WLPC 2023 Phoenix: Almost-live blog

It’s February 2023 in Phoenix, and that can only mean one thing: the Waste Management Open. Oh no, wait, Super Bowl LVII. Oh yeah, but it also means a gathering of the top wireless professionals in the industry from around the globe have converged on the Hilton Peak resort for five days of intensive boot camps, deep dives, and talks to help understand where the Wi-Fi industry is, where it’s going, and where it needs to be. It’s WLPC time!!

Sure, there are some great stories, scavenger, hunts, giveaways, late night trips to In-N-Out, coffee exchanges, carbomb drinking competitions, and clandestine meetings around bottles of bourbon, but we can talk about the social aspects of day one later. For now, let’s catch up on the highlights.

Why the Presentations and 10-Talks Are Important

Unlike regular events that give you an agenda for things that they think you’re interested in, WLPC prides itself on having one out of every five people be a presenter on topics that are proposed and voted on by the attendees. That means that whoever is up on the stage, is put there by the audience. It also means that their presentation is based on what the industry as a whole is currently wondering how to work with, struggling with or just generally interested in. It’s definitely a great touch point for vendors and manufacturers to see what their customer’s mindset is.

Day 1 Trends and Takeaways

Without a doubt Wi-Fi6E and Security were the takeaways. At one point a presenter even joked “Oh gosh, here we go again, another security session“. The initial session by Jim Palmer was a great one dealing with the physical aspects of Wi-Fi, from antennas to design. The next few sessions seemed to meld together the conversation of what is going on with Wi-Fi 6E and 6 GHz as well as how to continue to secure networks. There were fantastic talks from Jennifer Minella, who’s book highlights the larger conversation that she had at the event, the Extreme Networks team talking about best practices for stadiums and sporting events, Phil Morgan providing some detailed security recommendations, Wes from Juniper (without anyone interrupting his presentation this time to hand out APs) and Darrell from Ruckus with updates on current statistics from 6 GHz deployments.

Overall, it seems that everyone was keenly interested in how far along 6 GHz was from the deployment perspective, with the ever looming questions of, “is anyone actually using it” and “should we just skip 6E and move straight onto Wi-Fi7”.

Tl;dr: Very few are using Wi-Fi6E because of lack of clients, but those that are using it are having good experiences, roaming well, and more secure.

There have been some fantastic product announcements. First from Hamina Wireless showing off product feature enhancements that have been long requested from the industry to anyone who is willing to listen. From automatically aligning floors in the software to one click import and export to cloud-based management vendors (like Meraki, Arista, Juniper and more!) Hamina is proving that they can be as quick and nimble as some of their competitors once were. They even announced support for the competitive product, the NetAlly AirCheck G3, as a way to collect and supply survey data into their tool. As if that weren’t enough, there’s support for WLANPi as a low-cost alternative to something like a sidekick got a ton of applause, right before they announced their own version of something similar to the compatriots Ekahau sidekick at a price point around $1000 – which puts them at less than half the cost of their competitor.

Industry and community favorite Adrian Granados got on the stage to give an update from Intuitbits about his Wi-Fi explorer and other incredible software. He used the time to thank everyone for their support while showing off some new feature enhancements and support for Wi-Fi6e before making the thunderous announcement that his software would be coming to Windows. The crowd was pretty subdued up until that point, and it erupted with cheers and applause as soon as he said it. Definitely a highlight of the day for a large segment of the crowd.

Analyzing 2×2 vs 3×3 at In-n-Out with the Ekahau team

The evening continued with happy hour events from some of the vendors before groups split up to try and find some solid food to mix with all of the libations. After a late night run to In-N-Out, who refused to make me a 10 x 10 burger to share with my friends, it was back to the hotel to rest up for day two. No massive multi-meat for us. But as Andrew Stern pointed out on twitter, we’re all SISO anyway. Lol.

Day 2 of WLPC Phoenix 2023: Second verse, same as the first?

