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Ask the Expert: Cisco Unified Wireless and Cisco Unified Access

Community Manager
Community Manager

With Richard Hamby, Patrick Croak and Nicholas Tate 


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Welcome to the Cisco Support Community Ask the Expert conversation. Learn from Cisco experts Richard Hamby, Patrick Croak, and Nicholas how to configurre, troubleshooot and design your network using Cisco Unified Wireless and Next Generation Unified Access Wireless. The Next Generation Unified Access Wireless includes the new IOS-based wireless features on the Cisco Catalyst Swtiches 3850 and 5760. You can ask questions about the Cisco Wireless portfolio of controllers, access points, and latest WLAN features. 


Richard Hamby is a technical support engineer in the Cisco Technical Assistance Center in Richardson, Texas. He is an expert in wireless products that include the Cisco Unified Wireless Network and the new Unified Access Wireless products. Prior to his current position, Hamby was a customer support engineer with the authentication-authorization-accounting team supporting Cisco identity management solutions..


Patrick Croak is a technical leader for the global wireless support team at the Cisco Technical Assistance Center, responsible for solving complex and challenging enterprise wireless issues. He also works closely with the Wireless Business Unit and Account teams for product development and innovation. He has more than seven years of experience working at Cisco. Croak holds CCIE certification (#34712)  in wireless and a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering from the University of Wisconsin. 


Nicholas Tate is a senior customer support engineer in the global technical assistance center supporting wireless technologies, where he works on complex wireless enterprise issues. He has published numerous wireless documents to and the Cisco Support Community. Tate has been with working at Cisco since 2011 and holds a degree in information computer technologies from East Carolina University. 


Remember to use the rating system to let Richard, Patrick, and Nicholas know if you have received an adequate response.


They might not be able to answer each question due to the volume expected during this event. Remember that you can continue the conversation on the Wireless sub-community, Getting Started with Wireless discussion forum shortly after the event.


This event lasts through June 14, 2013.. Visit this forum often to view responses to your questions and the questions of other community members.



Hi guys,

I hope this is not too basic question: what is "Cisco unified wireless" or "Cisco unified access"? First of all, are you talking about hardware or software or it is just some new buzzword? I do apologize if I sound like a total beginner but last time I was playing with Cisco wireless products it was just before Cisco acquired company that was making controllers to take care about bigger wifi networks



Hello Tenaro,

Thanks for getting this discussion started! I will try to outline these solutions for you.

The Cisco Unified Wireless Network (CUWN) solution is based on Wireless LAN Controllers running Airespace Operating System from the Airespace aquisition back in 2005. The controller models include the 2100, 2500, 4400, WISM/WISM2 (6500 service module), 5500, 7500, 8500. In this solution, access points will tunnel the wireless traffic to the controllers via CAPWAP.

The Cisco Unified Access (UA) Wireless Solution is our new architecture that provides a converged model where you can manage your wired & wireless network configurations in the same place. This solution includes the 3850 series switch with integrated wireless support. The solution also includes the 5760 series wireless controller, which can act as an aggregation point for many 3850 switches. This platform is based off of IOS-XE, so the command structure & feel will be that of other IOS products. In this solution, the wireless traffic can terminate directly on the 3850 switch, so that it can be treated in similar fashion to a user that has a wired connection on the switch.

We also have interoperability between the solutions in Airespace code version -- so that you can integrate your existing 5508 and WISM2 modules with the new architecture as well.



Hi everyone and thanks for your time in this forum.  Couple of quick questions:  I've not had the opportunity to work hands on with the new 3850 switches and was wondering about config and manageability.  If I have a 3850 licensed for MC duties, is it managed by both  command line and a web gui or just cli?  Also, given the same 3850 running as MC, does it get managed the same way from within Prime Infrastructure as any other controller?   Lastly, do you think that PI will have some logic for license management for the 3850's.  I can see this growing large and labor intensive without a centralized aggregation point.  Thx in advance! //art

Hello Art,

As of right now, the 3850 and 5760 can be configured via the CLI only. However, the next release (which should be this June/July) will contain a wireless configuration GUI. 3850/5760 Prime support will be coming with Prime release 2.0.

The MC will be the aggregation point when it comes to AP licensing, the MAs will use the licenses available on the MC.

As of right now, the wireless configuration will need to be applied to all of the MAs, but, in the future Prime should be able to assist with these tasks.



Hello Guys,

Are the 1600, 2600, and 3600 all certified to be used outdoors as well as indoors? If used outdoors, is an enclosure required. I believe the FCC Part 15 has specifics around this but not sure how it applies to specific Cisco model AP's such as above.


This is a good question that's often asked, especially due to the mulitude of outside AP enclosures on the maket. In a nutshell, from an RF regulatory standpoint, Indoor APs should only be used Indoors, Outdoor APs should be utilized outside. This is how the AP radio profile is programmed, and how the AP is certified by the regulatory authorities - and they should not be deployed otherwise. The reason is that power and channel mappings for each band and modulation vary Indoors vs. Outdoors to make sure interference between devices is properly addressed. The 1600/2600/3600 are all Indoor-rated APs and have indoor-certified radio profiles for an indoor environment.

Most all Outdoor-rated AP's have outdoor enclosures (eg 1550/1410/1310) but that is not the defining characteristic. From a certification standpoint, it is the RF characteristics. Things have evolved over the years related to things like (you mentioned FCC Part 15) UNII1 channel usage Outdoors, etc, and those are the typoes of things that are included in the RF profiles on the AP's to ensure that proper channels/checks are done given the deployment. 

