By Claus Hetting, Wi-Fi NOW CEO & Chairman
Last month Cisco launched their newest Wi-Fi 6E-certified AP in the form of the Catalyst 9166D1, which makes delivering great 6 GHz Wi-Fi services everywhere – including in locations with high ceilings or long corridors – a lot easier. The new AP delivers close to 8 Gbps of data rate and boosts Wi-Fi signals with up to 8 dBi using built-in directional antennas, Cisco says. The unit is the first of its kind in the industry.
Enterprise 6 GHz Wi-Fi networks are rolling out everywhere but the FCC hasn’t exactly made deployment easy when it comes to providing Wi-Fi 6E services in locations with high ceilings – such as auditoriums or arenas. In such cases Wi-Fi engineers often prefer to use external directional antennas to extend signal reach but for Wi-Fi 6E and indoor low power (ILP), regulation says this is not allowed.
Enter Cisco’s new Catalyst 9166D1 AP with built-in directional antennas for Wi-Fi 6E – and for the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands, too. The new AP allows for the creation of excellent Wi-Fi services even when the distance between the AP and clients is much longer than what is common for most enterprises. And the AP is also ideal when the requirement is to serve a high density of users, which is becoming increasingly common, Cisco says. The new AP is the first of its kind in the industry.
Quality Wi-Fi for more types of buildings & deployments
“With Wi-Fi expanding into more and more types of buildings and industries and becoming increasingly business-critical, the need to install APs relatively long distances away from users is becoming more common. Examples are university auditoriums, sports arenas, industrial facilities with high ceilings, even places like aircraft hangers. We now have the solution for that. It enables the use of all the pristine spectrum in the 6 GHz band,” says Brett Shore, Product Marketing at Cisco.
The Catalyst 9166D1 offers up to 8 dBi directional antenna gain for the 6 GHz band with 6 dBi gain for the 2.4 GHz band and either 6 or 8 dBi for the 5 GHz band (depending on chosen configuration). The new AP offers a peak PHY data rate of close to 7.78 Gbps across all bands including Wi-Fi 6E, Cisco says.
“Imagine for example a fully packed auditorium – students perhaps – each needing Wi-Fi to serve many client devices. This is a typical high-density scenario but getting the right Wi-Fi signal to the clients can be tricky because of high ceilings. In many cases there aren’t really any other deployment options than overhead. The 9166D1 now offers an 8 dBi signal boost and direction so as to deliver the best Wi-Fi signal and service at the seating level,” Brett Shore says.
But built-in directional antennas are not of much use if you can’t mount the AP to point in the right direction, which is why the unit comes with the options to add a mounting bracket and articulating arm. The arm – which looks a bit like a flat-panel TV wall mounting kit – makes it possible for the integrated antennas to point in the desired direction.
The 9166D1 comes with a long list of useful features including environmental sensors, zero-wait DFS, client steering to 6 GHz, and even something Cisco calls XOR Radio which is a nifty feature allowing automatic or manual reconfiguration of one Wi-Fi radio to support either 5 GHz (Wi-Fi 6) or Wi-Fi 6E, depending on need. The XOR Radio feature has been part of Cisco’s resource management features for a while (read more here) but is becoming increasingly important in mixed 5 GHz and 6 GHz client environments. For the full Catalyst 9166D1 specs also read here.