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Cisco Aironet wireless access point: Product overview

Cisco wireless access points target a wide range of deployments, including small and midsized businesses, large enterprises, and warehouse or manufacturing environments.

Editor's note: This Cisco Aironet wireless access point product overview 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.

Cisco Systems offers one of the most robust on-premises WLAN product lines on the market. This product overview will focus on Cisco's enterprise-grade wireless access points (APs) that target midsize and large organizations. Of the vendors covered in this WLAN series, Cisco and HP/Aruba are the only two that provide end-to-end networking solutions. Many companies value buying from a single vendor to lower support costs and simplify troubleshooting problems that span both wired and wireless networks.

Indoor APs

The 1600/1700 series is the entry-level Cisco Aironet wireless access point for midsize enterprises with offices or small warehouses. Both the 1600 and 1700 support a dual, two-stream radio. The 1600 is an 802.11n radio that delivers a maximum data rate of 300 Mbps. The 1700 is an 802.11ac radio delivering a maximum data rate of 867 Mbps. These models have only internal antennas with no external antenna option.

The 1850 series offers customers a high-throughput AP with basic functionality. It includes an 802.11ac radio with four streams that delivers up to 1.7 Gbps data rates. While this is the fastest AP Cisco offers, it is not fully compatible with Cisco's advanced wireless connectivity and congestion mitigation features that include ClientLink 3.0 or CleanAir 2.0. The 1850 is ideal in medium-sized environments that have low wireless congestion, but require high data throughput. These models can be ordered with internal antennas or with external antenna connectors.

The 2600/2700 series are dual radio, three-stream APs. The 2600 series uses an 802.11n chipset that delivers up to 450 Mbps data rates, while the 2700 uses an 802.11ac Wave 1 chip that delivers up to 1.3 Gbps throughput. Up to 200 devices can be connected to each AP without noticeable performance degradation. These APs are the lowest-end models that support most of Cisco's advanced connection and wireless congestion mitigation features. The models can be ordered with internal antennas or with external antenna connectors. These are best suited for medium to large enterprise environments with high client density.

The 3600/3700 series are flagship Cisco Aironet wireless access points with all the latest features and functions. They are for use in large enterprise deployments and in indoor warehouse or manufacturing scenarios. The 3600 series uses a three-stream 802.11n chipset that delivers data rates up to 450 Mbps. The 3700 series uses a Wave 1 chip that delivers up to 1.3 Gbps throughput. One major differentiating feature of this series is a modular design that allows other wireless radios to be attached. This could be used to upgrade to 802.11ac Wave 2 radios, wireless security modules or even 3G small cell radios. It makes this line the most future proof of all the APs reviewed in this series. All models can be ordered with internal antennas or with external antenna connectors.

Outdoor APs

The 1550 series is an outdoor AP with wireless mesh capabilities. It also includes an integrated chip used to detect and mitigate radio frequency interference, which is common in outdoor environments. The 1550 series uses a two-stream 802.11n chip and provides a maximum data rate of 300 Mbps. The weatherproof design can operate in extreme cold and heat. Different models include options for integrated as well as single or dual band external connectors.

The 1570 series is a high-end line of outdoor Cisco Aironet wireless access points. They utilize three-stream 802.11ac Wave 1 chips that can deliver 1.3 Gbps data rates. The access points come only with an external antenna connector option that uses N-Type antennas.

Pricing for the Cisco Aironet wireless access points vary by the model chosen, but both the 1600 series and the 1700 series start at about $375. Prices for the 1850 series are confidential, but pricing for the 2600/2700 series starts at about $450. The 3600 series costs about $650. The 1550 series starts at around $2,500, and the 1570 series price is confidential. Cisco Systems uses standard support contracts for its controllers. SmartNet support can include phone/email support, remote troubleshooting, firmware upgrades and defective hardware replacement.

Next Steps

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

This was last published in September 2015

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