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Cisco Aironet 5 GHz 54 Mbps Wireless LAN Client Adapter

The Cisco Aironet® 5 GHz 54 Mbps Wireless LAN client adapter is an Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) 802.11a-compliant CardBus adapter that operates in the UNII-1 and UNII-2 bands. The client adapter combines performance and mobility with the security and manageability that enterprises require.Wireless LAN client adapters can increase productivity by enabling mobile users to have network and Internet access anywhere within a building that is equipped with a wireless network infrastructure. Wireless client adapters connect a variety of devices to a wireless network either in ad hoc peer-to-peer mode or in infrastructure mode with access points. With this client adapter, you can quickly add new employees to a network, support temporary workgroups, or enable Internet access in conference rooms or other meeting spaces (Figure 1). And the Cisco Aironet client solution is easy to use, making the benefits of wireless mobility completely transparent.


The Cisco Aironet 5 GHz Wireless LAN Client Adapter is part of the award-winning Cisco Wireless Security Suite, which supports 802.11i, Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (WPA2), WPA, and numerous Extensible Authentication Protocol (EAP) types. WPA and WPA2 are the Wi-Fi Alliance certifications for interoperable, standards-based WLAN security. These certifications support IEEE 802.1X for user-based authentication, Temporal Key Integrity Protocol (TKIP) for WPA encryption, and Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) for WPA2 encryption. These certifications help to ensure interoperability between Wi-Fi-certified WLAN devices from different manufacturers.

Figure 1. Client devices equipped with 802.11a wireless client adapters can roam freely throughout a facility via communications with multiple IEEE 802.11a access points and dual-mode access points.


Fast secure roaming is supported by Cisco and Cisco Compatible client devices in conjunction with Cisco Aironet access points. With fast secure roaming, authenticated client devices can roam securely from one access point to another, within or across subnets, without any perceptible delay during reassociation. Fast secure roaming supports latency-sensitive applications such as wireless voice over IP (VoIP), enterprise resource planning (ERP), or Citrix-based solutions (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Fast Secure Roaming


The Cisco Aironet Client Utility, with an intuitive graphical user interface, provides an easy way to configure, monitor, and manage the Cisco Aironet 5 GHz Wireless LAN Client Adapter. Enhanced client network management features include:
  • Site-survey tools-Easy-to-understand detailed graphical information to assist in the placement of access points (Figure 3)
  • Troubleshooting facility-Step-by-step details on the process of connecting to an access point that highlights why a connection failed (Figure 4)
  • Profile Manager-Create specific profile settings for various environments, such as the office or home, making it simple for telecommuters and business travelers to move from one environment to another
  • Customized Profile settings-Individually select channel, service set identifier (SSID), WEP key, and the authentication method for different locations
  • Cisco LEAP authentication status screen-Status updates regarding the Cisco LEAP authentication process
  • Autoselection of Cisco LEAP profile-Automatic selection of a Cisco LEAP profile without having to store the Cisco LEAP username and password in the profile
  • System Tray icon-Easy access to wireless LAN connection information and one-click access to common actions such as selecting the right profile for a wireless LAN (Figure 5)
  • Aironet Client Monitor-Optional application that runs "behind" a System Tray icon and provides a subset of Aironet Client Utility features such as status information about the client adapter and access to basic tasks such as selecting a profile
  • Support of popular operating systems-Windows 98/98SE, Windows 2000, Windows ME, Windows XP, Mac OS 9.X, and MAC OS X (10.2 or later)

Figure 3. Site survey tools included with Cisco Aironet Client Utility assist in the correct placement of access points.

Figure 4. Troubleshooting Facility gives step-by-step details on the process of connecting to an access point.

Figure 5. System Tray icon provides easy access to wireless LAN connection information and one-click access to common actions.

Client firmware, drivers, utilities and security modules are easily installed using the Cisco Aironet Wireless LAN Client Adapter Installation Wizard for Microsoft Windows operating systems. The wizard can run in an interactive mode or in an automated "silent mode" without user interaction, triggered by existing IT software distribution tools. The wizard image file is a self-extracting executable (.exe) file (Figure 6).

Figure 6. Cisco Aironet Wireless LAN Client Adapter Installation Wizard for Microsoft Windows operating systems.


Cisco's innovative radio and antenna design delivers industry-leading 802.11a enterprise performance. It provides for maximum capacity and scalability across the enterprise through eight non-overlapping channels in the UNII-1 and UNII-2 bands. The integrated 5 dBi gain patch antenna optimizes range. The -68 dBm receive sensitivity at 54 Mbps provides high-data-rate range performance. Advanced signal processing in the Cisco Aironet 5 GHz Wireless LAN Client Adapter helps manage the multipath propagation often found in office environments and intelligent filtering addresses ambient noise and interference that can decrease network performance. Various transmit power settings on the Cisco Aironet client adapter enable you to select range capabilities.

Table 1. Product Features and Benefits

Product Features


Industry-Leading Security

WPA Certified Cisco Wireless Security Suite includes IEEE 802.1X mutual authentication with Cisco LEAP, EAP-FAST, PEAP-GTC, PEAP-MSCHAP V2, EAP-TLS and EAP-SIM, Cisco TKIP, and WPA TKIP support.

Multiple Transmit Power Settings (20 mW/(13 dBm), 10 mW/(10 dBm), and 5 mW (7 dBm)

Provides flexibility to limit RF coverage. Multiple transmit power settings are especially useful when coupled with one of the broad antenna offerings to direct or limit RF coverage.

Hardware-Accelerated WEP Encryption

Minimum degradation when encryption is enabled, resulting in maximum throughput.

