Wireless LAN technology: A buyer's guide
A collection of articles that takes you from defining technology needs to purchasing options
Editor's note: This product overview on Meraki wireless access points is part of a series on buying wireless LAN technologies for the enterprise that compares cloud-controlled WLAN versus locally managed WLAN. We look at the buying criteria for cloud-managed WLAN products and the criteria for buying locally managed WLAN solutions. We also compare the top cloud-controlled wireless LAN vendors in the market and the leading vendors in the locally managed WLAN market.
The Cisco Meraki wireless access points (APs) product line fills a variety of business needs. Meraki wireless access points are fully cloud-controlled, so the only purchase requirement is to select the AP you need and decide if you want a one-year, three-year or five-year cloud license. Meraki APs are ideal for small to medium-sized enterprises or large enterprises that are geographically dispersed.
Cisco's Meraki product line offers six AP options: four indoor models and two outdoor. All indoor models utilize internal antenna arrays and cannot use external antennas. The outdoor APs require external antennas and Meraki provides four different external antenna options. The MR18 indoor AP is the lowest-end Meraki wireless access point and is a good fit for remote sites with general use needs. The hardware features three radios that operate using 802.11a/b/g/n in the 2.4 and 5 GHz frequency ranges. The two-stream radio provides a maximum throughput of 600 Mbps. One radio is dedicated for radio frequency (RF) security and management. The antenna system is built into the unit and does not offer external antenna capability.
The MR26 indoor AP is essentially the same as the MR18, with the exception that the MR26 uses a three-stream radio that provides a maximum throughput of 900 Mbps when using the 802.11n protocol. It's best suited for areas with high concentrations of users.
The MR32 is an 802.11ac access point that also has a dedicated radio for security and management. The Wave 1 AP uses a two-stream radio that can provide throughput up to 1.2 Gbps. Like the others, it uses an internal antenna system. What sets this AP apart from the others is the fact that it includes the integrated iBeacon technology used for location tracking. The ideal use case for this would be retail or indoor public areas where user tracking is desired.
The MR34 is the flagship Meraki wireless access point. This radio uses three streams and provides throughput up to 1.75 Gbps. Like all other models, it includes a separate radio that's dedicated for security and RF management purposes. The MR34 is best placed in areas where there will be a very high concentration of devices that can utilize the latest 802.11ac protocol for optimal throughput performance.
This series focuses on "cloud-controlled" wireless LANs, which are configured and managed entirely from the cloud, and only the access points remain on location. By contrast, "cloud-managed" WLANs are managed partly from the cloud and partly through on-site equipment.
The MR66 and MR72 are ruggedized outdoor options that are designed to withstand heat, rain and snow. The MR66 uses the same two-stream 802.11n radio system found in the MR18, while the MR72 leverages the two-stream 802.11ac radio found in the MR32 indoor AP. Both products are designed to be deployed outdoors -- though they can also be used indoors where ruggedized APs or external antennas are preferred. These deployment scenarios include areas such as warehouses or manufacturing plants, which typically have more physical obstructions to overcome.
Meraki licensing is incredibly straightforward. Every access point on the network must have a license. If the license expires, the AP no longer functions. You can purchase AP licenses for one, three or five years. Regardless of which AP model you choose, the license pricing is exactly the same, which makes it incredibly simple to understand and budget for. A one-year license costs $150, a three-year license costs $300, and a five-year license costs $450. Meraki also offers router/firewall and switch appliances, which are managed using the same cloud-based management interface as the APs. This allows users to manage an entire remote site infrastructure.
Pricing and availability
The Meraki MR18 costs $649, the MR26 costs $1,099 and the MR32 costs $799. The MR34 access point costs $1,399, the MR66 costs $1,299 and the MR72 costs $1,599.
Meraki wireless access point hardware and licensing is purchased through Meraki's partners. They offer free evaluations and a free AP to eligible businesses that attend a live webinar.
Learn how to defend your wireless APs.
Learn more about moving between APs.
Know what to look for when buying an AP.
Prepare your network for the 802.11ac standard.