Cisco Improves Wireless Networking Game

Mike Vizard

Signaling an intention to compete more aggressively within the small-to-medium enterprise (SME) segment of the wireless networking business, Cisco this week expanded its line of Aironet wireless access points and controllers.

At the lower end, Cisco announced a set of wireless access points that employs virtualization software to embed controller functionality inside an access point to reduce costs by eliminating the need for a separate physical controller. Instead, one of the access points on the network acts as the controller for all other access points. At the midmarket level, Cisco unveiled a controller capable of supporting up to 500 access points. In addition, Cisco has added to the portfolio this week a Cisco 1530 access point designed to be deployed in outdoor locations.

Bill Rubino, product marketing manager for mobility at Cisco, says that by 2020, the average Wi-Fi network access rate required by a mobile computing device will be 24Mbps. As more end users rely on their mobile computing device to interact with applications, Rubino notes, it’s now only a matter of time before most wireless networks get upgraded. In fact, many existing legacy wireless networks were never meant to be anything more than a secondary network. Now that it’s become apparent that the wireless network has become the organization’s primary network, Rubino says many organizations are rethinking their entire networking strategy.

Compatible with the 802.11ac Wave 2 specification, Rubino says the thing that distinguishes Cisco offerings in the SME space is that they are much simpler to deploy and configure. That’s important because many SME organizations don’t have access to a dedicated networking specialist.

“A lot of smaller organizations don’t have that level of IT expertise,” says Rubino.

Rubino says between making it simpler to deploy and manage wireless access points and the work Cisco is doing with Apple to prioritize iOS device traffic, Cisco expects to be able to compete more aggressively at the lower end of the wireless networking market. Naturally, Cisco will have to overcome some fierce rivals across the category to achieve that goal. But given the current level of demand for wireless networking, chances are reasonably high that Cisco is about to become a lot more relevant across the SME wireless networking category.


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