Google Pixel 6 Wi-Fi 6E Scanning and 6 GHz SSID Discovery

I’ve done some SSID discovery testing with Apple’s first Wi-Fi 6E capable client, the new iPad Pro. Let’s compare it to Google Pixel 6 smartphone running Android 13.

Same as in the iPad test, we are going to test how well the 6 GHz SSID discovery works and learn a thing or two about Pixel 6.

Discovery with 6 GHz only SSID

Let’s configure Catalyst 9136 AP running 17.9.2 release with 6 GHz only SSID. This is the only SSID this AP broadcasts. There are no 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz SSIDs enabled. They only way for the AP to discovery the SSID is to scan the 6 GHz channels. We refer to these methods as in-band discovery.

Reduced Neighbour Report (RNR), which normally uses 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz beacons to tell the client about 6 GHz SSIDs, is not available to us, because we don’t have any 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz SSIDs on the air.

We are using 80 MHz wide 6 GHz channel 7, which uses primary channel 5. That is a Preferred Scanning Channel (PSC), which means that clients should scan it. Our 6 GHz only SSID is called Cisco 6.

6 GHz only SSID is the only one enabled
Channel Number allows us to configure the Primary channel

Unfortunately, our Pixel 6 won’t discover the SSID.

No signs of 6 GHz

But, if we move the AP to channel 23, which uses primary non-Preferred Scanning Channel channel 17, the smartphone discovers Cisco 6 instantly! How bizarre.

6 GHz SSID discovered

I went through the “test all lower 6 GHz channels” exercise and here is the outcome.

When I use these primary channels, Pixel 6 will happily discover the 6 GHz only Cisco 6 SSID: 13, 17, 21, 25, 29, 33, 53, 57, 61, 65, 69, 73, 89

Using these primary channels will make the smartphone not discover it: 1, 5, 9, 37, 41, 45, 49, 77, 81, 85, 93

Here is graphical representation of this. Credits to Keith Parsons and the WLAN Pros team for creating this chart.

For the record, on some channels it took little longer to connect.

Changing channel width to 20 MHz, 40 MHz, or 160 MHz did not help with SSID discovery. Which makes me think that Pixel 6 does not scan these channels at all.

Here is what is happening on the 6 GHz channel when we only enable 6 GHz SSID (with no 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz) on the AP. The AP automatically starts broadcasting FILS frames to help the client discover the 6 GHz SSIDs.

6 GHz only SSID plus 5 GHz only SSID and out-of-band discovery

Now the torture is over and we are calling 5 GHz for help. We will use out-of-band discovery.

5 GHz only and 6 GHz only SSIDs enabled

By keeping the 6 GHz only SSID enabled, and adding 5 GHz only SSID, we will allow the AP to tell the Pixel 6 about 6 GHz SSIDs in its 5 GHz beacons. There is a Reduced Neighbour Report (RNR) Information Element (IE) included in the 5 GHz (and 2.4 GHz beacons when we use 2.4 GHz), which is the preferred way of discovering 6 GHz.

RNR IE in 5 GHz beacon informing the client about 6 GHz AP

The client failed discovery on primary channel 5. Let’s use that this time and see if RNR fixes discovery for good.

Yes! We see both SSIDs instantly. By enabling 5 GHz (or 2.4 GHz) SSID with the same or different SSID name, Pixel 6 can now discover all channels. This is the preferred way of discovering 6 GHz networks.

RNR IE in 5 GHz beacons helps the client discover 6 GHz SSIDs

Note: When RNR is active, the AP will automatically stop sending FILS frames and there is no way (and no reason, because RNR is a much better method) to force-enable FILS.

Summary

With 6 GHz only SSID (without 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz), Pixel 6 will only discover it using in-band methods if we use primary channels 13, 17, 21, 25, 29, 33, 53, 57, 61, 65, 69, 73, 89.

