Cisco expands Catalyst portfolio with new 802.11ax-ready wireless controller

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Cisco says it's bringing intent-based networking to deployments of all sizes. (Cisco)

Cisco says it’s preparing its platforms and by extension, those of its customers, for the 5G world.

Specifically, the company announced it’s extending the Catalyst 9000 family to wireless deployments and midmarket customers, with new products like the Cisco Catalyst 9800 Series Wireless Controller and the Cisco Catalyst 9200 Series Switches for the midmarket.

The announcement was made at the Cisco Partner Summit taking place this week in Las Vegas.

With the new controller, customers can, for the first time, run consistent security, automation and analytics services across wired and wireless environments by leveraging the same OS, according to Cisco. The 9800 series controller can run on premise, in the cloud—public or private—or embedded virtually on Catalyst 9000 switches. It supports current Wi-Fi standards and is ready for the 802.11ax standard.

The new 9200 switch series extends intent-based networking to simple branch deployments and midmarket customers. The midmarket segment will get access to the full suite of enterprise services, at a similar price as the previous generation of Cisco switches.

The Catalyst 9800 Wireless Controllers will be available in the fourth quarter. The Catalyst 9200L Switches will be available in the fourth quarter 2018 as well, with the Catalyst 9200 Switches available in the first quarter of 2019.

It’s all about being ready for 5G applications like augmented reality/virtual reality and IoT, where things need to be always on and secure, no matter what’s going on, according to Greg Dorai, vice president of product management and enterprise networking business at Cisco.

“Technology aside, what’s cool about these controllers is what it gives our customers,” he said, ticking off features like always-on connectivity, security, flexibility and openness. “We are raising the bar for wireless. We are changing the game, and as we prepare for a world of Wi-Fi 6 and 5G, these controllers are just ready for that world.”

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The Wireless Broadband Alliance, of which Cisco is a board member, has been advocating closer integration between cellular and Wi-Fi and last month called on the industry to cooperate on approaches to Wi-Fi integration with 5G. Convergence isn’t quite there yet, but it’s moving that way, Dorai told FierceWirelessTech.

In the cellular world, there’s dedicated spectrum and operators pay a lot of money for that reliability. That’s not the situation with Wi-Fi, which uses unlicensed spectrum. However, things are changing. For example, the Wi-Fi industry is bringing some of that sort of determinism inherent in cellular to its standard, such as introducing the concept of orthogonal frequency-division multiple access.

“It’s headed that way, but I wouldn’t call it convergence yet,” Dorai said. “What you’re going to see is emergence of use cases and technology where the handoff between Wi-Fi and LTE is more smooth and seamless than it is today.”