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In this article, we will explain how to install the new Cisco Catalyst 9800-CL controller on a VM (under VMFusion) on macOS. The goal here is to have a lab controller that you can bring with you wherever you go and can be booted anytime and intended to be used for testing purposes.
This is the first article of a series of Cisco Catalyst 9800-CL article.
Step 1: Download the Controller Image
The first step is to download the new Cisco Catalyst 9800-CL Wireless Controller for Cloud. The latest version available to me was called Gibraltar-16.11.1b. It might be different for you if you are downloading it at a later date.
For this setup, we will download the .iso file. Note that you can now download the controller code for free. The licences are not tied to the AP.
Step 2: Create a New VM in VMWare Fusion VM
Note: In this article, we will present how to create a VM to support the new Wireless controller using VMWare Fusion on MacOS.
Open VMWare Fusion, and select the menu “File / New…” to create the new VM. In the new window opening, select the “Create a custom virtual machine” as shown below:
The operating system to select is “Linux / Other Linux 4.x or later kernel 64-bit” as shown below:
Select “Legacy BIOS” as the boot firmware as shown below:
Select Create a new virtual disk as shown below:
Validate that all the settings are good and click on Finish. VMware will ask you to save your vm and to choose a name. Note: I have chosen “C9800-Lab” for my VM name.
Step 3: Change the VM Settings using the GUI
We are now going to use the GUI to adjust the RAM allocated to the VM and load the iso file. We need to change the default settings to allocate at least 4Gig of RAM. In order to do so, click on the settings icon located on the top-righthand corner of the Virtual Machine Library window:
Click on the “Processors & Memory” icon to change the RAM settings:
Adjust the Memory to 4096MB (Note: this is aimed to be used in a lab environment, please refer to Cisco deployment guides in order size the VM properly):
Click on “Show All” to go back to apply the new settings.
Then click on “CD/DVD (IDE)” in order to load the iso file previously downloaded on Cisco website:
In the drop down menu, click on “Choose a disc or disc image…” and select the .iso file download before (the name should look like this: C9800-CL-universalk9.16.11.01b.iso).
Click on “Show All” to go back to apply the new settings.
Step 4: Change the VM Settings Using the Configuration File (.vmx)
Before we start the VM, we need to adjust the network settings. In my case, the network settings were greyed out in the VM settings. So I couldn’t modify them using the GUI. I had to modify the configuration file of the VM in order to adjust the network settings.
On macOS, the VM configuration file was located at the following location (/replace "C9800-Lab" by the name your chose for your VM and "francoisverges" by your macos username/):
Here is what we need to do:
Network Adapter 1: Configure the first network interface as a “custom” interface on a local network. This will be used as the management interface of the controller.
Network Adapter 2: Configure the second network interface behind the Wi-Fi card. This will be used to connect the Wi-Fi clients to the internet.
In order to configure your VM network interfaces, you will have to know the name of the interfaces used on your Mac. Open your favourite terminal application and use the `ifconfig` command in order to find it out. In my case, en0 is the name of the Wi-Fi interface and en7 is the name of my ethernet interface:
In your terminal application, open the VM configuration file in order to change its configuration:
Here is how to configure the first network adapter in the configuration file, change your configuration file accordingly:
Here is how to configure the second network adapter in the configuration file, change your configuration file accordingly:
Here is how the network interfaces were configure on my macbook:
Step 5: Start the VM for the First Time
In order to start the VM for the first time, go back to the settings icon located on the top-righthand corner of the Virtual Machine Library window:
Select the “Startup Disk” menu:
Select the “CD/DVD" option and click on “Restart” to start the VM for the first time as shown below:
The controller will boot. The first time, VMWare Fusion might ask you to enter your MacOS password a couple of time. Once the bootup process will be done, you will be ready to perform the initial configurations.
Step 6: Catalyst 9800 Initial Setup via CLI
I usually like to perform the inital setup via CLI. The new Catalyst 9800 allows you to do it. But first, you need to decline the autoinstall. When asked to start the initial configuration dialog, write "no". Then press RETURN when asked to terminate the autoinstall. Press RETURN one more time and you should then see the WLC prompt:
Then you will need to configure the following:
Configure the enable password
Create an admin account
Configure the network interface G1
Configure a default route
Configure the country code
Configure which interface will be used for management purposes (G1 in our case)
Generate the certificate that will be used to establish DTLS connections with the APs
Use the following commands in order to configure all these items:
The IP address used here is specific to my setup. Please use one relevant to your network topology.