After enabling 5 GHz (or 2.4 GHz) SSID, Pixel 6 discovers the 6 GHz SSID by looking into the RNR IE in the 5 GHz (or 2.4 GHz) beacon frames.

I am very happy with how well the 6 GHz discovery using 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz beacons works. It definitely is production ready. The test with only one 6 GHz only SSID on the AP is more of a corner case. Most customers I work with, if not all, will also deploy 5 GHz alongside 6 GHz, so there is absolutely nothing to worry about.

Packet capture or it didn’t happen 😉

Download 2.4 GHz an 5 GHz RNR, 6 GHz FILS, and 6 GHz unsolicited probe response packet captures from here.

Download WLAN Pi Profiler report and packet capture of 5 GHz association request, and also 6 GHz association request. We can see client’s capabilities in these frames.

Bonus: Add second 6 GHz SSID and see how it impacts RNR

Same setup as before, we have 5 GHz only SSID Cisco 5 and 6 GHz only SSID Cisco 6, but this time we add an extra 6 GHz only SSID Cisco 66.

Both 6 GHz SSIDs are now advertised to clients using the RNR IE in 5 GHz beacons.

Both 6 GHz SSIDs advertised using RNR IE in 5 GHz beacons

Correct Elevation and Azimuth Wi-Fi antenna angles in Cisco DNA Center for ceiling mounted AP

This question comes up and every now and then. So, let’s put it to bed.

If you have a ceiling mounted internal antenna AP (with built-in antennas), or external antenna AP with dipole antennas (AIR-ANT2524D), or with short dipole antennas (AIR-ANT2535SD), here are the correct Azimuth and Elevation angle settings.

This is how 0° Azimuth and 0° Elevation look like. Plus “squished doughnut” as a bonus to illustrate the coverage pattern 🍩
  • Azimuth angle does not matter in this case (it does for directional antennas), because these antennas have the same pattern regardless of how you rotate them clockwise or counterclockwise. Simply use the default value of .
  • Elevation angle is for this orientation.
Cisco DNA Center Azimuth and Elevation configuration

Special thanks to Christian Gauer for his help.

Will 20 MHz capable Wi-Fi client join an SSID using 80 MHz wide channel?

Let’s take this “Back to the basics” question and test things out.

So, we have this 20 MHz capable Windows 11 Wi-Fi client and we want to see what happens when it attempts to join an SSID that uses 80 MHz wide channel. Will it associate? Will it fail?

Here is my client with Intel AX201 adapter forced to only support 20 MHz wide 5 GHz channel.

My AP uses 80 MHz channel width.

Let’s verify the settings from a Mac. Yes, the AP broadcasts 80 MHz wide “lab5” SSID with primary channel 36.

Finally, what happens if the client device is only capable of 20 MHz channel width? As you can see, it will happily join using Primary channel 36.

More capable client devices that support 80 MHz channel width will benefit from the 4 bonded channels and use the 80 MHz channel in its entirety.

Portable Catalyst 9136 Wi-Fi 6E demo powered by Zyxel 802.3bt power injector

I am building a portable Wi-fi 6E demo in a box solution. What do I use for that?

PoE powered FriendlyElec’s NanoPi R5S runs iperf3 server. Here a quick iperf3 performance review of this little, 2.5 GbE, and mighty Linux box.

My Catalyst 9800-CL controller is hosted on a cloud, so I don’t need any hardware for that. Finally, my Catalyst 9136 Wi-Fi 6E AP is powered by a Catalyst 3560CX 10 Gigabit Ethernet multigigabit switch.

6 GHz 2×2 MIMO setup powered by PoE+

Catalyst 9136 is Cisco’s premium AP with all the bells and whistles including hexa-radio architecture and built-in environmental sensors for smart building use cases. It requires an 802.3bt/UPOE power source to enable 6 GHz radio in full performance 4×4 MIMO mode. The switch I use supports 802.3at/PoE+, which is great, but 6 GHz radio downshifts to 2×2. And that’s where an 802.3bt power injector comes to the rescue.

