AR require extremely low latency wireless. These new access points will provide an immersive wireless experience for those using these emerging technologies. Wi-Fi 6 delivers this performance, even in dense environments such as corporate headquarters, auditoriums, event halls, or retail stores.
We are excited to see what new possibilities await for device mobility across a broad range of use cases and environments. New decade, new possibilities!
To learn more, join us on an upcoming wireless webinar, or try out one of the new Wi-Fi 6 devices via free trial.
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. To learn more, take a look at the on-demand webinar to understand their technology strategy, and learn how the Meraki Wi-Fi network helped deliver a connected fan experience. Watch now
From move-in day to graduation day, students require reliable Wi-Fi to be successful. Not only does Wi-Fi enable effective collaboration and creativity, but it can also be a driver to attract and retain students and faculty to campus. As the need for seamless connectivity on college and university campuses continues to expand, are schools measuring up to student expectations? We wanted to find out.
In partnership with the Center for Digital Education, Cisco Meraki conducted two surveys, one of higher education decision-makers and one of college students — to better understand students’ habits and needs regarding network use and technology and how that compares to what their counterparts in leadership perceive. We asked almost identical questions of these two audiences and compared the results.
The results were fascinating. While the full survey report outlines many interesting findings, three key things stood out that warranted further analysis:
1. Students aren’t utilizing campus to its full potential because of unreliable Wi-Fi
We asked students where they complete their school work and use Wi-Fi the most. We then asked higher education leaders where they think students complete their school work and use the Wi-Fi the most. Both audiences were also asked how reliable they thought the Wi-Fi was in those areas. Surprisingly, the study showed a large discrepancy between the students actual Wi-Fi use and the leaders perception of what the students use. While the vast majority of students ranked the school library, on campus housing, and off-campus housing as the top three locations to work and use Wi-Fi, the leaders listed study rooms and dining/common areas as primary student work locations. Why aren’t students completing school work and using Wi-Fi in all of the areas leadership thinks they are?
When asked how reliable the Wi-Fi was in the same locations, the discrepancy was shocking. In every location highlighted, more than half of leaders thought Wi-Fi was very reliable, yet less than 25% of students thought so (with the exception of the library). More specifically, 40% of leadership versus 22% of students think Wi-Fi is highly reliable in dorms and 42% of leadership think Wi-Fi is somewhat reliable outdoors, while 57% of students say there is no outdoor Wi-Fi. To top it off, when students were asked “What technology would you like to see your campus provide to enhance the student experience?” the top answer, getting 54% of the responses, was reliable Wi-Fi.
While students want to seamlessly roam from their dorm room, to class, to the outdoor quad and have reliable connections in order to socialize and work, this isn’t being provided to the standard students expect. In order to provide the best experience for students, reliable Wi-Fi everywhere on campus is key.
2. While Wi-Fi is important, schools can’t forget about the wired network
Students are bringing more and more wireless devices with them to campus, especially when they live in dorms. On average, students who live on campus bring 9 devices with them to school, while those who commute bring an average of 3. The survey showed that students and higher education leaders were aligned on the top two devices students bring to campus (laptops and smartphones), but the third device was surprising. For students living on campus, 43% bring a desktop computer, a large difference from the 18% predicted by education leaders. Instead, leadership overestimated students bringing other wireless technologies, like tablets, video game consoles, and smart watches.
While the number of wireless technologies students bring to school will continue to increase, schools can’t forget about the wired network. Students still demand a wired connection, especially in their dorm rooms. Plus, a reliable network backbone is key to supporting high-density wireless access points everywhere on campus. Ensuring the underlying wired network is ready for what students will throw at it is just as important as the wireless.
3. Improving campus Wi-Fi can greatly reduce the number of help desk tickets
Students on average submit 11 help desk tickets per year, on par with higher education leaders’ estimations of 13 tickets a year. This means that students are submitting help desk tickets around once a month, and when you multiply that by the number of students, the amount of tickets is staggering. It’s no surprise that students and leaders agree that most tickets are submitted when the Wi-Fi goes down.
By providing always-on connections, students will complain less about the Wi-Fi and in turn, submit less tickets. This not only saves on IT resources, but gives those teams time back in their day to work on more proactive and impactful projects that can benefit the university.
Overall, the surveys found that students want to see reliable Wi-Fi on campus to enhance their experience, and they are not getting the always-on connection higher education leaders believe they’re providing. But it’s not too late to turn this around – higher education institutions can start by evaluating solutions that provide the access students deserve, while being easier for the IT team to set up and manage.
Most marketers are guilty at one point or another of hyping up a minor improvement as if it were a major innovation. Think of the relatively unimportant year-over-year changes made to mature household products: it’s unlikely that that new lawnmower you bought a few days ago is really as game-changing as the manufacturer wants you to believe, at least when compared to last year’s model.
The technology industry is by no means innocent in this regard — plenty of tech products are heralded as revolutionary upon release, even if their improvements are more iterative than transformational. Every so often, however, the tech world gives birth to a game-changing invention that moves the goalposts and results in rapid adoption.