Quiet Mode

Forces the client adapter to become quiet (to passively scan or listen) when its associated access point is turned off. The client generates radio frequency energy only in direct response to an access point transmission. It applies to individual cards rather than profiles and can be set differently for different cards remaining in effect across Aironet Client Utility sessions and computer reboots.

Table 2. Product Specifications

Part Number

• AIR-CB20A-x-K9 (802.11a CardBus Adapter with Antenna, x = Regulatory Domain)

• AIR-CB20A-x-K9-40 (802.11a CardBus Adapter with Antenna, x = Regulatory Domain, 40 Pack)

• A=Americas

• S=Singapore

• T=Taiwan

• J= Japan

• Not all regulatory domains have been approved. As they are approved, the part numbers will be available on the Global Price List.

Form Factor

• CardBus Type II


• 32-bit CardBus (PCI)

Operational voltage

• 3.3 V (+/- 0.33 V)


• Status (green) and Activity (amber)

Data Rates Supported

• 6, 9, 12, 18, 24, 36, 48, 54 Mbps (configurable as fixed or auto selecting to extend range)

Network Standard

• IEEE 802.11a

Frequency Band

• 5.15 to 5.35 GHz (FCC UNII 1 and UNII 2)

• 5.15 to 5.25 GHz (TELEC)

• 5.15 to 5.25 GHz (Singapore)

• 5.25 to 5.35 GHz (Taiwan)

Media Access Protocol

• Carrier sense multiple access with collision avoidance (CSMA/CA)

Wireless Medium

• Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM)


• (OFDM sub-carrier)

• BPSK @ 6 and 9 Mbps

• QPSK @ 12 and 18 Mbps

• 16-QAM @ 24 and 36 Mbps

• 64-QAM @ 48 and 54 Mbps

Selectable Operating Channels

• FCC: 8 channels (UNII-1 4 channels and UNII-2 4 channels); 4 channels for Japan, Singapore, and Taiwan

Receive Sensitivity (typical)

• 6 Mbps: -85 dBm

• 9 Mbps: -84 dBm

• 12 Mbps: -82 dBm

• 18 Mbps: -80 dBm

• 24 Mbps: -77 dBm

• 36 Mbps: -73 dBm

• 48 Mbps: -69 dBm

• 54 Mbps: -68 dBm

Available Transmit Power Settings

• 20 mW (13 dBm)

• 10 mW (10 dBm)

• 5 mW (7 dBm)

• Maximum power setting will vary according to individual country regulations.

Current Steady State (typical)

• Transmit: 520 mA

• Receive: 580 mA

• Sleep: 20 mA

Range (typical communications to a 1200 Series Access Point with a 5 GHz radio module using a 6 dBi gain patch antenna or 5 dBi omni directional antenna)

Omni directional Antenna:

• Indoor:

–60 ft (18m)@ 54 Mbps

–130 ft (40m) @ 18 Mbps

–170 ft (52m) @ 6 Mbps

• Outdoor:

–100 ft (30m) @ 54 Mbps

–600 ft (183m) @ 18 Mbps

–1000 (304m) @ 6 Mbps

Patch Antenna:

• Indoor:

–70 ft (21m) @ 54 Mbps

–150 ft (45m) @ 18 Mbps

–200 ft (61m) @ 6 Mbps

• Outdoor:

–120 ft (36m) @ 54 Mbps

–700 ft (213m) @ 18 Mbps

–1200 ft (355m) @ 6 Mbps



• Safety:

–UL 1950

–CSA 22.2 No. 950-95

–IEC 60950

–EN 60950

• Radio Approvals:

–FCC Part 15.401-15.407

–RSS-210 (Canada)

–EN 301.893 (Europe)

–ARIB STD-T71 (Japan)

–AS 4268.2 (Australia)

–EMI and Susceptibility (Class B):

–FCC Part 15.107 and 15.109

–ICES-003 (Canada)

–VCCI (Japan)

–EN 301.489-1 and -17 (Europe)

• Other:

–IEEE 802.11a

–FCC Bulletin OET-65C


Power Management

• 3 levels of power consumption available, including:

–CAM (Constantly Awake Mode)

–Fast PSP (Power Save Mode)

–Max PSP (Maximum Power Savings)


• Integrated 5dBi gain patch antenna

Security Architecture Client Authentication and Encryption

Cisco Wireless Security Suite supporting WPA and WPA2, including:

• Authentication

–Provides 802.1X support, including Cisco LEAP, EAP-Flexible Authentication via Secure Tunneling (EAP-FAST), Protected EAP-Generic Token Card (PEAP-GTC), PEAP-Microsoft Challenge Authentication Protocol Version 2 (PEAP-MSCHAP), EAP-Transport Layer Security (EAP-TLS),
EAP-Tunneled TLS (EAP-TTLS), and EAP-Subscriber Identity Module (EAP-SIM) to yield mutual authentication and dynamic, per-user, per-session encryption keys (WPA and WPA2).

–Provides MAC address and standard 802.11 authentication mechanisms.

• Encryption

–AES-CCMP encryption (WPA2).

–TKIP encryption enhancement: key hashing (per-packet keying), message integrity check (MIC), and broadcast key rotation via Cisco TKIP or WPA TKIP.

–Support for static and dynamic IEEE 802.11 WEP keys of 40 and 128 bits.


• Windows 98/98SE, Windows ME, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Mac OS 9.X, and Mac OS X (10.2 or later)

Dimensions (HxWxD)

• 0.19 in. (0.49 cm) x 2.13 in. (5.4 cm) x 4.46 in. (11.3 cm)


• -30º to 70ºC; 95% humidity (noncondensing)


• Limited lifetime

Wi-Fi Certification

Cisco Aironet 5 GHz 54 Mbps Wireless LAN Client Adapter (CB20A)