What is Wi-Fi 6?

Quite simply, Wi-Fi 6 is a new wireless standard. Also called 802.11ax, it is poised to make big waves in network connectivity and user experience improvements. Here’s what you need to know.

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It's all about access

Access to applications. Access to data. Access to services. Your network has the power to reliably deliver access to data and applications to the right users across your organization. But what happens when the demand for mobility continues to increase? New advances in technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), 5G, and Wi-Fi 6 are addressing the need for more mobile access. As a result, the way we’ve built networks in the past is changing for businesses of every size.

Wi-Fi 6 is leading the charge

Wi-Fi 6 is opening up new possibilities for wireless. Improved speed, capacity, and control will not only support existing applications with greater performance and improved experiences but also drive new innovations that will change the way people work.

Wi-Fi 6 began its ramp-up in 2019, and although the standard was ratified in September of that year, Samsung launched a Wi-Fi 6 device in February. Cisco worked with Samsung behind the scenes to validate that Wi-Fi 6 actually delivers faster connections, more capacity, and longer battery life.

Figure 1 outlines the adoption of Wi-Fi 6 in 2019 and where it is going.

Figure 1. Wi-Fi 6 progression

In order to take advantage of all of the benefits of Wi-Fi 6, you will need a Wi-Fi 6-capable network. This includes both access points and Wi-Fi 6 clients. If it hasn’t already, the market will soon start seeing large numbers of mobile devices that support Wi-Fi 6. Therefore, it is important to prepare your network for the new standard so you will be ready to gain all the benefits that Wi-Fi 6 offers.

What’s the big deal?

Let’s start with two basic facts: we are more dependent on the network than ever before and Wi-Fi 6 gives us more of what we need. It is a more consistent and dependable network connection that will deliver speeds up to four times faster than 802.11ac Wave 2 with four times the capacity. This standard provides a seamless experience for clients and enables next- generation applications such as 4K/8K streaming HD, Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) video, and more device and IoT capacity for high-density environments such as university lecture halls, malls, stadiums, and manufacturing facilities.

Wi-Fi 6 also promises reduced latency, greater reliability, and improved power efficiency. With higher performance for mobile devices and the ability to support the IoT on a massive scale (IoT use has been trending upward lately and is now also called “the new mobile”), Wi-Fi 6 will improve experiences across the entire wireless landscape. Wi-Fi 6 also offers improved security, with WPA3 and improved interference mitigation providing a better quality of experience.

The last upgrade to 2.4 GHz was over 10 years ago, so if that’s when you last upgraded your network, it’s probably time to make the move to Wi-Fi 6, simply to catch up with the recent technology changes. According to the 2019 Cisco Visual Networking Index™, there will be higher data rates, with 12.3 billion mobile devices in 2022. IoT will be 50 percent of global connected devices by 2022. At the same time, there has been a 27.4 percent average increase in security breaches since 2017, so you want to ensure that your protection is up to date.

In addition to these compelling reasons, the following are the more significant benefits you can experience when you move to Wi-Fi 6:

  • Higher capacity: Four is the new magic number. Attach up to four times more devices than under previous standards through features such as Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiple Access (OFDMA) and Multiuser Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (MU-MIMO). Wi-Fi 6 communicates in parallel with devices, whereas existing standards communicated with only one device at a time. The increased capacity is essential because the volume of mobile data traffic is expected to grow up to four times in just the next four years alone.

  • Improved power efficiency. Using Target Wake Time, client devices that support the Wi-Fi 6 standard may consume two-thirds less power. This means that batteries in products such as smartphones, laptops, tablets, and IoT devices can last longer, which makes it the ideal standard.

  • Reduced data latency by optimizing packet scheduling, which is ideal for voice, video, and gaming applications.

  • Greater IoT coverage by bringing the benefits of Wi-Fi 6 to the 2.4-GHz band.

  • Increased speed. Get up to four times the throughput, on average, in congested wireless environments.

  • Improved security. With an extension of security to the infrastructure, the new security features allow for better interference and rogue detection and enhanced threat detection with Cisco® Encrypted Traffic Analytics (ETA). Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA3) is certified with Wi-Fi 6 and provides a greater value proposition than WPA2 for enterprise Wi-Fi networks. It offers enhanced security for open Wi-Fi networks with encryption of unauthenticated traffic, robust password protection against brute-force dictionary attacks, and superior data reliability for sensitive information with 192-bit encryption.

What is OFDMA?

