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HD Video over Wi-Fi - Aruba Debunks Cisco ClientLink 2.0, 4x4 MIMO, and Video Performance


Today I am putting the issue of Cisco’s superior AP technology (ClientLink 2.0, 4x4 MIM) and video density performance vs. Aruba to rest once and for all. Unlike Cisco, we have not paid for an “independent 3rd party” to write up a report in which no configuration or setup information is shared. Instead, we have provided all test setup, methodologies, and configurations for both vendors. We have also made every attempt to optimize Cisco per their latest documentation and best practices and provide an apples-to-apples comparison.


Aruba’s Technical Marketing team has completed a set of repeatable tests comparing Aruba’s AP-135 AP running software to Cisco’s 3600 AP running 7.2-103 software. We have taken each of the Miercom tests in sequence and have refuted each one in turn.


First we take a close look at “rate vs. range” performance using Ixia Chariot and comparing Aruba to Cisco at several locations, and we demonstrate that ClientLink 2.0 and 4x4 MIMO are still inferior to Aruba’s built-in performance and ARM benefits:


  • Aruba outperforms Cisco at three non-line of sight (NLOS) locations for both TCP download and TCP upload performance by 11-13% at 30’
  • At 120’, a MacBook Pro cannot connect to the Cisco network but is able to maintain a decent throughput with the Aruba AP
  • Aruba performs 50% better than Cisco for an iPad tablet that is rotated to a vertical orientation
  • At some key testing locations, Cisco performs better with ClientLink 2.0 off than on

Next we tackle video density, and there are essentially three main tests: HD multicast streaming using VLC media server and a mix of laptops running 2 or 5 Mbps streams, a high density of iPads running TCP unicast Air Video, and a high-performance density mix of clients and applications.


For the multicast streaming test, we leveraged Aruba’s distributed dynamic multicast optimization (D-DMO) feature to provide the highest video scale in the industry today. Aruba accommodated 16% more 2 Mbps videos than Cisco (51 vs. 44), and 25% more 5 Mbps videos than Cisco (39 vs. 31) with good quality. The iPad test included one iPad which was mirroring to an Apple TV, and other iPads were added until poor quality (buffering and freezes) was observed. Aruba accommodated 31% more iPads streaming 1 Mbps video than Cisco (21 vs. 16).


The high density mixed application test was a bit more complex, as there were different client types (3x3, 2x2, 1x1, Intel, Broadcom, Apple TV) and applications (multicast video, unicast video, AirPlay, large data file transfers) all operating simultaneously in a highly dense scenario. Aruba was able to accommodate 37 clients in this heterogeneous mix, and the following comparison was made with Cisco:


In the Aruba case, high quality video (both 2 and 5 Mbps video) was observed without any artifacts, including pixilation or video freezes. The iPad videos did not exhibit any buffering or video quality issues. The Apple TV stream was low-latency, reflecting what was seen on both the iPad and the projected screen simultaneously. The 11 GB FTP file download never timed out.


For Cisco, the HD video (both 2 and 5 Mbps) experienced a significant amount of pixilation artifacts and video freezes across all laptops. There was noticeable buffering on the iPads playing TCP video. The Apple TV had difficulty mirroring, and there was significant latency between the iPad and the projected monitor. Finally, the 11 GB FTP file download timed out in the middle of the test.


The key here is that Cisco is not optimized for BYOD high-performance, application delivery, does not have an integrated stateful firewall, and does not outperform Aruba in any test.


Finally, we ran a large file transfer to a tablet and showed comparative battery drain performance. We did not see any significant differences in battery life at the end of the test (6% drains for both Aruba and Cisco).


Did we do this in an Aruba location?  Yes.  The difference is that Aruba stands behind the test data we have provided. A link to the test report with all configuration changes for both vendors is provided here for you to test yourself.


Test report at


And, as we like to do at Aruba, we provided a video to keep you all entertained during the test! 


Check it out at

Occasional Contributor I

guys, this is really funny. Who can believe at these results?


You are the vendor, if you have great products you will never need to do a test like this.

Guru Elite



The point is that nobody has to just believe the results.  The configs used to get these results are right in the test report. They can use the same config (both Cisco and Aruba) and try it themselves.


Many people question what configuration a vendor or 3rd party uses to get the results they publish.  That question has been answered in the test report.




Super Contributor I
I'm curious...what are the configurable TX power leveled on the Cisco side? Your test setup has it at "1", but I imagine this is not their highest power. Conversely, your test setup has Aruba configured with the highest min-tx-power. It seems this is a variability that could explain the lack of performance parity. Also, I noticed that the forwarding mode is set to decrypt-tunnel, bringing some processing down to the AP. Isn't it true most of your customers are using the standard tunnel forwarding mode? I'm curious as to how this would impact your results, as well.

Ryan - this was a HD test with a good number of clients (>30+) associated to the AP within a 30 foot area, all of them using the network to stream a bandwidth intensive (5 Mbps video is a Netflix quality) application. We configured both the vendor's AP's to transmit at maximum power - the reason why Cisco is set to 1 (which is the max power as per their config guide) and Aruba's ARM profile was modified to not bring down the tx power for any reason.

Aruba has the architectural flexibility to enable multi cast to unicast conversion either at the controller or at the AP. For networks where centralized encryption is a requirement - the AP's are depoyed in the tunnel mode. There are many customers - across different verticals that have deployed AP's in tunnel mode, with multicast video on their network. For e.g. Liberty University is a customer of our's who have multiple HD channel (about 15, if I am not mistaken) streamed across the campus for IPTV services. For networks - where it is not a mandate, we also offer the choice to go with the d-tunnel( distributed encrption model) - similar to what Cisco offers.For a HD video bake-off we recommend the d-tunnel mode.


If you notice Cisco's claims - it is important to point out that they do not have this architectural flexibility. In the testing performed by them they compared their default mode (which is more in line with d-tunnel) to Aruba's tunnel mode of operations. In addition lot of other best practise knobs were not turned on - which was the reason why they were seeing bad results. We wanted to do an apple-to-apples comparison with our d-tunnel mode and the results have been published.


New Member

Hey, I had one question, so how did you ensure that video bandwidth was 2Mbps and 5Mbps specifically?

Aruba Employee

@ RttSnk - Yes, that is correct. We connected the clients one at a time and started VLC network streaming on each of the clients to connect them to the multicast stream that was playing from the VLC server on the network.

New Member

I actually edited my question and am asking now that how did u ensure that video bandwidth was 2 and 5 Mbps???

Aruba Employee

@RttSnk: Great question ! For ensuring that the video bandwidth was 2 Mbps or 5 Mbps (based on video bit rate used on the server), we looked at the input bit rate reported by VLC statistics on the client devices and made sure they matched.

New Member

@ Neil

I am asking this beause when I see that if we transcode on server, it doesnt give the option of 5Mbps, it goes upto 3Mbps

Aruba Employee

@RttSnk - Before I can answer that question, a few unknown variables here:

What bit rate is the original video stream you are using ? (without transcoding)


If the original video stream is greater than 5Mbps and if you are using VLC for transcoding, you have the option to select the bit rate of the Video codec used under a particular profile you select. Hope this helps !



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