Zyxel 5G PoE++ Injector

Cisco’s 5 GbE 802.11bt power injector (AIR-PWRINJ7=) is now available, and that’s my go to option for production use.

Since the Cisco injector isn’t widely available yet, I decided to test this Zyxel one. It provides 802.3bt power and allows the AP to run in full power and full 4×4 6 GHz radio mode with no compromise.

Do I like power injectors in production?

Absolutely not! Ideally you should design for 802.3bt/UPOE switches to power all your new APs via PoE.

It allows you to:

  • easily, centrally and remotely monitor how much power the APs use
  • enable/disable power on a port to bounce an AP
  • leverage redundant Platinum-rated power supplies for the AC to DC power conversion
  • manage the solution with ease – just think how difficult it is to manage more than 1 power injector, the number of AC power sockets, and what happens when someone disconnects the injector?
I still use C3650 UPOE mGig switch in my lab. Catalysts 9300 and 9400 the best choice these days.
UPOE and mGig capable C3650 providing full power to the AP

Final look

Carrying a full-size switch is not really an option for me, because small form factor is my main goal. So a power injector works best for me. But if I could I would love to use a compact 802.3bt switch.

Are you wondering if the PoE splitter connected to my iperf3 server (the little black box with 3 Ethernet interfaces) actually negotiated 2.5 Gbps Full duplex with the switch? Yes, it did. But keep in mind that the PoE splitter is technically only rated for 1 GbE. So use as short patch cable as possible and ideally CAT6.

Still few things to tidy up and perhaps I could build this into a nice Pelican case

Peloton bike Wi-Fi connection to a Cisco access point stopped working after a software update

Has your bike suddenly lost its Wi-Fi connection after a Peloton software update? Is it saying “Device not connected to internet”?

Here is why and how to fix it before it hopefully gets fixed in one of the upcoming Peloton software updates.

Peloton bikes use Android operating system, and they have recently upgraded to Android 10. Unfortunately, this version has compatibility issues with Cisco Wi-Fi access points and Adaptive Fast Transition feature, which is enabled by default.

To resolve the issue, simply set Fast Transition to Enabled.

Connect to your Wireless LAN Controller, go to Configuration > Tags & Profiles > WLANs > select the network > click Edit > Security > Layer2 > Fast Transition > Enabled > Update & Apply To Device. Now, test that your bike can connect, and test few other devices to make sure everything is working as expected. Then click the floppy disk icon to save this new configuration.

Portable and Powerful 2.5 GbE iperf3 Server Capable of 3 Gbps – Topton M6 Mini PC

After using FriendlyElec R5S single-board computer as a portable iperf3 server, I decided to also order and test Topton M6 Mini PC. It is more powerful, based on Intel CPU, and runs Windows 11 Pro or Ubuntu. I personally chose Windows (yes, I am brave), mainly because I also wanted to use this device as a Windows Wi-Fi client for other things than iperf3 testing.

Dimensions and case

Compared to the R5S, Topton M6 Mini PC is still portable, but about twice as large. Plastic case wraps the unit, but it is more fragile if you plan to carry it in your backpack or tool bag. There is a built-in fan which is always on. Not a big deal if you use it as an perf3 server, but little inconvenient when it runs on your desk for a longer period of time.

iperf3 performance

Topton M6 has a single onboard 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet port consistently capable of 2.35 Gbps up and down iperf3 throughput with default settings.

Consistent 2.35 Gbps iperf3 throughput

Now, can we make it go faster? Let’s see. We will use USB-A 5 Gigabit Ethernet capable Sabrent adapter. This can either be connected to a USB-A port or USB-C port of the Mini PC. In my tests, I have found that the USB-C port has limited throughput and only tops around 350 Mbps. When I connected the Sabrent 5GbE adapter to USB-C, it only auto negotiated 1 Gbps Full Duxplex.