Quite simply, OFDMA is a type of frequency-division multiplexing that is able to use subcarriers more efficiently when it comes to transporting data. Previously, when using Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiplexing (OFDM), each user got one time slot, or a whole bandwidth channel. Users needed to wait in line before they were able to deliver their packets. As more clients joined, it took longer for packets to be delivered, resulting in lag time and people waiting to transport data.

OFDMA provides a more regular and consistent packet delivery, and users don’t have to wait as long.

Here’s another way to put it. With OFDM, any time a user would request a data packet, it would essentially send out one truck to meet each request of that single user, which isn’t very efficient. OFDMA is different, as one truck is used to deliver the packet to individual users in one round. This way is far more efficient and takes less time. Figure 2 illustrates the difference between OFDM and OFDMA.

Figure 2. Comparison of OFDM and OFDMA

All Cisco Wi-Fi 6 products use OFDMA. As a result, your network will be faster, and most importantly, your users will have a better experience.

Cisco Wi-Fi 6 solutions

Business resiliency

You already have a business continuity plan in place, and during the last few months you may have had to use it. What many businesses have found is that their business continuity plan wasn’t as airtight as they thought, so they had to improvise on the fly. Some of these decisions worked, others not so much.

Cisco Business Resiliency solutions provide a secure, consistent, productive, and trusted experience for your employees, customers, partners, and guests. How? Cisco delivers a complete solution that allows your workforce to safely and securely do their jobs from anywhere. We’re in a time where much of the business world is working remotely, and many of those people will be doing the same even when it’s safe to return to the office.

The Cisco Remote Workforce Network extends corporate policies and security to home offices for a seamless corporate experience that meets the various needs of remote employees and IT administrators. With plug-and-play Cisco wireless access points, remote employees can connect securely to a corporate Wi-Fi or wired network with enterprise-class identity-based policies and seamlessly onboard their wired and wireless corporate-issued and personal devices. They get an optimized cloud application experience via Cisco Application Visibility and Control (AVC), quality of service (QoS), and Cisco Umbrella® DNS layer security to protect them from threats and detect compromised connections.

Artificial intelligence, machine learning, machine reasoning

With networks getting so big and complex, it’s difficult to keep up with their growth. Cisco DNA Assurance allows you to reduce the complexities of your network with your network. Thanks to artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and machine reasoning (MR) technologies, your network will be able to get smarter with algorithms and deep learning that compare your network to tens of thousands all over the globe. These insights use MR to apply the cumulative experiences of thousands to solve your network issues.

Cisco has the largest data lake to draw upon when it needs to find solutions. Quick and accurate, the AI/ML/MR reservoir is drawn upon by Cisco DNA Center to assist your IT teams with the correct remediation. The AI/ML capabilities of Cisco DNA Center search through the seemingly endless supply of data to find the right insights to answer your network question. This means that with solutions suggested by the Cisco DNA Center AI, the least experienced on your IT team are fixing the network while your senior team members are tackling the truly tough things.

After an alert is sent to your team, they will see the issues—ranked in terms of priority—followed by the root causes and the steps taken to reach a solution. All of this is done proactively before the issue escalates to a major catastrophe.

To learn more about Cisco DNA Center, see below.

Cisco RF ASICs

Programmable RF Application-Specific Integrated Circuits (ASICs) are custom-developed to provide you with real-time analytics as well as a platform for future innovation and capabilities. RF ASICs are embedded on mission-critical access points such as the Cisco Catalyst® 9120, 9130 and 9124 Series and can perform advanced RF spectrum analysis. They can deliver significant features, such as:

  • Cisco CleanAir® technology to mitigate the impact of wireless interference and protect performance

  • Cisco Wireless Intrusion Prevention System (wIPS) to detect, locate, mitigate, and contain wired and wireless rogues and threats at Layers 1 through 3.

  • Dual-filter Dynamic Frequency Selection (DFS) detection to avoid interference for optimal performance.

Combined with Cisco DNA Assurance, this gives you radio frequency visibility and intelligence to help you run your networks better. And that’s not all. More new and exciting features are in development.

IoT gateway support

Cisco offers multilingual support and application hosting of IoT protocols to better support IoT service and expansion.

How are Cisco IoT gateways used best? Here are some use cases to get you thinking:

  • Safeguard oil and gas pipeline operations. Increase operational efficiency and decrease downtime for natural gas pipelines and processing plants. Highly secure, rugged Cisco IoT gateways simplify connecting and managing remote gas turbines, diesel engines, and sensors. They also offer faster insights to help you solve problems quickly and limit expensive repairs.

  • Secure financial transactions and manage assets. Reduce the expense of managing thousands of remote ATMs, while enhancing asset and data security and improving the customer experience. Cisco IoT gateways facilitate more secure, reliable cellular connectivity to automate cash management, as well as optimize video surveillance with intelligent data processing at the edge for faster response.

