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Cisco and Samsung go ‘undercover’ to test Wi-Fi 6

Cisco and Samsung go ‘undercover’ to test Wi-Fi 6

Vendors set up secret networks in several locations

Networking vendor Cisco has joined forces with mobile handset giant Samsung to perform secret tests of its Wi-Fi 6 network in a number of US locations.

The partnership unfolded as Cisco prepared to roll out Wi-Fi 6 -- 802.11ac -- which is touted as the next industry standard for wireless local area network.

Launched as a clandestine operation before Wi-Fi Certified 6 -- an upcoming certification program from Wi-Fi Alliance -- was unveiled, the partnership first saw Samsung provide Cisco with 170 Galaxy S9 handsets modified with Wi-Fi 6 chipsets from the then-unreleased Galaxy S10.

Following extensive tests at the companies' campuses, Cisco then quietly set up beta Wi-Fi 6 networks at the following locations: John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California; the headquarters of Boingo Wireless in Los Angeles; and on the Duke University campus in Durham, North Carolina.

"These public venues have a lot of guests, a lot of traffic, and high density," Cisco wireless CTO Matt MacPherson said. "We were targeting trials that were very challenging from a radio frequency (RF) standpoint, so we could experience some of the improvements of Wi-Fi 6."

During the exercise, Cisco handed the phones to the operations people at each site and asked them to use the network and handsets and subsequently provide feedback on their experiences.

By sharing equipment and engineering resources with Samsung, the Wi-Fi test team identified more than 60 areas to be addressed, according to Cisco. These included specifications that could be clarified, bugs to be examined and performance to be maximised.  

The test gave both Cisco and Samsung a comprehensive view of the Wi-Fi experience, according to MacPherson. 

With Cisco sharing its traffic flow data from its access points, controllers, and switches and Samsung its smartphone analytics, the test gave the two parties both the network view and the end-user device view. 

"And when it comes to RF, that view can be quite different,” MacPherson added.

The partnership also saw Samsung incorporate Cisco's Open Roaming on its phones at this year's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, which aims to improve switching between Wi-Fi networks.

In addition, the two collaborated on Cisco's Assurance Analytics, which assesses whether the network is delivering what the handset device expected, making network problems much easier to fix.

For Samsung, the partnership helped the phone-maker ensure new devices work and also make both network and end user devices better.

"At Samsung, engineers tend to focus on the client side," said Jong-Mu Choi, principal software engineer at Samsung Electronics. "But by closely collaborating with Cisco, we are now aware of pain points and difficulties on access points as well. Working with our counterparts helped us understand how to enhance our devices and deliver more benefits to our customers."


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