For these types of generation-defining technological changes to happen, a whole host of forces needs to move. In the music industry, for example, the shift from digital downloads to streaming occurred quickly thanks to the rapid proliferation of smartphones, the availability of fast cellular data, and the decoupling of individual tracks from albums that services like iTunes had enabled in the early 2000s.
The creation of the newest generation of Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi 6, represents a similarly meaningful shift. Consumers are adopting network-connected devices faster than ever before; wireless vendors (including Cisco Meraki) are introducing Wi-Fi 6 enabled networking devices at breakneck speed; and a brand new cellular standard, 5G, is already making waves in the world of wireless. In other words, the whole ecosystem is moving in lockstep toward a faster, better wireless future.
If past patterns are any indication, Wi-Fi 6 will have a major impact on the entire industry and see quicker adoption than any previous Wi-Fi generation. Here are a few reasons why.
1. Wi-Fi 6: built on a set of proven, foundational technologies
While Wi-Fi 6 introduces a new collection of breakthrough technologies, like BSS Coloring and Target Wake Time (TWT), it is based on a number of foundational, trusted technologies that have been enhanced instead of being rebuilt from the ground up. For example:
Wi-Fi 6 makes the jump from 256 QAM (Quadrature Amplitude Modulation) to 1024 QAM. The higher the number, the greater number of packets that can be sent efficiently. This increase means up to a 2.5x increase in throughput and a 25% increase in spectral efficiency.
Multi-user MIMO (MU-MIMO), a technology introduced with Wi-Fi 5, allows APs to send and receive packets to and from multiple clients simultaneously. Combined with 8×8 support, this will result in significantly faster speeds in different directions.
OFDMA, which replaces the older OFDM, significantly reduces overhead and latency, especially when a multitude of clients are connecting to the network. OFDMA is based on trusted technology from LTE.
What’s the upshot here? Though Wi-Fi 6 will be a revolution in wireless, it’s also in many ways an evolution of existing technologies. The rollout of Wi-Fi 6 networking hardware and devices alike should be relatively smooth, so consumers will be able to start using Wi-Fi 6 quickly.
2. More devices — and more demands — than ever
There’s a good reason the Wi-Fi Alliance sat down way back in 2013 and started hashing out its plans for Wi-Fi 6. Since the mid-2000s, there has been an absolute explosion of smartphones, laptops, and tablets, and this trend shows no signs of waning: four billion Wi-Fi equipped devices will ship in 2019, and by the end of this year, the 30 billionth Wi-Fi device will have shipped — that’s three times the cumulative number (10 billion) reached in 2014! And all of these devices, of course, rely on consistent connectivity to function. For that reason alone, Wi-Fi 6, with its focus on high density coverage, is long overdue.
But Wi-Fi 6 offers even more than this.
First, it’s a much more power-efficient standard, because thanks to a feature known as Target Wake Time (TWT), devices will check for new data packets on a schedule rather than constantly pinging the network. This feature can help devices like phones, IoT devices, and applications achieve up to 67% lower power consumption.
Second, we’re on the verge of some incredible new technologies that will only reach their potential if there’s a Wi-Fi standard robust enough to match. Think IoT (plus its cousin, IIoT), augmented & virtual reality, and factories laden with smart sensors to make operations more efficient. The performance of these futuristic tools and applications is dependent on fast wireless speeds, since long latency times can completely ruin the experience. Wi-Fi 6’s speed increases are therefore instrumental in unlocking these new services.
3. The long-term consequences of Wi-Fi 6 + 5G are immense
There’s another wireless standard brewing that the entire industry can’t wait for: 5G. While cellular data in some form has been available for over two decades (remember GPRS?), it really grew in importance once smartphones exploded onto the scene in the late 2000s and cellular made its way into other devices, like tablets and mobile hotspots.
So what does 5G have to do with Wi-Fi 6, and what’s so special about it?
5G and Wi-Fi 6 are actually closely intertwined. They’re built on the same technical foundation, and as a result, they both bring significant performance improvements. As evidence of the close linkage between 5G and Wi-Fi 6, a Cisco technology calledOpenRoaming will allow consumers to roam seamlessly between 802.11ax and 5G networks without having to deal with service interruptions.
But both Wi-Fi 6 and 5G are about much more than speed — they represent a fundamental transformation in what’s possible with connected devices, whether they’re large automotive vehicles (like self-driving cars) or small IoT devices (like smart speakers). While 5G will reign supreme in most outdoor scenarios, Wi-Fi 6 will take precedence inside buildings and with devices that don’t move around too often. Also important to note is the fact that Wi-Fi 6 adoption will outpace the adoption of 5G by a wide margin for years, according to ABI Research.
At the end of the day, the combination of Wi-Fi 6 and 5G’s strengths will completely transform our wireless world, no matter where users or their devices are.
The hype around Wi-Fi 6 has reached a fever pitch, and for good reason: manufacturers and consumers alike will quickly adopt the latest Wi-Fi standard in droves. At Cisco Meraki, we couldn’t be more bullish on Wi-Fi 6, and we’re incredibly excited for what the future of wireless will bring.
Check out our recently introduced Wi-Fi 6 compatible APs and the latest Wi-Fi 6 content, including other blog posts and customer webinars.
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.