  • Improve safety and regulate traffic. Optimize traffic management with roadside connectivity for traffic signal controllers, motion sensors, video encoders, and cameras. Cisco IoT gateways provide reliable, real-time insights to regulate traffic flow and conditions, detect violations, and improve motorist and pedestrian safety at intersections.

Make  your building smart: the IoT gateway helps make a smart building's converged IT/OT network smarter by not only collecting data but acting on that data offers the real value to owners and tenants.

Cisco intelligent capture

Intelligent Capture is a built-in, enhanced issue detection and root-cause-analysis feature available on Cisco Catalyst 9120 and 9130 Series Access Points. It is software that can track more than 240 anomalies and instantaneously review all packets on demand, emulating the onsite network administrator. With this data, administrators can make more informed decisions on their networks. The software “senses” all packets instantaneously and sends the information back to Cisco DNA Center for deep analysis, making it easier to fix the problem. This way, IT can find any issues in record time. Intelligent Capture also provides live and in-service capture of onboarding failures with Packet Capture (PCAP), a spectrum analyzer for analyzing interference sources, and on-demand access point statistics for Wi-Fi troubleshooting.

Cisco DNA Assurance with Active Sensor

One of the challenges of wireless is planning for changing levels of demand. A conference or event can introduce a sudden jump in device density or increase expectations for application performance.

Cisco DNA Assurance with Active Sensor is a compact wireless device that allows you to test real-world client experiences to validate that performance will meet your expectations in any environment.

The Active Sensor can be plugged in anywhere. Other sensor products are often at ceiling level, sometimes providing IT with a less-than-accurate network assessment, since most clients are at eye level. When installed at the level where most mobile devices are apt to be, the Active Sensor allows for a better understanding and a more comprehensive simulation of real clients.

The Active Sensor validates end-user experience and allows for speed tests to check cloud application performance and connectivity. It also provides IP SLA tests for real-time AppX assessment of VoIP applications.

The Aironet® Active Sensor reports data to Cisco DNA Center, where it is used along with assurance data from clients. It comes with multiple powering options, including:

  • Direct AC power plug

  • Power over Ethernet (PoE)

  • Micro USB power

The Aironet Active Sensor makes troubleshooting easier and enhances the context shown in Cisco DNA Assurance. Cisco DNA Assurance puts your data to work; provides you with 360-degree contextual insights across users, devices, and applications; and helps ensure better network performance with real-time and historical data analytics to learn, adapt, and even detect problems before they happen.

Flexible Radio Assignment

Cisco Catalyst 9120 and 9130 Series Access Points offer Flexible Radio Assignment (FRA). FRA is a Cisco innovation designed to provide a better mobile user experience for high-density networks by automatically detecting when the coverage in the 2.4-GHz band is oversaturated. Once the detection is made, FRA intelligently determines which access points should change their dual-band radios from 2.4 GHz to 5 GHz. Simply viewed, a single physical access point now acts as two 5-GHz access points, resulting in lower channel utilization and a better user experience. The access point performs this function while still monitoring the network for security threats and RF interference that may affect performance.

FRA has three different modes of operation:

  • Default operating mode, which serves clients on both 2.4-GHz and 5-GHz bands

  • Dual 5-GHz mode, which serves clients on both 5-GHz radios

  • Wireless security monitoring, which scans both 2.4-GHz and 5-GHz modes for security threats while also serving 5-GHz clients

FRA isn’t strictly for workplace environments. It can be used in nearly any instance where a large group of people gather. Whether it’s in an educational setting, a hotel lobby, or a hospital, FRA is a boon to any wireless network.

From Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) to IoT devices, the proliferation of wireless items brings a new host of challenges as bandwidth-intense applications grow. FRA rises to these challenges and augments your wireless network to do more without making your job difficult.

Cisco CleanAir technology

Did you know that 80 percent of companies report problems with Radio Frequency Interference (RFI)? Cisco CleanAir technology provides proactive protection against RFI and takes automatic action to avoid current and future interference. In other words, CleanAir technology uses silicon-level intelligence to create a spectrum-aware, self-healing, and self- optimizing wireless network that mitigates the impact of wireless interference and offers performance protection for your network.

What does CleanAir technology do? It:

  • Discovers. CleanAir provides continual systemwide discovery without affecting performance.

  • Decides. It takes automatic action to avoid current and future interference, with full history reporting.

  • Identifies. CleanAir accurately and quickly identifies the source, location, and scope of the interference.

