Cisco Mobility Express

Finally, my lab setup is ready now, just right before start working on the CCIEW 3.1 labs. in this version of the exam, Cisco introduced the Mobility Express (ME) solutions. ME is a Controller-less design in which a capable AP will take the role of the wireless controller and allow other Lightweight (CAPWAP) APs to join it. this enables SMB to benefit from a controller-based wireless network without the need to buy a separate controller.

the so-called Primary AP is still serving the wireless clients, this is similar to the Aruba Instant APs if you’re familiar with. eventually, the Cisco Aironet ac wave 2 APs don’t have an autonomous software (IOS) image instead we got a COS image with the “smarter” Mobility Express on top, this allows the AP to provided the same functionality as an autonomous AP (W/O WGB) and at the same time serve lightweight APs to provide central management of the WLAN.

to summarize; ME AP has 2 roles/ personas, on one side it’s a lightweight (CAPWAP) AP which eventually will join its own second persona, a Wireless Lan Controller (WLC). ME AP can join any other WLC as well.

ME is supported on 3800, 2800, 1850 and 1830 APs, those APs can control other APs such as 1700, 2700, and 3700 Series.

Configuring Mobility Express

in my lab, I have an 1852 AP with CAPWAP image, the AP is connected to a wireless LAN controller running AirOS code 8.3.133, this AP didn’t have the right ME. to check the current AP you need to issue the “show version” command. now we are looking for the following

AP Running Image :
Primary Boot Image :
Backup Boot Image :

the highlighted green lines will appear only if you have a mobility express image, the required image can be downloaded from Cisco’s support site and transferred via tftp to the AP.

LAP2#ap-type mobility-express tftp://

after this process ends the AP will reboot and we’ll get 2 option to configure the ME

1- CLI – this is very similar to normal AireOs controllers initial setup, step by step wizard.

2- GUI – the ME will broadcast  a special SSID, connect to this on and open the browser to go through the setup wizard:

SSID: CiscoAirProvision Security: WP2/AES/PSK , PASSWORD: password

when configuring the controller we’ll log in automatically to the ME interface which is similar to the WLC CLI, to move to the AP role issue the command: apciscoshell

(Cisco Controller) >apciscoshell
!!Warning!!: You are entering ap shell. This will stop you from establishing new telnet/SSH/Web sessions to controller.
 Also the exsisting sessions will be suspended till you exit the ap shell.
 To exit the ap shell, use 'logout'

User Access Verification
Username: admin

going back to the controller interface issue the command: logout

LAP2>logout (Cisco Controller) >

to wrap everything up we need to keep in mind the following points when dealing with ME solution:

  • the ME might be a good choice for SMB customers or Branch offices where only several APs are needed.
  • ME supports only a Flexconnect deployment model, local mode APs are not supported.
  • management interface traffic is untagged, therefore if the switch port configured as a trunk port, the management VLAN should be configured as a native VLAN on this port.
  • because of the ME AP acts as a slim version of WLC it doesn’t have image files to support other APs join an image upgrade process. when a supported AP with a different version joins the ME controller it will try to download the image from the ME which should point on the TFTP folder contains the proper software.
  • all APs should reside on the same VLAN in order to be managed by the ME controller.

I’ll keep updating this post with more information on mobility express; the following link contains the Cisco documentation regarding Mobility Express