Podcast

CTS 174: Takeaways From Cisco Live

Welcome to this episode where we do a quick recap of how Cisco Live went this year in San Diego. This is one of the few rare moments when both hosts are in the same city.

Cisco Live Recap with Rasika and Stephen

Check out this short video we recorded with Rasika and Stephen getting their thoughts at the end of the conference.

Wi-Fi 6

The Cisco Live conference was not using the new Catalyst 9100 series access points. Stability is a big thing for a huge conference. But they were seen over at the Whisper Suites. It’s just too soon to be using the C9100’s for a large conference.

Cisco Live Wi-Fi

We do have some interesting stats near the end of the conference. There were over 28,000 attendees. The Cisco Champions were able to join a NOC Talk with the folks running the network. Just to note, during the NOC talk there were only five Wi-Fi 6 clients on the network.

Cisco Live Photos by Rowell Dionicio. https://rowelldionicio.com/clusphotos

Some Cisco Live Wi-Fi details

  • 6 WiFi guys
  • 91% of clients were 802.11ac
  • Running Aironet in convention
  • Hyatt running Meraki
  • Took over Hilton’s Meraki network
  • OpenRoaming debuts – 3000+ devices on Monday before keynote
  • DNA Assurance deployed. Sensors deployed all over.
  • Cisco 8540s servicing convention center
  • Running 8.5.140.0 code

DevNet Certifications

Announced during the opening keynote were the certification changes across the board along with new DevNet certifications announced. We’ll address the new certifications in a future episode but you can check out the details on Cisco’s developer site.

Cisco + Intel + Samsung + Boingo

Cisco Champions were fortunate to take part in conversations between Cisco, Intel, Samsung, and Boingo. We received insight into the partnership between each company and how they are all working together to bring a better user experience to devices and infrastructure as it pertains to Wi-Fi. It was a short conversation but a good one nonetheless.

Cisco Live Photos

Check out Rowell’s photos from Cisco Live.

CTS 173: WiFi Medley 001

This week’s episode is the eve of Cisco Live. Rowell & François will be headed to San Diego for a week of learning, recording, and networking with other likeminded individuals.

In this episode, we talk about various topics of Wi-Fi.

You can take a look at an example of sessions we’re looking forward to at Cisco Live.

François’ #CLUS Schedule

Captive Portals are a necessary evil. Most are still done in a way that prevents users from getting connected. Whether that’s requesting every single kind of personal information or maybe it’s a simple splash page with terms and conditions. Either way, there’s now a page which describes how different devices behave with captive portals. It was created by the Wireless Broadband Alliance and it’s a good read if you’d like to understand how a device’s behavior is to be expected with Captive Portals.

Captive Portals

Wi-Fi 6 testing continues over at CTS headquarters. Rowell now has a Samsung S10 and an Intel AX200NGW in a Lenovo laptop. You can upgrade your laptop for a reasonable price. Rowell purchased his for $30 and it shipped from China. We’re learning whether what we’ve read from the draft is being implemented by the Wi-Fi vendors.

When it comes to capturing these frames, you have to remember to capture with another Wi-Fi 6 capable device. You’ll need to demodulate Wi-Fi 6 frames. Rowell used a Cisco C9115AX access point in sniffer mode to see what can be gathered. There’s a little caveat with these access points which we will look into further before putting something out public.

We will have more information after #CLUS.

The Wi-Fi Alliance expands with the Wi-Fi Certified Home Design which is aimed toward home builders. In a highly connected world, why not have Wi-Fi built with a new home? Builders can get educated in Wi-Fi design and have homes certified for Wi-Fi. What are your thoughts on that? Let us know in the comments.