  • Secures. It detects rogue access points and other devices that affect security and customizes alerts.

CleanAir technology correlates sources of interference across the network, supporting intelligent decisions and policies for faster troubleshooting and automatic RFI avoidance. CleanAir technology makes it easy for network administrators to assess service disruptions, receive notices about performance degradation, research resolutions, and quickly act to improve network performance. The CleanAir solution is part of the industry’s most adaptive, reliable, and high-performance wireless network—a network that has the ability to adjust automatically to changes in its environment, without the need for time-intensive or costly human intervention.

Application Hosting

Modern networking technology isn’t just getting faster, it’s also getting smarter, thanks to application hosting. Hosting applications right on your wireless hardware can make it easier to deploy new solutions while protecting your current technology investments. Now you can turn your network into a powerful IoT platform, with your access points acting as the connectivity layer for tags, devices, and more, which cuts down on time and expense. Third-party applications are built on an open, standards-based container architecture that makes it easier to create, deploy, and run applications like ThousandEyes on switches or access points. With Application Hosting, Cisco has eliminated the overlay network. No longer do you need to install or manage that layer in order to have access to your applications.

Mission-critical network

The network is creating new opportunities for changing the way we work to become more efficient. Forward-thinking organizations are investing in wireless networks to facilitate those opportunities for efficiency, innovation, and growth. As these organizations transition to digital-ready networks, they require advanced features and security.

Mission-critical networks require advanced capabilities

The approach of Wi-Fi 6 is creating anticipation for what’s possible. And we want you to be able to tackle all of the excitement head-on. When you upgrade your wireless network to the latest Cisco solutions, you’ll be prepared for Wi-Fi 6 so you can support more bandwidth-intensive applications, more IoT devices, and more clients. You’ll also be able to offer advanced wireless capabilities that go well beyond traditional networking.

Automated, secure onboarding across the entire network

Cisco Software-Defined Access (SD-Access) gives you a single network fabric from edge to cloud and allows you to set identity-based policy for users, devices, and things. Provide access to any application, without compromising on security, while also gaining insight into any attempt to access your network. Automatic segmentation of users, devices, and applications means you can deploy and secure services faster.

Business insights

Open & Unified Platform

Industry outcomes with location-based services

You’re already invested in wireless. Cisco DNA Spaces takes it one step further to extend your wireless beyond connectivity and digitize your physical spaces with location-based insights. Cisco DNA Spaces provides a simple, scalable, and standardized approach to provide rich location analytics, business insights, customer engagement toolkits, asset management, location data APIs, and more.

Cisco DNA Spaces Indoor IoT Services enables a multivendor, multi-use case platform with multiple supported partner applications and IoT Device Marketplace. With gateway-enabled Catalyst Wi-Fi 6 access points, customers can deploy end devices, such as BLE beacons and tags, and advance industry use cases such as asset management, environmental monitoring, wayfinding, and more. Customers can realize these outcomes at scale, at a lower TCO and with a unified support model across partner apps and end devices.

Frictionless roaming

Frictionless roaming

Cisco is a founding member of the WBA Federation. OpenRoaming lets mobile users automatically and seamlessly roam between Wi-Fi and cellular networks, including Wi-Fi 6 and 5G. OpenRoaming is part of efforts by Cisco, together with other industry leaders, to break down the barriers between cellular networks to support connectivity everywhere with seamless onboarding, more choices for access, and more secure connections.

Thomas Says,

With OpenRoaming, users will be able to get online seamlessly and automatically after signing in just once using a trusted identity provider. The service is secure and fast, and users don’t have to guess which Wi-Fi network to use or suffer through a pop-up captive portal again. They will be connected wherever they go so they can download, stream, video chat, and game to their heart’s desire. Benefits of OpenRoaming include:

  • Seamless connectivity between Wi-Fi and LTE/5G

  • Simplified Wi-Fi guest access

  • Significant increases in your Wi-Fi attach rate onsite

  • Better engagement with customers through Wi-Fi, Cisco DNA Spaces, and loyalty apps

  • Ability to take back ownership of your customers’ data through Wi-Fi and drive the power of analytics

  • Offloading of traffic from cellular to Wi-Fi

I know what Wi-Fi 6 is, but what is 5G all about?

Think of 5G as the Wi-Fi 6 equivalent in the mobile broadband world. As Wi-Fi 6 is replacing 802.11ac (Wi-Fi 5), 5G is replacing 4G.

