Cisco DNA - The 4800 AP

Cisco DNA - The 4800 Series Access Point

The Cisco 4800 Series is the current top end Cisco access point and has a wealth of features. In this blog we'll take a look at the 4800 and the new features it supports.

The most noticeable differences from older models are the number and array of antennas. The AP includes both 2.4GHz and 5GHz antennas as you’d expect, but a lot more besides.

Cisco 4800 Radios

The radios in this AP are quite expansive, with the 4800 series having 25 antennas, including Bluetooth and Hyperlocation:

  • Flexible Radio Micro Cell: Converts the 2.4GHz radio to a second 5GHz – more channels and clients on one AP
  • Bluetooth send and Receive Radios: Setup Bluetooth beacons to allow locations to be triggered – but also be able to locate clients using Bluetooth
  • Monitoring Radio: Radio designed to specifically monitor the environment and provide telemetry data
  • Hyperlocation Antenna Array: Ability to provide 1 – 3m accuracy in tracking clients using angle-of-arrival

In addition to the 2.4GHz and 5GHz radios, there is a dedicated third radio, which is used for monitoring.

Historically, additional APs used to be installed for the function of dedicated wIPS (Wireless Intrusion Prevention) services, then later you could use Enhanced Local Mode to combine client serving and wIPS on one AP. The 4800 provides the capability to provide full client servicing and wIPS functions at the same time.

The 4800 series is, of course, built to work with Cisco DNA Center and it's here that the advanced features come in to play.

Cisco 4800 Series: Advanced Features

The 4800 series access point can do roaming packet captures, so there is no requirement for those difficult-to-gather multi-channel Omnipeek sniffs. The AP can do intelligent capture, to provide captures across bands and APs.

There’s a massive advantage to this approach too – the 4800 can decrypt the wireless packets. This is a huge help when fault finding – you can investigate using the full data stream, not just the management frames, so with visibility of the full data stream fault finding is that much easier.

The 4800 is also capable of 2.4GHz Flex Radio functions:

  • In today's networks, we tend to design with a higher AP density, which is perfect for providing a consistent 5GHz coverage.
  • It does though mean that many 2.4GHz APs turn power down to minimum or may even need to be disabled to reduce channel utilisation – we’re not making the most of the available RF or AP functionality
  • Enter the Flex Radio concept – the AP can now dynamically convert redundant 2.4GHz radios to a second 5GHz radio on the same AP

Effectively you are thinning out the number of 2.4GHz radios, so they will turn up in order to achieve proper coverage. This is ok, and the spin off benefit is that you’ve managed to deploy more 5GHz channels into the network – this is going to mean better client distribution between 5GHz channels and ultimately better throughput. The caveat is the second 5GHz radio is a micro cell – its designed to provide additional localised, in-room capacity rather than additional coverage.

Cisco 4800 Series: Key Use Cases

In addition to the wireless packet captures, the 4800 series can also do wired packet captures. When you raise TAC case for a complex issue, they often ask for wired and wireless captures which means a complex symphony of omnipeek and wireshark captures on wired and wireless. The 4800 can do both – without you having to step foot onsite.

These kind of advanced functions come at a price but if you have a remote site, especially if it runs advanced services such as voice or biomedical patient telemetry, the ability to quickly take a remote sniff could help in resolving an issue very quickly.

The graphic on the right shows the main features of the 4800 series.

Cisco 4800 Series: In Summary

There's no doubt the Cisco 4800 is the most feature rich AP yet. The question is, is it worth the extra expense. This is going to be on a case by case basis, of course. If you want to very accurately track WiFi clients, the 4800 is a good choice - the built in Hyperlocation antenna array will ensure you get a high level of accuracy in location.

For sites that need to do a lot of fault finding, or sites that are looking to deploy DNA Center, this is a good choice too - the ability to remotely take packet captures is a real help in fault finding.

For sites looking to support a high density of APs, supporting lots of clients, the flexible radio in the 4800 series will ensure the maximum number of 5GHz channels can be deployed to give the greatest amount of airtime for each client.

Want to know more about the Cisco 4800 AP?

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