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Why are we doing this project?

  • Cisco Aironet 2700 & 3700 series Wireless Access Points (WAP) will stop working in 2022 when the vendor drops software support, specifically vulnerability and security support.  CSUs will have received five to eight years of service out of the units (in alignment with Network Operation Manual guidelines).  These models represent about half of the WAP inventory.
  • Benefit of the new WAPs:

    • Improved performance:  several generations of wireless technology have passed since these WAPs were installed, users of modern devices can expect faster performance

      • 2700/3700 support 802.11 a, ac (5), b, g, n.  The new ones also support ax (Wi-Fi 6) and 6e (6GHz)
    • Higher density:  more user devices can be supported by these newer WAPs
    • Improved hardware reliability:  older WAPs experience high failure rates often fail intermittently or silently

What is in/out of scope?

  • In Scope:
    • Replacement of deployed Aironet 2700/3700 series wireless access points (WAPs)
    • Power Over Ethernet switch upgrades if required/recommended for the new models
    • Network closet electrical circuits to accommodate higher PoE draw of new model WAPs if required/recommended
    • Incidental removals of existing WAPs as approved by ITS management
      • Note: Removals cannot have significant impact on indoor or outdoor coverage (NetOpsMan,
  • Out of Scope:
    • Evaluation of current coverage
    • Addition of WAPs
    • Relocation of existing WAPs
    • Unrelated switch upgrades

When was this communicated?

  • Email:  2/4/2020 as part of yearly equipment life-cycle reports; 4/27/2020 it-updates notice
  • Building Network Report Card:  notes age and letter grade of equipment; recommends current, future, and annualized investments; updated weekly available 24x7x365

 What will be getting replaced? 

  • All active Aironet 2700 and 3700 series access points
  • ITS has learned more power, 48W or 802.3bt, is required for the APs full capabilities.  ITS had planned on 30W per port.  The WAPs may be operated at 30W in a degraded mode.

What models will you receive?

  • Wi-Fi 6e models for this upgrade, but timing will be dependent on supply channels.
  • Wi-Fi 6e improves performance over the models they replace, but especially in more crowed environments.  It introduces technology to share the airwaves more equitably.  Most end users devices sold in the past year support Wi-Fi 6, and Fall of 2022 will start supporting Wi-Fi 6e.
  • Wi-Fi 6e will makes three times the capacity available utilizing 1,200MHz of new spectrum allocated by the FCC, and we'll run it twice as fast Wi-Fi 5 in most environments on campus.  Its kind of like tripling the lanes on I-35 and doubling the speed limit.  End users devices will need to support Wi-Fi 6e to enjoy those changes otherwise they will get the improvements that come with Wi-Fi 6 (about 1/4 of devices will likely support Wi-Fi 6e, and reduce congestion for older devices using older standards by the time the project completes).

What about the POE switch powering the WAP, will it need to be upgraded?

  • An engineer will make the final determination.  Additionally, data closets may require more electrical circuits to support the additional load.
  • Reasons replacement may be needed are related to power draw of the new WAPs:
    1. The POE switch will not support the power standard required for the new WAPs (802.11at, 30 watts).  For the new APs, 802.3at@30watts for minimum operation, 802.3bt@48 watts for full capabilities.  802.3bt will be required for high density areas such as larger classrooms and auditoriums.  802.3at was tested and provided similar capabilities/coverage as the 2700 in circumstances.
    2. The POE switch may not have enough power remaining in its overall supply to provide the required power on the port (most switches can't drive full power on all ports)
  • Alternatives may be possible, including re-balancing devices across multiple POE switches supporting 802.11at in a closet (labor and materials charges), although this was done for previous upgrades and is likely limited.
  • All 802.11af (15 watt) POE switches will have to be replaced.  They are well past the recommended life-cycle according to the Network Operations Manual.
  • Electrical circuits, when required, are the biggest unknown with the project.  We are estimating average costs in budgets provided.  The final costs will be determined by PMCS contractors.  PMCS ITS will be collecting funds directly from CSUs for the electrical portion of project.  For example, if an electrical panel is full, a new panel costs a multiple of an average circuit cost.  If a new transformer is needed in the building, well, those tend to range $50K - $100K installed.  Only two populated 802.3bt POE switches are supported on a single 30 amp 208 volt circuit (same as a clothes dryer circuit).