Nancy and Thomas Says

However, the most important thing to note is that both 5G and Wi-Fi 6 are built from the same foundation and will coexist to support different use cases. This is not a matter of choosing one over the other. Both 5G and Wi-Fi 6 promise to dramatically improve wireless experiences for mobile workers and the enterprise. They will both provide higher data rates to support new applications and increases in network capacity, as well as offer the ability to connect more devices.

Deployed over wireless devices beginning in 2019, 5G is an advanced way of connecting a wireless device to a network without using Wi-Fi. 5G has a much more massive scale than previous standards of 3G and 4G, allowing for AR/VR.

How does Wi-Fi 6 compare to 5G?

Both Wi-Fi 6 and 5G are critical to the future of wireless, but Wi-Fi 6 will continue to be the preferred and primary wireless access in the enterprise, especially for indoor networks. This is because technologies such as smart buildings, indoor enterprises, industrial organizations, and IoT need varying degrees of network connection sophistication that only Wi-Fi 6 can provide. All of these technologies have a common set of problems: onboarding, lifecycle management, security, and data interpretation that can only be solved via a Wi-Fi 6 solution. In addition, Wi-Fi 6 is a reasonable choice—from a cost standpoint to deploy, maintain, and scale—making it an ideal system for indoor wireless connectivity. This is especially true in areas where access points will serve more users, such as stadiums, concert halls, and convention centers.

On the other hand, 5G might be the designated choice for devices outside an indoor network. With higher speeds and improved capacity, both 5G and Wi-Fi 6 can improve outdoor connectivity. However, certain use cases—such as riding on a bullet train at 200 miles an hour or traveling in a car on the highway—will make 5G the preferred method for outdoor networks.

This is not a binary situation, Wi-Fi 6 and 5G are suitable for many industries. Both Wi-Fi 6 and 5G offer exciting opportunities to connect more devices reliably via wireless. This is important for mission-critical IoT devices being used in manufacturing automation, healthcare, energy, and many other industries. Wi-Fi 6 and 5G will also offer enhanced mobile broadband for immersive experiences via augmented and virtual reality. Although many industries will benefit from the enhanced mobile experience, industries such as hospitality, retail, and education will drive immersive experiences for their business.

Products built for the intent-based network

What is an Intent-Based Network (IBN)? As users, devices, and distributed applications have grown in number, the networking environment has become exponentially more complex. An IBN transforms a hardware-centric, manual network into a controller-led network that captures business intent and translates it into policies that can be automated and applied consistently across the network. The goal is for the network to continuously monitor and adjust network performance to help assure desired business outcomes.

How does it work?

IBN builds on Software-Defined Networking (SDN) by using a network controller that acts as a central control point for the network. Such controllers are crucial for network abstraction that lets IT treat the network as an integrated whole. Controller-led networks in all domains (including access, WAN, data center, and cloud) collaborate and extend their benefits throughout the enterprise and help make digital transformation a reality.

The closed-loop system of an IBN operates with the following functional building blocks to deliver intent— or support—for the business or IT outcomes that your organization needs:

The closed-loop system of IBN operates with the following functional building blocks to deliver intent—or support—for the business or IT outcomes that your organization needs:

  • Translation: The capture and translation of intent into policies the network can act on

  • Activation: Installation of these policies across the physical and virtual network infrastructure, using networkwide automation

  • Assurance: Use of analytics and machine learning to continuously monitor the network to verify that the desired intent has been applied and the business outcomes are being achieved

How does IBN fit in with Wi-Fi 6?

The products that make up the IBN are Wi-Fi 6 products built specifically for the intent-based network. These products make up the next-generation wired and wireless architecture that best address the needs of today’s customers. Released in November 2018, the Cisco Catalyst 9800 Series kicked off this technological revolution as the first controller built from the ground up for intent-based networking. It runs on Cisco IOS® XE and can be deployed anywhere. Cisco has married over 15 years of RF innovation—from our Aironet portfolio, which offers the most innovative wireless technologies, such as CleanAir, Intelligent Capture, and the most widely deployed controller—with the most powerful networking operating system, which has been modernized with a modular design to give IT higher availability, programmability, and scale.

With the next-generation Wi-Fi 6 wireless products unified under one common OS, Cisco IOS Software, it means that the IBN products are:

  • Resilient, with zero downtime with software updates and upgrades

  • Secure
    • Automated macro- and micro-segmentation with Cisco SD-Access
    • Threat detection with Cisco Encrypted Traffic Analytics
    • Advanced security with WPA3 and trustworthy systems
  • Intelligent
    • Programmable network processor and Cisco IOx infrastructure support
    • Multilingual access points to enable IoT
    • Can be deployed in the infrastructure and cloud of your choice
    • Includes enhanced analytics with Cisco DNA
    • Goes beyond the Wi-Fi 6 standard

Where are some of the best places to use Wi-Fi 6?