Use any of the three USB-A 3.1 ports instead to avoid that limitation.

Use USB-A ports, not the USB-C
With the USB adapter, we get 2.94 Gbps down and 3.27 Gbps up

With the USB adapter, the whole setup get less portable. But it allows us to achieve 2.94 Gbps down and 3.27 Gbps up from clients perspective. Is it worth the extra spend? If you need to break the 2.35 Gbps barrier of the built-in 2.5 GbE port, this might be a workable solution for you.

Power adapter with an adapter

This Mini PC is quite strict when it comes to its power source. It requires 12V/2A USB-C PD adapter. Unfortunately, your USB-C MacBook or iPad chargers won’t work.

It draws around 7.5 Watts in idle mode.

If you happen to only use this PC in the US, happy days, as the power adapter ships with US plug. If you select UK during the ordering process, you will receive the US power adapter with UK adapter, which adds to its overall size.

My way around this is to use a standard non-USB-PD 12V/2A adapter with 5.5×2.1mm barrel jack connector, and a barrel jack to USB-C adapter. This particular “power brick” has a standard IEC C14 power cable connector, which you can find in any data centre and with the right European, UK, or Australian plug.

Power adapter with barrel jack + barrel jack 5.5×2.1mm to USB-C adapter
Detail of barrel jack 5.5×2.1mm to USB-C adapter

Battery power

Simply use a USB-C cable and USB PD battery pack capable of delivering 12V/2A. No surprises there.

Powered by PoE

I prefer powering equipment using PoE over local power bricks. If you are in the same boat, you can power this Mini PC by a PoE splitter.

Please pay close attention to the splitter specs. We want the one with a barrel jack and 12V/2A. Since the Mini PC uses USB-C power connector, we will use a barrel jack 5.5×2.1mm to USB-C adapter. Here is the complete setup. Press the power button and voila!

Under the hood

Most of the components are soldered to the main board with little room for upgrades. I ordered the lowest 8GB DDR4 and 128GB NVMe spec with Windows 11 Pro OEM preinstalled (no actual Windows license included).

I was hoping for the Wi-Fi adapter to be replaceable, but it is not the case. It is Intel AX201 and soldered to the board. Good enough, just not ideal for Wi-Fi professionals. M.2 slot would be ideal.

A quick look at the bottom side of the PCB shows the NVMe drive.

NVMe drive is practically the only replaceable component

Final verdict

Personally, I think this Mini PC has some great potential for certain use cases, but as an iperf3 server, I would rather use the FriendlyElec NanoPi R5S I reviewed here.

If you absolutely need to break the 2.3 Gbps barrier, it can be done with the help of a USB 5 GbE adapter, but it is not very cost effective. The Mini PC cost me £186 including shipping to the UK. The Sabrent 5GbE USB adapter costs around £65.

Finally, it you need top performance, don’t care that much about small form factor, and money is no object, the latest Apple M1 Mac Mini can be configured with built-in 10 GbE.

Portable and affordable 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet iperf3 Server – FriendlyElec NanoPi R5S

What problem am I trying to solve?

Wi-Fi standards have developed and also WAN links are fast and reasonably priced these days. When it comes to throughput testing tools like iperf3 servers, 1 Gigabit Ethernet has become a bottleneck. A Wi-Fi 6E client can now easily generate more than 1 Gbps of traffic, but how do we measure it?

To overcome that issue, I am looking for a reasonably priced portable single-board computer, which can push more than 1 Gbps of traffic. It should be powered via USB-C, battery, or PoE powered, and should be portable to fit in my “just in case I need it” tool bag.

FriendlyElec NanoPi R5S

This little FriendlyElec NanoPi R5S single-board computer (SBC) delivers everything I mentioned above. Let’s have a look.

