A New Cisco Investment in the Wireless Industry


When it comes to wireless, Cisco is a common player in the market as well as other competitors such as Aruba. Both offer a wide range of products to help with a wide range of needs for end users. Wireless chipsets and internals of their wireless products were sometimes similar and made by similar manufacturers. These manufacturers controlled ultimately what was possible from a hardware level and sometimes that’s just not enough…

A Major Leap Forward

Cisco did not see it as enough that they were held to the standards of their chipset manufacturers and wanted to be able to do more with their access points. Because of this, they invested the time and money to develop the new Cisco RF ASIC for use in some of their latest access points. This software-defined radio will allow Cisco to do things never before possible in their newest Wave 6 Wi-Fi access points beginning with the Catalyst 9120.

Cisco is no stranger to innovation and using the latest technologies. From CleanAir to HyperLocation to Flexible Radio Assignment and now to the Cisco RF ASIC, it’s all about innovation and maximizing the performance from your wireless equipment. This new RF ASIC is no different.

The RF ASIC is ultimately a custom chip that Cisco has designed and therefore has set the limit on what it is able to to. This software-defined radio is meant to be able to analyze the wireless spectrum in a very low-level form, without the interference of the other processing that the access point needs to do. Some of the other functions of the access point are utilized externally by another chip or processor so that the RF ASIC can focus on the wireless spectrum and nothing else.

There were a couple of specific examples that were mentioned during the recent Cisco release events regarding this new wireless equipment and what it would be able to do. This RF ASIC is a dedicated radio that can do things that used to require a client-serving radio to stop service associated clients. Fred Neihaus, Cisco Engineer, was mentioning that this radio could be used for Spectrum analysis and other things, such as quickly locating a client in the area for instance. Access points would now have a radio dedicated for this purpose versus using their client-serving radios. I am thinking back to setting access points in an area configured for spectrum analysis in monitor mode and now thinking of what the possibilities might be, considering the possibility that ALL of my access points could have a dedicated radio for spectrum monitoring. Having a dedicated radio to handle these additional tasks without affecting the client-serving radios is a huge step forward in terms of the possibilities of what is possible from a single access point.

For some more information about Wi-Fi 6 access points and the RF ASIC from Cisco, watch this Roundtable from Fred Niehaus, Cristian Raducanu, and industry wireless influencers around the new announcements:


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