The use cases for a Wi-Fi 6 network are numerous and varied. Almost any organization could use faster connection, better battery life, and increased capacity, but there are certain places that may need it more than others.

For organizations that need full service provider carrier offload and IT/OT convergence, or where networks run in high-density environments such as classrooms and auditoriums and have a need for real-time applications such as enterprise-grade 4K/8K video or augmented or virtual reality, a Wi-Fi 6 network is paramount.

Figures 3 and 4 outline some Cisco products that run in an IBN using Wi-Fi 6 and common use cases.

Figure 3. Cisco Wi-Fi 6 products in an enterprise workspace

Figure 4. Cisco Wi-Fi 6 products in a high-density environment

Thomas Says

Here is what some Cisco customers had to say about their Wi-Fi 6 network:

“Striving toward the commitment of “leading medicine” with state-of-the- art healthcare services, we need technology and infrastructure in place to deliver an always-on network. The Catalyst 9800 and 9100 provide a modular design to wireless configuration, flexibility in the separation of code between wireless LAN controller and access point, and the ability for rolling upgrades on the network. All these capabilities will allow us to securely scale and manage our network as quickly as our needs grow.” – A major U.S. healthcare provider

“We strive to offer a world-class student life experience with state-of-the-art campus facilities built on always-on infrastructure. We’re delighted to pioneer Cisco’s new wireless stack, which includes Cisco Catalyst 9100 access points and Cisco Catalyst 9800 controllers. It allows us to use Cisco’s intent-based networking solution that ensures simplified operations, security, and reliability of our networks at scale – a major U.S. university

“The Cisco Catalyst 9115 and 9117 access points are shaping up to be a worthy successor to the Aironet access points. One customer regularly has over 400 clients connecting to Catalyst access points and they are performing great!” – A Cisco global partner

Cisco DNA Center

Nancy Asks

How does an intent-based network support mission-critical deployment? Cisco DNA Center is the network management and command center for your IBN— both wired and wireless. Combining management, automation, analytics, and security, Cisco DNA Center simplifies network management and speeds innovation.

Nancy asks

Cisco User Defined Network, a feature available in Cisco DNA Center, allows IT staff to give end users oversight of their very own wireless network partition. End users can remotely and securely deploy their devices on their own private portion of the network. Perfect for university dormitories or extended hotel stays, Cisco User Defined Network grants both device security and control, allowing end users the choice of who can connect to their network. They are able to register their devices from their homes before they reach their destinations via an intuitive mobile app. Once they arrive on campus, their devices are connected to their personal network and are ready to be used.

Cisco DNA Assurance

Thomas says

Your network is full of a lot of untapped data that can be used to better your network. You just need to optimize and manage this information better.

  • Cisco DNA Assurance makes it easy to troubleshoot issues and provides insight into your network through analytics
  • Cisco DNA Center provides a single-pane-of-glass command center for both your wired and wireless network
  • Encrypted Traffic Analytics provides visibility into the traffic crossing your network—even the encrypted traffic—to spot hidden threats
  • Cisco SD-Access provides automated, policy-based segmentation across your access network

The Wi-Fi 6 readiness dashboard is a new dashboard in the Assurance menu of Cisco DNA Center. It will look through the inventory of all devices on the network and verify device, software, and client compatibility with the new Wi-Fi 6 standard. After upgrading, advanced wireless analytics will indicate performance and capacity gains as a result of the Wi-Fi 6 deployment. This is an incredible tool that will help your team define where and how the wireless network should be upgraded. It will also give you insights into the access point distribution by protocol (802.11 ac/n/abg), wireless airtime efficiency by protocol, and granular performance metrics.

Cisco DNA Center

With Cisco DNA Center, you’re able to easily onboard, monitor, and manage all of your network devices from one central controller. Not only that, but you can:

  • Run an assessment to check your network's readiness for Wi-Fi 6 and receive reports on your access points, available bandwidth, and configurations.
  • Employ AI/ML capabilities of Cisco DNA Center to analyze Wi-Fi access points’ performance in your network and determine which ones to upgrade to Wi-Fi 6 for maximum effect.
  • Use Cisco DNA Assurance to analyze each Wi-Fi client's connectivity metrics and take steps to improve mobile experiences.
  • Deploy Wi-Fi sensors in your network for proactive testing and ensuring the best user experience.

But what can Cisco DNA Center do for you? The network visibility and troubleshooting allow a real in-depth view into your network. That means you’re going to really know the depth of your network data, which gives you the confidence and information needed to make informed decisions. The not-so-great news is that this is going to be a lot of data for anyone to handle.

