It's Time for 802.11r

It's been just shy of 2 years now since the IEEE ratification of the 802.11r amendment in July 2008, and there is little sign of vendors, either infrastructure or client, moving to implement it.

Perhaps this is a testament to the value of pre-standard fast roaming techniques such as CCKM and Opportunistic Key Caching (OKC). OKC has been available on Windows platforms since Windows XP, albeit administrators were required to install a special package (KB917021). Funk Odyssey has also included support for OKC for quite some time prior to their purchase by Juniper. CCKM, meanwhile has only been implemented by a marginal subset of client vendors due to the more proprietary nature of the protocol, and usually only when pushed by large customers with Cisco infrastructures.

However, the value of a standards-based fast roaming method cannot be underscored. It's value will be tremendous with the growth and adoption of voice of wireless technologies, especially as ABI Research and Gartner have released studies predicting large adoption of VoWiFi and Fixed Mobile Convergence (FMC) in the enterprise by 2014. Smartphone adoption of WiFi is set to explode as well.

http://www.abiresearch.com/press/1465-Enterprise+FMC+Will+Grow+at+a+CAGR+of+27%25,+Reaching+Over+27+Million+by+2014

http://www.wi-fi.org/news_articles.php?f=media_news&news_id=795

http://www.abiresearch.com/press/1579-802.11n+To+Feature+in+87%25+of+Wi-Fi-Enabled+Smartphones+in+2014

Also, I am disappointed by the slow progress of the WiFi Alliance in developing interoperability certifications for fast roaming. They have been talking about releasing the Voice-Enterprise certification for some time, but have been slow to act in developing this program. They have released the Voice-Personal certification, but that only includes testing of voice quality on single access point, and does not include enterprise-grade equipment with multiple access point deployments requiring client roaming. What's the deal WiFi Alliance, let's get this program moving!

I am encouraged by some recent developments by the largest wireless vendor, Cisco. In their latest release of controller code just last week, version 7.0 includes the ability to enable 802.11r fast BSS transition on a per-WLAN basis. Kudos to Cisco for stepping out in front and putting a stake in the ground saying "let's get this technology moving people." Now it's time for other vendors to follow (I'm talking to you client vendors!!!).

Here are the commands to view and configure the 802.11r fast roaming in WLC 7.0 code:

(Cisco Controller) >show wlan 6


Security
802.11 Authentication:........................ Open System
Static WEP Keys............................... Disabled
802.1X........................................ Disabled
Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA/WPA2)............. Enabled
WPA (SSN IE)............................... Enabled
TKIP Cipher............................. Enabled
AES Cipher.............................. Disabled
WPA2 (RSN IE).............................. Enabled
TKIP Cipher............................. Disabled
AES Cipher.............................. Enabled
Auth Key Management
802.1x.................................. Enabled
PSK..................................... Disabled
CCKM.................................... Enabled
FT(802.11r)............................. Disabled
FT-PSK(802.11r)......................... Disabled
FT Reassociation Timeout......................... 20
FT Over-The-Air mode............................. Enabled
FT Over-The-Ds mode.............................. Enabled


(Cisco Controller) >config wlan security wpa akm ?


802.1x Configures 802.1x support
cckm Configures CCKM support
psk Configures PSK support
ft Configures 802.11r fast transition 802.1x support


Now, everyone, let's get moving on this! The business need is upon us, let's not let WiFi be the barrier to new and exciting service opportunities.

Andrew

P.S. - For an overview of 802.11r Fast BSS Transition, see the excellent CWNP whitepaper of the same title (free account registration required).

http://www.cwnp.com/index/training/freeresources/whitepapers