The passwords have not been disclosed here, please replace "secret_password" and "user_password" by the passwords you want to use
Configure these items in the proper order if you want to avoid issues
The last command doesn't configure anything, it is just used to validate that the trustpoint has been generated properly
Since we are disabling the 802.11a and 802.11b radios to configure the country code, you will have to renable them later if you want your APs to be operational
Once these configurations are done on the Catalyst 9800 controller, you should be able to ping it from your laptop:
If this works well, you should now be able to open a browser, and navigate to https://10.0.0.10 to connect to the controller GUI. Use the admin username defined earlier to login and gain access to the GUI:
Mission accomplished! You should now have the controller up and running. The next step would be to add an AP and configure an SSID.
I recently purchased a Wi-Fi 6 device (Samsung Galaxy S10), and when I checked which date rate it was using over the Wi-Fi, this is what I got:
I wanted to find out which MCS index and which modulation was used but after doing some research online, I couldn't find any easy resources that could give me the new data rates available with 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6). So I decided to create that resource myself.
This blog presents the results of the new MCS table updated to include all the new 802.11ax data rates. It also presents how these data rates are calculated.
Complete MCS Table
The following table includes all the MCSs data rates defined by the 802.11n (HT), 802.11ac (VHT) and 802.11ax (HE) amendments:
As you can see, the table is getting very big. In fact, 802.11ax is introducing 2880 new data rates. However, not all data rates will be used in the real world. In order to focus on what will be most useful to Wi-Fi Engineers, I have created some smaller tables which only focuses on sections of the complete table.
MCS Table up to 3 Spatial Streams
This table presents 802.11n (HT), 802.11ac (VHT) and 802.11ax (HE) data rates for up to 3 spatial streams:
First we need to understand how the MCS data rates are calculated prior 802.11ax. I am only going to focus on 802.11n (HT) and 802.11ac (VHT) here.
Here is the formula we can use to calculate which data rate is used for both 802.11n and 802.11ac:
Let's detail each of these variables and which value they can have for both 802.11n and 802.11ac:
HT and VHT OFDM Parameters
Now, the formula doesn't change much with 802.11ax. However, some new features will impact the way we calculate data rate for 802.11ax:
A new symbol duration is used: 12.8µs
Different Guard Intervals are used: 0.8µs, 1.6µs and 3.2µs
The size and number of data subcarriers is not the same (especially with the different RU sizes introduced by ODFMA.
Even though the formula doesn't change much, the IEEE does define 2 different formulas depending on if ODFMA is used or not. When ODFMA is not used, we can used the formula previously presented above.
Here is the formula we can used when OFDMA is used (it is pretty much the same except that we define the number of data subcarriers per RU and not per channel):
Let's now details each of these variables and which values they can have when HE (802.11ax) is used. The first table details the parameters used when ODFMA is not used. The second table details the parameters when ODFMA and resource units are used.
HE OFDM Parameters
HE OFDMA Parameters
Due to the addition of a new modulation technique (QAM-1024), 2 new MCS indexes are now available with 802.11ax:
Index 10: when the 1024-QAM modulation is used with a coding of 3/4
Index 11: when the 1024-QAM modulation is used with a coding of 5/6
So now that we have this information, let's try to understand the data rate that my phone was using. The phone is a Samsung GS10 which supports 802.11ax and up to 2 spatial streams. The AP used is an Aerohive AP630. I have configured it with an 80MHz wide channel. OFDMA is not used here because ODFMA was not activated at the time of this capture.
So based on this information, we can determine some of the variables required to calculate the data rate and narrow down the data rates that will be used by this device:
Number of Data Subcarriers for an 80MHz wide channel: 980
Number of Coded bit per subcarrier (Modulation): we don't know yet
Coding: we don't know yet
Number of Spatial Streams: 2
OFDM Symbol Duration: 12.8µs
Guard Interval: we don't know yet
So here is the list of possible data rates used by this device when connecting to this AP:
Because we know that the data rate used was 1200.95 Mbps (as indicated on the picture above), we can now determine that:
MCS 11 was used
1024QAM with a coding of 5/6 was being used
A guard interval of 0.8µs was used
Here are some resources that I have used or that can be interesting if you want to learn more about:
I am really excited about 2019. The Wi-Fi technology is always evolving, bringing new challenges along the way. And this year is no exception. I am looking forward to the challenges that I will face this year and I am looking forward to the new learning experiences that 2019 will bring.