Cisco has you covered as Cisco DNA Center takes this information gathering and distribution to the next level. To begin with, every point on the network is sending streaming telemetry, whether it’s a switch or a wireless device. Cisco has collaborated with Apple and Samsung so that those devices can send the network telemetry error codes. From there, all of this gathered information is filtered through the machine-reasoning Cisco DNA Center troubleshooting engine, so if there is an issue, the accumulated data can provide enhanced problem solving. And the problems can then be resolved with a simple click of a button.

This intelligent data analysis cancels out all of the noise and focuses on the real issues, ranks them, and delivers the insights to your IT team. That way everyone on your IT team is an expert, meaning your lower-level administrators can handle issues without escalating to your senior members. This allows these senior people to keep their attention on bigger projects without having to spend time fighting the smaller fires.

With the amount of information that is flowing, Cisco DNA Center is going to look for ways to increase your performance. Once it determines areas where performance levels will increase, you’ll see actions to take to make those improvements.

Cisco DNA Center is not one-size-fits-all software. Everyone’s network is unique, and Cisco understands this, which is why Cisco AI Network Analytics uses AI and ML to sort through reams of data—the industry’s largest data lake—to create a baseline for your network’s optimal performance. No longer will your network be measured up to a different-sized network from a different industry. Your business needs will be met because your network will be sized correctly and measured against itself. That’s the only way you can really determine whether device Wi-Fi connections are optimal.

This personalization is easy thanks to drag-and-drop policy creation. When you define user and device profiles, you’re going to find that access is highly secure. Not only that, but you can create network segmentation based on your business needs. Forget about manually deploying these permissions over all network devices. Any changes you want to make will be automated on the switches and wireless. This automation allows you to create policies through the policy and segmentation designation and then make sure that those policies are pushed onto all of your network devices. If you deploy a policy once, unless you’re updating it, you won’t have to do it again.

Services for DNA Center

With IT environments becoming increasingly more complex, plus the widening skills gap and the need to adopt new technologies faster, you can be under extreme pressure to keep pace with the ever-changing IT landscape and defend your technology investments and ROI.

Sound familiar? You adopt new technologies but more often than not, there are unforeseen twists and turns along the journey that can lead to missed deadlines or re-planning that may require more budget, time, and resources you may not have.

There is help. With Cisco Success Track for Campus Network, you can turn your Cisco DNA Center technology into business value faster. Cisco Success Track for Campus Network is a suite of service solutions that enables you to remove roadblocks so you can quickly adopt Cisco DNA Center. It connects you to Cisco expertise, learning, insights, and support with a guided path to success through our new Cisco CX Cloud. Cisco CX Cloud is a one-stop destination that combines human + digital intelligence, fueled by AI/ML to accelerate your success at every step of the lifecycle journey.

Advanced solutions

The power of the network lies in its infrastructure. When you build a strong infrastructure foundation with the right products, you'll be prepared to innovate and adapt to new capabilities. 

Software licensing

Cisco Wi-Fi 6 wireless products require Cisco DNA software subscription licenses. These licenses are required for connecting any access points to the Catalyst 9800 Series Controllers, Cisco DNA Center (on-premises), or Cisco DNA Spaces.

Cisco DNA software subscriptions are available in three tiers: Cisco DNA Essentials, Cisco DNA Advantage, and Cisco DNA Premier.

The licenses are purchased per access point and include embedded software support. Depending on the subscription tier chosen, a customer will get a perpetual stack along with their subscription: Network Essentials or Network Advantage.

This consists of a feature stack that does not expire even if the subscription lapses. However, support for the software will lapse with the subscription.

Note that Network Essentials and Network Advantage cannot be purchased as a standalone license, and come as part of the Cisco DNA software subscription.

Cisco Network Essentials and Network Advantage licenses enable wireless fundamentals such as 802.1X authentication, QoS, Plug and Play (PnP), telemetry and visibility, single sign-on (SSO), and security controls. These licenses are perpetual.

Cisco DNA software subscription licenses, mandatory at the time of hardware purchase, unlock Cisco DNA Center functionality, enabling controller-based software-defined automation and assurance in your network. The Cisco DNA Center controller is required to activate the Cisco DNA software capabilities. These term licenses are available in 3-, 5-, or 7-year subscriptions. When the Cisco DNA software subscription term expires, the Cisco DNA Center capabilities expire, but the perpetual Cisco Network Essentials or Network Advantage features remain in effect.

Figures 9 through 11 provide detailed information on the capabilities provided in the different licensing tiers of Cisco DNA subscription software.