A good example of this is to look at the power tables for the 3500 AP which is offered in an Indoor version and Outdoor version. In this case, the enclosure is not outdoor-rated, but the 3500p is RF-certified for use outside (with specific antennae). The 3502e has a different radio profile for use Indoors. The 3500p is deployed in outdoor areas like indoor stadiums where the physical conditions are similar to Indoor, but are 'Outdoor'.

Like the 3502p, certification can be use-specific dictating (for example) only certain gains of antennae be utilized.

The specific physical tolerences of each AP also vary, and are detailed in the Hardware Installation Guides for every AP (indoor and outdoor).  Always review the product-specific documentation when evaluating RF compliance, and feel free to engage your Cisco account team or Partner with questions regarding deployment.

David Watkins

Can you elaborate on the co-existence of the new mobility architecture along with existing mobility? For instance, If you want to have your 5508,, become and MC or MO for your 3850 MAs, can you still maintain traditional mobility group relationships with other CUWN platforms for roaming and/or anchoring or would you need to dedicate a 5508 as MC or MA for unified access mobility?

This is directed mostly as a co-existence question rather than interoperability. Documentation seems to infer that mobility "flow" cannot exist between the architectures but perhaps they can operate in a separate but equal fashion?

Sent from Cisco Technical Support iPhone App

Hello David,

This is a very good question.  In a sentence, there isn't backwards compatibility with the classic mobility architecture.  This means that you will not be able to form a mobility group between a WLC running classic mobility architecture with another one running the next generation mobility architecture.  The best way to work around this is to have all WLCs in your mobility domain running and supporting the new mobility architecture.  You can keep your CUWN mobility groups separate from your NGWC mobility groups; however, roaming will fail between the 2 devices.



Hi all,

I am currently digging through the documentation about the 5760 WLC and converged access mode and found one particular information, which I need more clarification for.

This is the link

And here are the specific snippets and the respective questions:

Q. What deployment modes can the Cisco 5760 WLC and Cisco Catalyst 3850 support?

A. The Cisco 5760 WLC can operate in centralized  mode (also known as local  mode) as well as converged access mode,  whereas the Cisco Catalyst 3850  operates in converged access mode. At  this time, there is no support  for office-extend access points, indoor  or outdoor mesh, or FlexConnect  access points on the Cisco 5760 WLC  and Cisco Catalyst 3850.

  • Does this apply to the converged access mode only or also centralized mode?
  • Do 5508/WiSM2 WLCs still support APs in the specified modes (Flexconnect, Mesh) even when using the new mobility architecture?
  • When is it planned to add support for these AP modes on the new platforms, if at all?

Q. Can I reuse the existing access points and controllers?

A. Converged access operates with the following indoor 802.11n access points: Cisco Aironet® 1140, 1260, 1600, 2600, and 3600 Series. Existing customers that have   deployed these access point models can convert them to operate in   converged access mode.

  • Can 3500 Series access-points be used in converged access mode, or do they need to be replaced with newer hardware? I suspect it is possible as 1260 have been introduced around the same time as the 3500, but confirmation would be nice

Thanks in advance!



Hello Patrick,

This  is a good question.  What the is trying to be explained in the answer  is that by default the 5760 WLC will operate as a mobility controller  while a 3850 will act as a mobility agent.  The mobility mode of the WLC  doesn't change which AP modes the controller supports.  At this time  all NGWC products (3850 and 5760) only support 4 AP modes: local,  se-connect, monitor, sniffer.  This is limitation is only seen on NGWC  products.  A CUWN WLC running the new mobility architecture will  continue to support all AP modes including Flexconnect and Mesh modes.   At this time there are plans to bring Flexconnect to the NGWC; however, I  can't comment on an ETA.

It  looks like the 3500s were left out of that list.  The 3500 series are  supported on the NGWC platform.  A more accurate list of supported AP  for NGWC can be found here:




We are in the process of upgrading our current wireless infrastructure. It includes 5500 controllers and 1142N antennas and WCS as a management solution.

The biggest challenge now is to carry on an upgrade on our current infrastructure. Since 1142N are no longer sold officially in europe, we have to buy next generation antennas 1600 or 2600 . This forces us to invest in CPI hardware as a management solution.

Is there not a phased approach that we can follow?

Current controller version is 7.0.98...


The coinciding of the WCS to Prime release and new AP/controller hardware support in 7.2+ can create some inter-compatibility requirements across all 3 platforms (WCS/Prime, WLC, and AP) where an addition of a component (like a controller or AP) may require an upgrade of 1 or both others. As in your case, the AP2600 requires WLC code 7.2 or higher, which is not supported in WCS so an upgrade to Prime is required as well.

In a nutshell, our software release policy ensures to customers that new features will be added only in new code trains, and only bug/security fixes will be added in maintenance releases of existing trains. This helps mitigate compatibility issues with existing platforms/clients that may not support coexistence or interoperability with a newer standard or feature. In general, new AP hardware has new feature support that doesn’t exist in previous code, but does in newer code.

As a possible option for you, the 1262 and 3500 series AP’s are available and supported in 7.0 if they meet your requirements.

Wellington L


Is Cisco thinking to stop in the future with the Cisco Unified Wireless Network (CUWN) solution that is based on Wireless LAN Controllers running Airespace and going to focus only in Cisco Unified Access (UA) Wireless Solution ?

Will The CUWN structure receive in the future releases the same software (IOS) than Cisco Unified Access Wireless Solution ?

Thank You.

Hi -

Frankly, we've not heard much on the strategic plans or direction of the two platforms as they relate to each other.   There are obvious efforts to bring feature parity, and for the forseeable future improvements and features will continue to be added to both CUWN and CUA-W.

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