In this article, I talk about some of the important trends that I think will be quite popular in the discussions we will have among the community or with our customers.
Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax)
Last year, we talked a lot about the theory behind Wi-Fi 6 (or 802.11ax). We saw a couple of enterprise vendors coming out with 802.11ax access points (Aerohive, Aruba Networks). We also saw a few consumer 802.11ax access points being released. However, we still haven’t heard about any 802.11ax client devices yet.
So this year, I really hope that we will start seeing some Wi-Fi 6 client devices being release so we can start playing with it. I would like 2019 to be the year of Wi-Fi 6 in practice and not only in theory. I would love to see the future iPhone supporting Wi-Fi 6.
Nevertheless, from an Engineer point of view, I believe that we will have to keep educating ourselves on the technology. First, because we need to apprehend it better. Second, we need to be able to advise and educate our customers. We are going to see a lot of false positive messages around the Wi-Fi 6 technology and we need to be able to guide and help our customers.
As we will see more and more service providers deploying 5G this year, we will continue to talk about it among the Wi-Fi community. The question is always: will 5G replace Wi-Fi in the long run? It might have the potential to do so in some cases. However, I still think that Wi-Fi will still stick around for a long time. I don’t really see the two technologies necessary competing with one another. I believe they will be complementary in most cases.
In the enterprise space, I have seen a couple of companies in Europe using alternative wireless solutions when Wi-Fi was not perfectly applicable to their use case. So I do see the use of alternative wireless solutions, such as CBRS/private LTE, being used more this year. On that note, Ruckus is coming to market with a set of CBRS LTE access points and the FCC has reserved some spectrum in the 3.5GHz band to be used for CBRS.
I have personally started to see automation changing my work and the way I see my work. I believe that it is becoming more and more part of our work today and will continue in 2019. Automation requires us to learn about programming (or at least scripting). So this is not going to be an overnight transition. This is definitely something that will help us and that we can take advantage of.
With more and more vendors offering APIs to interact with their equipment, it becomes part of the technical solution and can help us configure and monitor our infrastructures. On that note, I have seen a couple companies hiring programmers to add to their networking team in order to program additional services which will interact with the Wi-Fi infrastructure using APIs. From the point of view of a VAR or consultant, it is a good way to perform the work faster and, therefore, be more competitive.
Cisco released their new WLAN controller (Catalyst 9800 Wireless Controller) at the end of 2018. They have completely re-written the code and the new OS looks promising. One of the features is that it can now be installed on a public Cloud (such as AWS). We have also seen very good results from Meraki in 2018 (compared to traditional Cisco WLC). Mist started to really take up being involved with Fortune 10 companies. Aerohive launched their own NAC platform in the cloud (A3).
All of this leads to making me think that Wi-Fi solutions will leverage more and more cloud services in 2019. The cloud clearly allows the systems to be more intelligent, more flexible and we can all appreciate a little fewer bugs (or at least, faster ways to fix them).
What are your thoughts for 2019? Feel free to leave a comment to start the discussion. Cheers' François Vergès
This article presents the regulations around the use of the unlicensed 5GHz frequencies for Wi-Fi communications in Canada. It provides an update and consolidation of our previous articles and includes the changes made by ISED (Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada) in 2017. We are also talking about the future outlook presented by ISED earlier this year.
Here are the details about the channels available in the 5GHz spectrum space in Canada :
Canadian Weather Radar operates in the 5600-5650 MHz band (Channel 120, 124 and 128). ISED recommends that no equipment operates in this band, or interference to weather radar will result. In practical, no Wi-Fi operations are permitted on these channels.
The following chart shows the available 5GHz channels to be used in Canada:
Changes of Regulations for UNII1
In May 2017, ISED published a document announcing new regulations for the UNII1 band in Canada. Previously, this band was reserved for indoor use and the maximum EIRP was set to 200 mW. The new regulations now allow the use of these frequencies to be used both indoor and outdoor with a higher power. However, a license is required if you want to use UNII1 outdoor with an EIRP greater than 200 mW. The license is valid for 1 year and is free (for now).