Figure 9. Details of the Cisco DNA Essentials software license for wireless

Cisco DNA Essentials subscription software, available in 3-, 5-, and 7-year terms, includes:

  • Basic automation with PnP application, network site design, and device provisioning

  • Element management with Software and Image Management (SWIM), discovery, network topology, and AVC

  • Basic assurance with a health dashboard, an AP floor and coverage map, and predefined reports

  • Basic security and telemetry, including Flexible NetFlow

Cisco Network Essentials perpetual software includes:

  • Essential wireless capabilities for Wi-Fi 6 authentication, guest access, device onboarding, infrastructure and client IPv6, ACLs, QoS, VideoStream, smart defaults, Radio Resource Management (RRM), Spectrum Intelligence, BLE, USB, Cisco TrustSec®, SGT Exchange Protocol (SXP), AP and client SSO, dynamic QoS, analytics, ADP, OpenDNS, mDNS, IPsec, and rogue management and detection. Essential wireless capabilities for Wi-Fi 6 authentication, guest access, device onboarding, infra and client IPv6, ACLs, QoS, videostream, smart defaults, RRM, spectrum intelligence, BLE, USB, Cisco TrustSec, SXP, AP and client SSO, dynamic QoS, analytics, ADP, OpenDNS, mDNS, IPsec, rogue management and detection

  • Optimized RF, which includes Flexible Radio Assignment (FRA), ClientLink, Cisco CleanAir Advanced, NG-HDX, and predictive and proactive RRM

  • DevOps integration, which includes PnP agent, NETCONF, and YANG data models

  • IoT optimized refers to identity PSK and enhanced device profilers

  • Telemetry and visibility include model-driven telemetry

Figure 10. Details of the Cisco DNA Advantage software license for wireless

Cisco DNA Advantage subscription software, available in 3-, 5-, and 7-year terms, includes:

  • Advanced automation with SD-Access, location PnP, and automated Identify Services Engine (ISE) integration for guest and third-party API integration

  • Enhanced security and IoT includes Encrypted Traffic Analytics (ETA)

  • Policy-based workflows include EasyQoS configuring, and monitoring and policy-based automation

  • Assurance and analytics includes guided remediation, Apple iOS insights, proactive insight detection such as Aironet Active Sensor tests, Intelligent Capture, client location heatmaps, spectrum analyzer and application performance reports, and element management that shows patch lifecycle management

  • ThousandEyes internet and cloud intelligence is included for Catalyst 9300 and 9400 Series Switches, providing access to ThousandEyes SaaS-based monitoring and management platform and entitlement to set up one selected test from an Enterprise Agent to one selected target running once every 5 minutes, per switch license.

Cisco Network Advantage perpetual software includes:

  • High availability and resiliency with ISSU process restart, rolling AP upgrades, CLI patching, and AP service/device pack

  • Flexible network segmentation includes VXLAN

Figure 11. Details of the Cisco DNA Premier software license for wireless

Cisco DNA Premier subscription software, available in 3-, 5-, and 7-year terms, includes everything offered in the Cisco DNA Advantage license plus the ISE Base and ISE Plus license capabilities as well as Cisco DNA Spaces Extend in an easy-to-purchase single SKU. Cisco Network Advantage perpetual software includes:

  • High availability and resiliency with ISSU process restart, rolling AP upgrades, CLI patching, and AP service/device pack

  • Flexible network segmentation, including VXLAN

Cisco Smart Licensing

Cisco DNA Software subscription licenses are smart licenses. Cisco Smart Licensing is a flexible software licensing model that simplifies the way you activate and manage licenses across your organization.

The Smart Licensing model makes it easier for you to procure, deploy, and manage your Cisco software licenses.

Smart Licensing helps answer two questions:

  • What licenses have been purchased from Cisco?
  • What licenses are being used?

Smart Licensing works differently from older or classic licenses.

With older or classic licenses:

  • Customers had a limited view, as there was no way to keep track of all of the software licenses that they own.
  • Each device had to be manually registered using a license key.
  • Licenses were tied to a specific device, and if the device was no longer in use, neither was the license.
To use Smart Licensing, you must first set up a Smart Account. To learn more, visit cisco.com/go/smartlicensing.


As we approach the deployment of Wi-Fi 6 and 5G, get ready to experience a sudden leap in wireless networking capabilities. Cisco is making it easy to refresh your wireless infrastructure to take advantage of everything Wi-Fi 6 has to offer and to go beyond the standards with additional capabilities.

Learn more about Cisco Wi-Fi 6 solutions and products and get started today.

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