Dimensions and case

It comes with a well designed aluminium case, which also serves as a heatsink. The whole unit is smaller than the smallest iPhone, slightly thicker obviously. It runs silent. There is no built-in fan whatsoever.

Portable? Tick! By the way, did you know that the original WLAN Pi uses NanoPi NEO2?
Left to right: WLAN Pi, R5S, Intel-based SBC I am also testing, WLAN Pi Pro

Ports

USB-C power input, two 2.5 GbE, one 1 GbE, HDMI useful troubleshooting or demos, two USB-A 3.0 ports

It has two 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet interfaces (LAN1 and LAN2) and one 1 Gigabit Ethernet interface (WAN). Either of the LAN ports delivers 2.3 Gbps of actual useful iperf3 throughput with default 1500-byte MTU and single stream. I used MacBook with OWC 10 Gigabit Ethernet Thunderbolt 3 Adapter and Cisco WS-C3560CX-8XPD switch.

From client’s perspective that’s 2.27 Gbps down and 2.35 Gbps up

Power

The R5S only draws 4 Watts in idle, and can be powered by any USB-C 5V power source. Your MacBook USB-C charger, iPad/iPhone charger, or USB-C battery pack would do. Alternatively, use a 1 Gigabit Ethernet 5V PoE splitter and PoE power the unit. In my lab with a 2 meter cable, the 1 Gigabit Ethernet PoE splitter actually allowed the R5S auto negotiate stable 2.5 Gbps connection with the switch.

PoE powered

Software

FriedlyElec built and published two operating system SD card images for the R5S – Ubuntu and FriendlyWRT. I tested both, and for my use case FriendlyWRT works best. It has a network-centric and easy to use web UI, has iperf3 preinstalled, and delivers great performance.

Initial setup and tips

R5S ships without any micro SD card, so make sure you have one ready to use. Flash the software image to it using Balena Etcher or similar tool.

Connect the WAN port to a network with existing DHCP server. If you are in the same subnet, simply ping FriendlyWrt.local to get the IP address of the R5S.

Then access the web UI or SSH to the unit, SSH is enabled by default. Change the root password now.

Now, this is important! To achieve maximum throughput, delete the pre-configured bridge interface br0, and configure both multigigabit eth1 (LAN1 port) and eth2 (LAN2 port) as standalone unbridged interfaces. Also, tweak IP address settings to your liking while you are there.

eth1 configured as a standalone interface. Bridge interface removed.

Make iperf3 automatically start by going to System > Startup > Local Startup and add iperf3 -s and hit the Save button.

Change CPU Governor setting to Performance. And CPU Minimum Frequency to the maximum value.

Here is the FriendlyElec documentation and introduction to their FriendlyWRT distribution.

Final verdict

This little single-board computer absolutely deserves its space in my tool bag. For the 2 GB RAM model with case I paid $88 including shipping to the UK. Add a Micro SD card and that’s all you need to get started.

Finally, it you need top performance, don’t care that much about small form factor, and money is no object, the latest Apple M1 Mac Mini can be configured with built-in 10 GbE.

Cisco Catalyst C-ANT9103 antenna unboxing

If you have not had a chance to see the new Cisco Catalyst antennas for Catalyst 9130AXE access points, here are a few photos of the C-ANT9103 antenna for your reference.

Size, weight, mounting options

The official installation guide provides all this information and much more.

The optional access point “pocket”

Optionally, you can order an AP + antenna collocation “pocket”, which the Catalyst 9130AXE slides nicely in. It is aesthetically pleasing it, and all it takes to install the AP and antenna is a single mounting bracket. You don’t have to worry about mounting the access point and antenna separately. This drastically simplifies temporary deployments – just think about Cisco Live for example.

Previous generation with a separate AP bracket and antenna bracket
The new collocated, and aesthetically pleasing, solution with AP installed just behind the antenna

Unboxing

Please always refer to the official Cisco documentation for the latest information and package contents.