Day two of WLPC has come and gone. To say it was more of the same, I feel is just about accurate. We talked a lot about Wi-Fi 6e, 6 GHz Wi-Fi 7, security and sprinkled in some product updates from WLANPi, nOversight and where we are as an industry.

David Coleman did what David Coleman does, expertly walked us through the transition to 6 GHz and explained why Wi-Fi 6e is a bigger transition then it’s getting credit for. The move to 6 GHz is essential for the future of of Wi-Fi. He likens it to vehicle traffic: anyone using 6GHz has access to a special road that they can drive on, while 2.4 and 5 GHz are stuck on a congested highway. In my opinion, his slides and descriptions were some of the best in the industry. He always does such a tremendous job explaining these concepts with just a few resonating graphics. Definitely a highlight of the show.

Jerry Olla gave a great update on the WLANPi project, now officially launching the M4 in the US after showing it off at the WLPC in Prague late last year. Along with the new model, he showed off some exciting projects that are using the WLANPi as a foundation for their work, including some awesome Wi-Fi 6e test rigs that Jake Snyder is using and a CBRS version of the WLANPi.

It’s fantastic to see the continuing development on this project, including the partnership ecosystem, like Hamina Wireless announcing their ability to use it as an input device for their software. Moving WLANPi to a development platform as well as an awesome tool opens up so many exciting opportunities. I’m glad to see so many people using it creatively.

Bob Friday pulled a Total Bob Friday and gave a great talk about the future of Wi-Fi. He pointed out where we are and where we need to be, with a timeline and map showing glimpse into a way to get there.

That sparked a late night conversation between myself and a whole group of people (Phil, Kevin, Steve, Peter, Onno, Mannon, Tom, Richard, Brandon, and more) discussing the future of network as an SLA adapting the network as a service model, similar to what Nile (who had a brief presentation at WLPC) is bringing to the table. Can the network run itself? What % of problems does that solve? What about the remaining problems the network can’t auto-fix? Are “smart hands” reliable? Is Wi-Fi racist? I mean, we went off a bit of ledge, but it was good.

Also, special shout out to Bob for his great quote: “If OpenWiFi was was around when I started Mist, I wouldn’t have built an access point.” A whole lot of us worked really hard so that people like Bob could say stuff like that. Kudos to the whole OpenWiFi team. Chetan, Thomas, Jack, Chris, Howard, Lauren, Eran (both of ya!), and Dan.

There were some great 10 talks as well, but nothings” stood out as much is Bryan Ward from Dartmouth University discussing mDNS. This is one of those sessions that needed way more than 10 minutes. He talked about mDNS on his network and showed what he learned after collecting an insane amount of packets to do research on how it affects his network. His point of why you should disable it as soon as you get home, honestly, had people flipping open their laptops mid-presentation and creating filters subduing the mDNS traffic on their network. So many of us were so engaged, that I don’t think anyone on Twitter even talked about it. I would definitely look out for that video when it becomes available. Slides available here.

At night I finally got to launch my WiFiStand WLPC fox hunt! I took a Netool Pro and stashed it somewhere on the campus of the hotel then encouraged everyone to try and find it using whatever tools they had.

People were walking around with laptops, Sidekick 2s, NetAlly AirCheck G2’s, G3‘s, and nXGs, and all kinds of contraptions to try and find the device.

At the end of the day, Tom, who happened to be walking by decided to flip on his iPhone’s airport utility and put in the work to get the job done. Congratulations, and I hope to step it up next year and really appreciate everyone who participated in the first WiFiStand WLPC FoxHunt!

Overall, this WLPC has been great so far. We’ve received tons of product updates, great information on the future of Wi-Fi and how to secure it, and it’s even been peppered with a bit of futuristic discussions. I’m really looking forward to day three, a glimpse in the future with Peter Mackenzie, and wrapping up the show. Thanks for reading, more to come.

More updates after the event!

To keep up with the play-by-play, follow me on Twitter @wirelessnerd

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