What’s All That Apple Traffic on My Wi-Fi Network?

By Bruce Miller

On Monday, September 13, Apple made a slew of new software releases that contain critical security patches across multiple platforms, including iOS, iPadOS, watchOS, macOS and Safari. Check out the details here. These releases are recommended to be installed by all users.

Only a week later on September 20, Apple will be releasing iOS 15 and iPadOS 15. This was announced at the September 14 Apple Event where the iPhone 13, Apple Watch Series 7 and other new products were introduced.

First of all, these security patches are important, and I would advise you do the upgrades as recommended. But second, what about all that Apple update traffic? iPhones and iPads default to downloading and upgrading new software only when they are connected to a Wi-Fi network. If that network is running in your business, school, hotel, stadium, etc., this could mean a significant amount of unwanted traffic on your network. The iOS 14.8 image is 300-400 MB. Looking beyond just this one week in September 2021, what about future scenarios (or another Pokemon Go situation) where traffic patterns shift overnight?

Application-level intelligence in the network is a key tool available to react to these types of events. Using deep packet inspection (DPI), Application Control is built directly into Cambium Networks Wi-Fi 6 and Xirrus Wi-Fi access points. Application Control enables you to quickly set policies on your network to block this type of traffic, or more realistically, to rate limit the traffic so it does not take up excessive bandwidth on the network. Conversely, your business-critical applications can be prioritized to ensure a higher level of service is provided over the Wi-Fi network. Over 2,400 applications – including video conferencing, streaming media, social media, business, educational and recreational apps – are supported by Cambium Networks’ Application Control.

Here is an example of how Application Control can be configured in Cambium Networks’ XMS-Cloud Management to limit Apple update traffic to 250 Kbps per user to minimize impact on the network:

It is important to note that not all Application Control functionality is created equal. While many wireless vendors will claim application intelligence, many have simplistic application identification capabilities that rely on URL, port and protocol detection that is very limited in granularity compared to a true DPI engine. Other vendors provide DPI but only if a separate controller or appliance is purchased and installed in the network. Cambium Application Control operates directly in the access point at the point where the wireless traffic hits the network.

In today’s environment, video conferencing applications such as Zoom, Teams, Google Meet, etc. are more important than ever to support remote work and learning. For more information on how to manage video and other application traffic across the Cambium Networks wireless fabric – both Wi-Fi access and fixed wireless backhaul – see our End-to-End QoS for Video Across the Cambium Wireless Fabric solution paper.

Published September 15, 2021