Switch Replacement Options (802.3at vs 802.3bt)

  • There are two options 802.3at and 802.3bt.   Wi-Fi 6e models out so far recommend and prefer 802.3bt, some will run in degraded mode with 802.3at power.  Future models may require more power.  Another differentiator for some 802.3bt models is the ability to connect to the WAP at speeds from 2.5Gbps to 10Gbps (cable and WAP dependent – you may need to request that pricing option), versus 1Gbps on the PoE+ switch.  Because these Wi-Fi 6e WAPs are expect to be able to use more than 1Gbps of bandwidth, the higher speed switch may be indicated in higher performance or denser environments. Due to supply chain issues and inflation factors, the negotiated cost of switches procured with the bulk order was:
    • PoE+ (802.3at) - $4,595.40 provides up to 30W of PoE per port up to a maximum of 1440W max per switch
    • PoE++ (802.3bt class 3 AKA UPoE) - $4,677.70 provides up to 60W of PoE per port up to a maximum of 1775W per switch and 12 ports of NBASE-T (802.3bz AKA M-Gig) up to 10Gbps

Where will funding come from for this project?

  • College, Schools and Units are responsible for budgeting all costs associated with replacement of network equipment in buildings they occupy (per the Network Operations Manual).
  • Additional switch replacements and electrical circuits may be required of CSUs to support the power demand by the new WAPs.
  • Cost estimates will be provided prior to placing a purchase or work orders for any new equipment.  ITS has charged units for equipment/labor on September 1, 2021 based on these estimates, and will refund or charge any variance after all purchases are made at the end of the project.  PMCS will bill CSUs needing electrical work separately.
    • ITS will charge units the additional costs due to inflation versus the original estimate April - May 2022.
  • ITS will be funding central components (licensing, controllers, management systems – which approach half the cost of the WAP over its lifecycle).

What is the typical life span for an AP?

  • The Network Operations Manual recommends a five year lifecycle.  How long a particular WAP lasts depends on when it was purchased in the supported lifecycle.  On average we are seeing about 5-8 years.

How do I find out about other equipment needing to be replaced for budgeting?

  • The Building Network Grades provides Network Technical Support Contacts (TSCs) rough estimates for equipment replacement.  Both for current needs, future years, and for annualized budgeting.  You can look at the top level for the building, or drill down to individual details.
  • Building gateway devices and WAPs tend to be the only devices that require upgrade with the loss of vulnerability/security software support.  Gateway devices because they participate in routing for the enterprise and per university policy, must have vendor maintenance support.  Wireless access points because they must be centrally managed through wireless controllers, therefore all model WAPs within the enterprise much be supported by the current wireless controller code.

When will the project begin?

  • Preliminary work is already underway.  You can expect:
    1. Building level estimates are available now.
    2. Engineers will begin contacting CSUs to determine responsible parties for WAPs in multi-tennant buildings beginning 12/2020.
    3. Unit level estimates provided to TSCs by 1/31/2021.
    4. N&T staff performing power circuit audits within candidate network closets beginning in winter 2021
    5. N&T personnel performing surveys of the WAPs in the building beginning in summer 2021
    6. A more detailed estimate and request for accounts by mid summer 2021; account numbers are due back by end of July 2021
    7. Funds to be transferred first week of September 2021 (contact ITS concerning funds from FY2021)
    8. Potentially, Environmental Health and Safety hazardous materials sampling, and abatement if materials detected
    9. New POE switch installation if required
    10. WAP installation
    11. Inspections and sign-off by occupants
  • WAP installations dates are dependent on vendor shipping for models that do not exist yet – so we do not know, but will be doing everything possible to keep the older WAPs running (and are negotiating with the vendor) until we can replace them.

Will students, faculty or staff be impacted?

  • There should be little impact to the student, faculty or staff. Equipment will be pre-provisioned to minimize the down time resulting from the swap of the WAP or switch.  The few areas requiring hazardous materials abatement will experience more disruption.
  • In the student resident hall some room entry will be necessary, but should be brief (<30 minutes).

Will we be notified before work begins?

  • Technical Support Contacts will be notified prior to work in buildings, and progress can be tracked on this wiki page.