Meraki changed the Wi-Fi industry when they released cloud-managed access points (APs). Companies rely on Meraki APs for mobility and ease of management, whether that is in the classroom to connect many devices or in the warehouse for handheld scanners in fulfillment centers.
Our guidance to people is to start with planning and design before upgrading their APs. There is much to consider before determining a model and quantity.
A few AP models on Meraki’s product page can leave a network administrator wondering which one is suitable for their environment. While there may be a handful of models listed, there are three indoor models to compare. They are the Meraki MR56, MR46, and MR36.
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Indoor Meraki Wi-Fi 6 Access Points
Table 1.1 compares each one at a glance. Meraki is ideal for cloud management and ease of use with its simple dashboard when it comes to warehouse deployment. But most handheld scanners today do not support Wi-Fi 6 yet. But if you’re in the process of upgrading your APs, then Wi-Fi 6 is a clear upgrade choice.
|Protocol||Wi-Fi 6||Wi-Fi 6||Wi-Fi 6|
|Ports||5 Gigabit Ethernet||2.5 Gigabit Ethernet||1 Gigabit Ethernet|
|Purpose||High density||High density||General Wi-Fi|
Typically, warehouses do not need high performance. They need reliability and mobility. We recommend looking into the MR46E because of the external antenna capabilities. In extreme conditions, such as freezers, industrial environments, and outdoors, look to the outdoor MR76.
Enterprise and classroom environments will need to look into high density and capacity requirements. The expectation is many laptops, and mobile devices will be connecting to Wi-Fi. Often, the application usage will be unknown; therefore, network administrators must design for high density, and capacity will be required. In typical open office environments, the MR46 can manage up to 40-50 devices with medium application demands such as HTTPS traffic, email, and web browsing. In our designs, we typically aim for about 25 devices per AP.
But don’t set the MR36 aside. It’s an ideal AP for general coverage. In many environments, desktop computers connect with Ethernet.
Will the higher performance of the MR56 be needed? Wi-Fi networks with 80- or 160 MHz wide channels will utilize the 8×8:8 radio and 5 Gbps Ethernet port. In our experience, the environments we have been in have not reached this level of performance because of radio frequency limitations such as co-channel contention.
Outdoor Meraki Wi-Fi 6 Access Points
There are situations where Meraki indoor APs cannot stand up to extreme conditions such as rain, sun, dirt, and freezing temperatures.
The MR86 and MR76 are your options with various antenna selections to shape the Wi-Fi signal. The MR86 will require a higher PoE requirement and is capable of doing Multigigabit compared to the MR76.
In our experience, the MR76 is a fully capable AP. More importantly, it comes down to antenna selection. The type of antenna used determines the coverage. We’ve seen many opt for omnidirectional dipole antennas. Consider where Wi-Fi coverage will be required and ask a Wi-Fi expert to identify an antenna that will provide improved Wi-Fi quality for devices.
|Protocol||Wi-Fi 6||Wi-Fi 6|
|Ports||2.5 Gigabit Ethernet||1 Gigabit Ethernet|
|Purpose||Outdoor high density||Outdoor general Wi-Fi|
Features Included Without Advanced Licensing
Meraki offers many features within the enterprise AP license. An example of these features are:
- Location Analytics
- Wireless Health
Location Analytics enables a location to expand its offerings. By getting data into data such as dwell time, a site can optimize its operations and improve the end-user experience, such as developing a custom application that leverages location-based services from the Meraki APs.
Wireless Health gives network administrators a way to view issues on the Wi-Fi network. Meraki continues to update Wireless Health that lowers the amount of time it takes for a network administrator to identify Wi-Fi problems.
Wireless intrusion prevention system (WIPS) from every Meraki AP increases the security posture to identify rogue APs that may be disrupting services.
The application programmable interface (API) extends Meraki’s capability for the network administrator to enable additional efficiencies and further simplify operations.
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