Don't Worry, -B Happy

By Nate Hock, Product Engineer


2016 has had its fair share of news, both good and terrible (Gene Wilder, David Bowie, Prince, Alan Rickman? All that on top of the NES Classic shortage?! Come on 2016!). Amongst all of the major pop culture events, some of the more obscure headlines went largely unnoticed except by the more tech savvy.


One of those was the FCC regulation change on 5 Ghz wireless radios (US only). The official document FCC 14-30A1 was released in April of 2014; however, the enforcement of the ruling wouldn't happen until June of 2016.

This would be the two-year grace period that companies, such as Cisco, were given to make the upgrade and cease the sale of the old standard 5 Gghz radio spec. In the case of Cisco, this was a shift from the -A part number to the -B part number now present in their new wireless AP SKU's.

What’s the difference?

As you can imagine, the change from -A to -B is no simple matter. Over the bridge and through the woods? No, but there were certainly changes that customers should be aware of:

  • Several new frequencies (UNII Band 1 5150-5250 MHz) and channels now allowed for outdoor use
  • That same UNII 1 Band now increased to 1W of power (with restrictions on outdoor use)
  • Terminal Doppler Bands now available with new DFS requirements (DFS lets wireless exist around emergency/military radio without interfering)
  • New power and emission requirements for the UNII 3 Band (5.725-5.85 GHz)

That's it! Doesn't seem like a lot. The changes only impact the 5 Ghz radio, and even so most are related to outdoor use. It’s possible these changes don’t affect you because you are not currently using 5 Ghz outdoors—but for many customers this change is a big deal.

This video helps explain what you can expect from the change from -A to -B part numbers.

How does this change affect me?

While the change from -A to -B part numbers may offer more utility, it is also limiting in some ways. Even though the adaption was necessary, that doesn’t mean it won’t create unintended headaches. Like what? I’m glad you asked.

The -B access points will require newer controller software. The recommendation I'm seeing most often is or higher. Beware when upgrading if you have older AP's in your environment because newer software could mean a loss of compatibility for some older hardware.

Don't worry, -B happy! It's not all doom and gloom! If you currently have -A hardware you can continue to use it. -B and -A access points can coexist, and no mandate is forcing you to upgrade. However, if you buy new from Cisco it will be all that is available. As time marches on we will see -B's replace more and more of the -A's that are currently all over the US today. 

You may want to -B proactive, and that’s ok. You can -B sure CXtec is more than happy to help as you make your transition. If you do decide to wait? Nothing to fear. We'll -B ready when you are!