The new requirements to meet are presented in this table:
If the equipment you are planning to use is located within 25km for a licensed earth station, you will have to coordinate the earth station operator to determine potential exclusion zones. Users operating for personal use should not be eligible for that license. The reason is that it would involve too much administration and monitoring work.
DFS Implementation (UNII2 & UNII2-Extended)
DFS (Dynamic Frequency Selection) is a mechanism that allows wireless LANs to coexist with radar systems. It automatically selects a frequency that does not interfere with the radar systems. In Canada, any Wi-Fi devices operating on the channels 52-64, 100-116 and 132-140 have to employ a DFS radar detection mechanism. The use of DFS while implementing a Wi-Fi network is the choice of the Engineer. It allows you to use more channels for sure, however, the frequency change might bring some instability in the network. Moreover, the client devices are not always certified for DFS band operation which is the case for many portable devices. Therefore, many engineers prefer implementing their network without the use of these "DFS" channels.
Transmitter Power Control or TPC is a feature that enables a Wi-Fi device to dynamically switch between several transmission power levels in the transmission process. This is mainly used to reduce interference if another device is transmitting on the same frequency. For Wi-Fi devices operating the UNII2 and UNII2-Extended, Industry Canada states that "devices with a maximum e.i.r.p. greater than 500mW shall implement TPC in order to have the capability to operate at least 6dB below the maximum permitted e.i.r.p. of 1W". This information can be important to keep in mind while designing a WLAN.
Higher EIRP allowed for Point-to-Point devices (UNII3)
Concerning the UNII3 & ISM bands (5725-5850MHz), the conducted output power shall not exceed 1W. If directional antennas are used with a gain greater than 6dBi, the maximum conducted output power shall be reduced by the amount in dB that the directional gain of the antenna exceeds 6dBi. So basically the maximum e.i.r.p. will never exceed 4W and if the gain of the antenna is greater than 6dBi, the output power will be adjusted accordingly. However, the standards stats that "fixed point-to-point devices operating in this band may employ transmitting antennas with directional gain greater than 6dBi without any corresponding reduction in transmitter conducted power".
Here is an example to explain this regulation:
So, on the left part of the drawing, we are using an antenna gain of 9dBi; which is 3dBi greater than 6dBi. If we were to use the maximum conducted power possible (i.e. 1W), the total e.i.r.p. would be: 30dBm (1W) + 9dBi = 39dBm (8W). 8W is over the maximum allowed (4W). So in order to stay under the regulations, we need to lower the conducted power by the number of the antenna gain dB greater than 6 (in our case 9-6 = 3dB). So the new conducted power would be: 30dBm (1W) - 3dB = 27dBm (500mW). If we use a conducted power of 500mW we will have the following e.i.r.p.: 27dBm (500mW) + 9dBi = 36dBm (4W). This complies with the regulations!
On the right part of the drawing, we are setting up a point-to-point bridge link with an antenna gain of 13dBi; which is also greater than 6dBi. Even though the e.i.r.p. exceed 4W, we are still allowed to use a maximum conducted power of 1W.
Spectrum Outlook 2018 to 2022
ISED received comments proposing that some portions of the band become available for license-exempt devices (eg. Wi-Fi). However, they did not propose any specific changes to this band in 2018 pending potential outcomes of the WRC-19 (World Radio Conference). There will most likely be some changes in the next few years. Since ISED is involved in the WRC-19 conference that will be taking place in Oct/Nov 2019, we could be expecting some changes as early as late 2019. Here are the potential changes:
Use of the 5600-5650 MHz Band for license-exempt use. Channel 120, 124, 128
Use of the 5350-5470 MHz Band for license-exempt use. Channel 68, 72, 76, 80, 84, 88, 92, 96
Use of the 5850-5925 MHz Band for license-exempt use. Channel 169, 173, 171. This is unlikely as ISED prefers to reserve this band for connected vehicle applications. They will only allow Wi-Fi to share this band if they know for sure that it won’t be disruptive.
If you are deploying Wi-Fi on the 5GHz band in Canada, I would invite you to take a look at the following documents:
It feels good to be able to do what you like, it feels even better when there is a purpose in doing it. That is often something I ask myself when working on different projects for different customers. Am I making a difference? Who will benefit from my work? Who am I designing or installing Wi-Fi for?
