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Hardware WLC vs Mobility Express

Hey all!

New 1832/1852 APs  are able to chose the controller among themselves and work without hardware WLC.
So do they in Mobility Express connected mode have any disadvantages compared to hardware solution?

Specifically I have a network of ten 1832i/1852i aps. The network should have seamless roaming between cells.
So will Mobility Express on 1832/1852 provide 802.11k/r/t roaming without hardware WLC or I should add 2504 to the system?
What advantage would I have if opt for hardware controller?

Philip D'Ath

I always prefer the hardware controller.  Mobility Express has closed a lot of the feature holes over the last 12 months, but I always run into something that is only supported on the hardware controllers that I would like to do.

Mobility Express is also hardware solution. The difference is that it uses AP's internal calculation power instead of dedicated device. 

It may be reasonable taking in account that iPhone in my pocket has more power that 7 years old PC and wlc 2504 was first introduced in 2010.

So again the question - is Mobility Express limited in any way compared to hardware WLC especially in roaming features?

ME is limited in features and only in small installs would I even try suggesting ME.  2504 does so much more than a ME AP, but with ME, you have multiple ME AP's as backup.  ME is a product to replace autonomous AP's. it was designed to make it simple for novice users to setup and limits what you can configure. That is the big difference.  Just because the 2504 has been out for so long, just shows you how stable the hardware is. A newer version will come out this year sometime. 


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I am asking because I could not find any comparison in features between ME and 2504 besides AP quantity.

You writing that 2504 does so much more - could you please elaborate what exactly it does that ME does not.

My install is small - just 10 APs as I said - and it will never grow up above 25. The main goal is roaming seamless enough for VoIP not interrupting when AP is switched. Would you recommend 2504 in my case?

You need to review the config guide and or get one to play around with.  Mobility Express is very new and again, if you look at the config guide, you will see that you don't have all the knobs you have on a 2540, 5508, 552, 8540.  Roaming should work fine with the ME, but again, since the 2504 and other hardware appliance has been around and still being updated, not many have gone with ME.  I would still go with a 2504 to be honest as I run that at home as my lab also and my home production.  I do have ME AP's, but I don't ever use them unless I'm testing things.


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Link Aggregation in 1852 is supported with Mobility Express?

LACP is only supported with Cisco Switches?

The feature differences are software version dependent, so you have to look in the release notes of each release to see the differences.

Here is an existing post I did saying what features are not available:

Features Not Supported on Cisco Aironet 1830 and 1850 APs

  • Cisco Virtual Wireless Controller
  • Mesh mode
  • Flex mode
  • Monitor mode
  • Sniffer mode
  • Workgroup Bridge (WGB) mode
  • OfficeExtend mode
  • Enhanced Local Mode (ELM)
  • Integrated BLE
  • Basic spectrum analysis
  • USB-based Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) device support
  • Cisco CleanAir
  • Cisco Wireless ClientLink 3.0
  • Rogue Location Discovery Protocol (RLDP)
  • Cisco Compatible eXtensions (CCX) Specification
  • 802.1x supplicant for AP authentication on the wired port
  • Static WEP key for TKIP or CKIP
  • Dynamic Transmit Power Control (DTPC)
  • Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) and Common Criteria
  • 40-MHz Rogue detection
  • Native IPv6
  • Telnet

Thank you - it explains everything I need!


So if someone will ever face the same question in short words in ME compared to hardware WLC we don't have:

1. No CleanAir which is not supported by 1830/1850 anyway. Feature called Spectrum Analysis is promised in feature releases instead.

2. No DTPC - which is US only function that allow using frequencies normally occupied by radars. In other countries its illegal.

3. No rogue detection by now which is not supported by 1830/1850 for this moment. Feature called wIPS planned for feature support. 

4. No ClientLink which is Cisco beam forming technology and again it is not supported by 1830/1850 today.

In short words if we are not speaking about complicated huge-network stuff that is unlikely to be used in networks below 25 APs - hardware WLC only supports features of 2800/3800/2700/3700 APs. If you are using 1830/1850 family of APs - everything hardware WLC has as advantage is not supported by Access Point!

So for today if its a new setup and you buy 18xx APs less then 25 points - hardware WLC is a waste of money.

If you have existing networks with 27xx and 37xx. Using ME effectively downgrades them to 17xx by disabling CleanAir and RogueDetection. 

If its a new setup and you buy 28xx and 38xx hardware WLC is a must - cause main features are not supported by Mobility Express.

It really depends on the requirements the customer has. I have had customers whom had smaller offices and the requirements dictated a WLC and not Mobility Express. Now ME in the future can expand past 25 access points, it's just when Cisco believe they are ready to open that up. The key for Mobility Express is simplicity and it's great for customers whom in not so technical because there is not much you can change. Mobility Express was Cisco's answer to Aruba Instants, but Aruba Instant has no max number of AP's and has many more knobs (supported feature and adjustments) than ME.  When I was beta testing this a few years ago, the main purpose was not to get ME to be like a WLC but to make it simple like having a wireless router you buy from a store.  Don't compare too much the 18xx series because it again was Cisco answer to having the first wave 2 AP. Going forward with ME with future newer AP's, it will most likely stay the same as being simple.

The saying for both Aruba Instant and Cisco WLC is, if you need advanced features, get a controller.  Aruba is getting close with parity with their controllers but can be overwhelming to support from a non-technical person.

You can find more info on the release notes also:


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I'm new to the communit and hope that I'm not using it wrong.


Quick question;


do you guys know if the master AP will still work as access point?

Hello there,


Yes Master AP is still working as AP.

In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not. – Albert Einstein

I agree...

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