CTS 172: Conference Wi-Fi

This Week In Wireless

  • Rowell recorded a video on Wi-Fi 6 on David Bombal’s YouTube channel
  • Huawei
    • Huawei is temporarily pushed out of the Wi-Fi Alliance
    • Wi-Fi Alliance is fully complying with the recent U.S. Department of Commerce order without revoking Huawei Technologies membership. Wi-Fi Alliance has temporarily restricted Huawei Technologies participation in Wi-Fi Alliance activities covered by the order.
    • https://www.androidauthority.com/huawei-wi-fi-bluetooth-990610/
  • SpaceX Launches 60 Starlink Internet Satellites Into Orbit
    • https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/23/science/spacex-launch.html
    • “The Starlink satellites will orbit much lower — between 210 and 710 miles above the surface. That reduces the lagginess, or latency. SpaceX has said performance should be comparable to ground-based cable and optical fiber networks that carry most internet traffic today. Starlink would provide high-speed internet to parts of the world that currently are largely cut off from the modern digital world.”
  • CWNP new certification: Solution Administration
    • https://www.cwnp.com/certifications/cwsa
    • Certification on non-802.11 technologies (BLE, Cellular, Zigbee, wired-side technologies, location services, APIs, Project Management)
    • First class will be in September 2019
    • In the future, additional certifications will address key areas in greater depth, such as automation/integration, IoT, private 5G, etc.
  • Wi-Fi Images
    • Instagram @cleartosend
    • https://www.instagram.com/cleartosend/
  • iBwave webinar
    • How to Design Wi-Fi for Higher Education
    • https://www.cleartosend.net/designing-wifi-networks-higher-education/

Conference Wi-Fi

Challenges

  • Very Dynamic environment!
  • Very High Density of devices
  • There are a lot of ad hoc requests throughout the event
  • ROGUES
  • Very intense, long hours, little sleep

Prep Work – A lot of it!

  • Understand the type of event
    • Understand what type of people will be attending
    • Understand which application will be used over the Wi-Fi. Any critical ones?
  • Understand the layout of the conference
    • Where will the stages be
    • Where will the VIP zone be
    • Where will the media zone be
    • Where will the TV broadcaster zone be
    • Where will the registration zone be
  • Understand the flow of people
  • Prepare the LAN
    • Size it properly so it can handle the number of devices expected (2.5 devices per person)
    • Make sure the basics are covered
      • DHCP
      • DNS
      • Firewall
      • Core network
      • PoE budget
    • Prepare alternative plans just in case something goes wrong with the basics
      • What do I do if the internet goes down? Maybe plan for a backup internet link
      • What do I do if my DHCP server goes down?
      • What do I do if my DNS server goes down?
      • What do I do if run out of PoE power?
    • Make sure that you have enough internet bandwidth
  • Prepare the Wi-Fi
    • Understand the limitation of AP placement
    • Leverage the APs installed under the ceiling
    • Understand where to place temporary access points if required
      • Do you have access to cables from the floor
    • Plan to have APs ready to go and being deployed fast
    • Size your controller properly
    • Forget 2.4GHz, plan for 5GHz. Expect to see a lot of 802.11ac devices (and a few 802.11n devices)
    • Stage as much equipment ahead of time as possible
    • Organize the APs, name them properly and keep track of them in a document
    • Tweak the RF on the under ceiling APs as much as you can.
  • Configuration of the Wi-Fi
    • Public Wi-Fi
      • Keep it as simple as possible
      • If possible, no Captive Portal
    • Private Wi-Fi
      • Understand if you need to configure QoS
    • Create AP groups and RF Profile to be as flexible as possible
    • Use all the channels you can (even DFS, 165)
    • Place the temporary APs as close to the clients as possible
      • Use the people and floor element to content the signal and limit the CCI and optimize your channel re-use
    • Do you use DCA or static?
    • Study the use of more specific features (Probe Suppression, AirTime fairness…)

During the Event

  • Monitoring
  • Adjust the RF settings based on where the people are
    • Registration
    • Stages
    • Busy Areas
    • Lunch Areas
  • Handle Requests
    • Setup new SSIDs
    • Add coverage in specific areas
  • Battle the ROGUES
    • Make sure people turn their ROGUE APs off
    • Find solutions to answer their needs (using the existing infra or alternative solutions)

Tools

  • Ekahau with a sidekick
  • Airchecks
  • Wi-Fi scanners (Explorer Pro)
  • Screens 🙂
  • Your favourite terminal application. My new favourite: iTerm2
  • Your favourite network diagnosis tools. My new favourite: Mtr

Ideas to help us supporting such events

  • Can some of the configuration and monitoring be automated?
  • Create your own monitoring dashboards
  • Create your own scripts to automate some tasks
  • Create a simple application to process the AP tracking

Links

Photos

CTS 171: Designing Wi-Fi Networks In Higher Education

Recently, I joined the wonder folks at iBwave to deliver a webinar on the topic of designing Wi-Fi networks in Higher Education.

Thanks so much iBwave for providing me the opportunity to discuss Wi-Fi design in front of their audience.

