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Cisco and Apple: a collaboration steeped in technical innovation

By Matt MacPherson, Cisco

March 23, 2021

Since 2015, Cisco and Apple have collaborated on innovations that optimize users’ connectivity to the digital world. The two companies have a shared goal of maximizing the user connectivity experience as well as IT’s ability to support them. To make this happen we co-develop solutions that deliver application-specific optimizations between devices and wireless networks. These solutions combine network and device analytics to help network managers solve issues faster, ensure reliable and secure connections, and configure business-specific policy for increased productivity.

Making Wi-Fi 6 Smarter, Welcome to life in the Fastlane+!

I’m extremely pleased about our latest collaboration with Apple called Fastlane+. Fastlane+ builds on our current Fastlane QoS capability by adding advanced scheduling intelligence to optimize the application experience. This allows Fastlane+ to better understand application requirements and dynamically schedule network resources to meet them.

With Fastlane+ we’re applying the technology in the Wi-Fi 6 standard for deterministic scheduling (OFDMA and TWT). In highly congested environments (60% Channel Utilization or more) Fastlane+ enables iPhone and iPad devices to send an Advanced Scheduling Request (ASR) trigger to Cisco Catalyst Access Points. This notifies the network that a user is initiating a Webex, FaceTime, or other mission-critical, latency-sensitive application.

The Fastlane+ ASR trigger consists of information such as the periodicity of the traffic and its bit rate. Because voice and video traffic typically have predictable bit rates, traffic patterns, bandwidth, and latency requirements; Fastlane+ allows the network to estimate the client’s demand and preemptively schedule airtime on the access point. This provides mutual optimization for both the device and network and enables the network to intelligently make decisions on how it produces the best experience for the end user.

A better user experience for business critical, latency sensitive applications

With Fastlane+ the goal is to make sure the network can provide the best overall experience for iPhone and iPad users in congested environments. It was developed with the goal to minimize delay while optimizing throughput characteristics deterministically. In addition, we made Fastlane+ easy; device users don’t turn it on, they’re not even be aware of it, the magic happens behind the scenes using AI in both the device and the network. In real-world test environments, the AI proved itself; Fastlane+ showed a dramatic increase in MOS scores and throughput while significantly decreasing latency and jitter.

 
*The benefits listed are ideal assuming a 70 – 85% channel utilization network

As previously mentioned, Fastlane+ delivers an overall better quality of experience with increased reliability for real-time traffic applications in congested environments. As Cisco and Apple continue to work together, we do so with shared set of values that help deliver intelligent networking and exceptional user experiences.

For more detail into how Fastlane+ works, check out the Fastlane+ whitepaper

Tune in to the Cisco Champions Radio podcast for a deep dive into the technology behind Fastlane+

Lastly, have a look at the Cisco and Apple wireless partnership page for more information our other innovations.

*Fastlane+ is currently available on the Cisco Catalyst 9130 Access Point.
*Fastlane+ is available in IOS XE 17.4.1 as a CLI command only. Future versions will include a GUI option.

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