I have found that our main purpose is to help the end users, perform their work in an easier way. This could be; helping a nurse providing care, a banker moving money around, a school teacher sharing knowledge, a journalist reporting news, a warehouse worker moving goods or even sport fans supporting their team.
The end users will be the ones using the Wi-Fi, enjoying the Wi-Fi, taking advantage of the Wi-Fi and maybe sometimes cursing the Wi-Fi. They are the reason why we do what we do. This is why, as a Wi-Fi Engineer, I always try to keep them in mind while designing, installing and troubleshooting a Wi-Fi network.
Focusing on the end user experience helps me to put the human factor back into the game. I consider it a very important part of my work. François Vergès
The FCC and the EU has been talking about releasing more spectrum for unlicensed use in the 6GHz frequency band (5925 MHz to 7125 MHz). The focus was specifically to release more spectrum that could be used by technologies such as Wi-Fi, LTE-U and LTE-AAA.
This would give access to an impressive number of additional Wi-Fi channels:
In the US:
59x 20MHz channels
29x 40MHz channels
14x 80MHz channels
7x 160MHz channels
In the EU:
24x 20MHz channels
12x 40MHz channels
6x 80MHz channels
3x 160MHz channels
As a Wi-Fi Engineer and seeing channel related problems every day, I get very excited knowing that more channels could become available. It could solve a lot of our issues and improve the overall performances of our Wi-Fi networks.
However, in Canada, the ISED does not have current plans of opening up the 6GHz band for licence-exempt use.
Current Use of the 6GHz Band in Canada
Currently, here is how the 6GHz band is used in Canada:
5925-6425 MHz: Two-way Backhaul. Uplink communication for FSS (Fixed Satellite Service) (delivery of broadband services + distribute TV programming)
6425-7125 MHz: two-way Backhaul + TV auxiliary services and studio transmitter links.
Also, the ISED mentioned that they were « not aware of commercially available equipment that would operate in a licence-exempt fashion in the 6GHz band ». This state might change has these bands might be embraced in the US and in Europe. More and more manufacturers might be interested in producing devices able to operate in the 6GHz band in the near future for these markets.
The Near Future (2018-2022)
n the near future, it does not look like the ISED will be releasing more spectrum in the 6GHz band for Wi-Fi use. The technologies using this band are not going anywhere and are still heavily using the band. Therefore, ISED has classified it as a priority 3 during their Outlook Consultation, earlier this year. This means that nothing much is going to happen in the next few year (between 2018 and 2022).
Here is the spectrum outlook priorities set by ISED for the next 5 years (2018 to 2022). As you can see 6GHz has been assigned a priority of 3:
They did mentioned, in their Spectrum Outlook 2018 to 2022 document, that they will keep monitoring what is happening in the US and in the rest of the world to see if they could work on a solution where the current technologies using the 6GHz band would co-exist with new services (aka. Wi-Fi). This will probably require some coexistence mechanism to be put in place (The Wi-Fi industry is proposing a mechanism called Automated Frequency Coordination (AFC) that could be used in Canada as well).
If we look at the FCC timeline, it looks like they will be starting permitting Wi-Fi operations on the 6GHz band by 2021. So, it’s hard to say what will be happening past 2022 but I would think that, at that time, they would have a plan to release some spectrum in the 6GHz band.
In parallel, the IEEE could potentially decide to only allow certain amendment to be used on the 6GHz bands which would strongly push ISED to release these frequencies for Wi-Fi use. It is already being said that the 802.11ax wave 2 devices will be able to operate on the 6GHz band.
I would encourage you to go and take a look at their ressources.
Note: there are a lot of disparities in the way DFS operations work between the different Wi-Fi vendors. It was a challenge to try to standardize it into one graphic. Please perform detailed testing of your own WLAN solution to find out what the actual DFS operations are in your environment.
Click on the image below to download the infographic in the PDF format:
Feel free to look at these ressources if you want to learn more about DFS operations:
I would like to thank Devin and Nigel for their help in reviewing the infographic and providing feedbacks. If you think of a way we could improve this infographic, do not hesitate to let me know in the comments below. Thank you! Cheers, François Vergès