The agenda items I cover in this webinar:

  • Challenges we see today
  • Approach to Wi-Fi design
  • Designing for capacity in large spaces
  • Wi-Fi 6 Considerations

To follow along with this episode you can download my slides.


My slides

Why must we design Wi-Fi? Why can’t we just install access points and call it a day? That’s something I go into with this webinar. But the short story is you don’t want to guess. We’re delivering a service that is used by thousands of people and whom rely on this service.

And some of those people have over 30k clients per day. What if 1/3 of those people had poor Wi-Fi experiences and put in a ticket for each incident?

When it comes to Wi-Fi, we should follow a process or a lifecycle in order to continue delivering a good user experience. I go into each of these on the webinar.

I provide examples from my own environments.

Share my solutions to temporary Wi-Fi deployments for events.

I also share some Bad-Fi

CTS 170: APoS Site Surveys

Historically, AP-on-a-Stick (APoS) surveys were the only way to find out where to place the access points. We didn’t have any of the fancy software we have today to predict how the Wi-Fi signal will behave in our space. However, we still perform APoS today. In this episode, we will explain why we still use them and how they can be beneficial to us Wi-Fi Engineers.

APoS utilizes an AP that will be deployed on-site. The AP would be installed on a “stick” and is used to measure how the Wi-Fi signal behaves in the space that is being surveyed. The advantages are it takes into consideration the behavior of an RF wave and the attenuation, reflection, diffraction, scattering, etc. The disadvantage is it takes time and materials to achieve.

Historically, that was the way we used to define where to place the APs. We would start in a corner of a building and place the first AP, measure the signal to define the edge of the Wi-Fi cell and go on to the next measurement until you covered the whole site and defined the different AP locations.

The introduction of tools allowed us to model and predict how the Wi-Fi signal will propagate in a given space. This allows us to plan and perform our Wi-Fi design “on paper” so to speak. In order for this type of predictive design to be accurate, we still need to understand the physical environment. However, we can predict the signal prediction in the software and save some time.

Why do we still use APoS then? In some environment and cases, the predictive design will not be accurate enough for us to be confident in the design. In these cases, we now use the APoS to validate some of the AP locations defined during the predictive design phase. How much validation do we need to do? It depends 🙂

What material will you require to perform an APoS? The APs and antennas you will be using for your deployment. If you are not too sure which AP or Antenna will be used, test multiple models. A stick (tripod, poles…). If you need to go very high, you might need a scissor lift or other heavier tools. A bracket to install the AP and antenna on (Wi-Fi Stand). If you are planning on using specific angles, it could be useful to have a bracket that displays the angle. A battery to power on the AP. Venvolt from Ventev, Accelerator from AccelTex, A long ethernet cable to connect the battery to the AP (I like the flat ones), A water bottle, Useful add-ons: flashlight, Duck tape, zip ties, marker, security boots, yellow vest, ear plugs, safety glasses.

How do you prepare an APoS? You will need to configure the access point. Configure the access point in a standalone mode. Each vendor has their own way of doing it. Cisco using Mobility Express, Aruba using Instant AP, Meraki using the Survey Mode.

I like to configure 1 SSID per band so that I can analyze the results in an easier matter afterward. It also helps me to make sure I am walking far enough to reach the edge of both frequency cell edge. I use the transmit powers used for the design. You can use the channels you want. In order to plan for the worst case scenario, you could choose the highest channel you can use in your space. (Channel 11 on 2.4GHz and Channel 165 on 5GHz). You should also have your predictive model ready before going onsite for the APoS measurements (as much as you can).

How do you perform an APoS? How do you choose which AP location to test? Place the APoS exactly how you would install the AP in production. Turn on the AP and wait for the SSID to be broadcasted. Use your favorite survey software to measure the signal in passive mode. Keep an eye on the signal strength you receive and make sure you walk past your threshold. Once you are done, freeze your AP (in Ekahau) before you move the AP to the next measurement. Try to document your work as you go by taking pictures of the AP at its measurement location and put in notes in your site survey software.

Analyze the results and compare how the signal propagates in the real world and what you had in the predictive design. Adjust your model so it matches the real world. It will be an iterative process and both can be done on-site while you do your APoS.

Things you can also do while you are on-site: Validate the AP locations will work for all the location you have defined in your predictive model. Mark the AP location if you want to. Test the different options such as height and antennas. Take a look at how the users use Wi-Fi.

Links and Resources