June 10, 2016 / by Becki / In wifi

WiFi Isn't as Easy as it Looks

We do a lot of WiFi deployments and we fix a lot of WiFi deployments. We see too many deployments, even in 2016 where people don’t understand some of the basics about access point deployments. Here are a few things to know or think about before you install an access point (AP):

  1. The channels in the 2.4 GHz band overlap. The only channels that do not overlap are 1, 6, 11. Those should be the only channels you use in your deployment. Will it “work” if you use channel 2, or 5, or 10? If by work, you mean will your wireless client be able to connect, then the answer is probably. But, why put yourself at a built-in handicap for slow speeds? Basic stuff, but we still see it too often. Please tell your friends.
  2. WiFi design is about compromise. We can use our software to create a predictive design for you, but you might not like an AP installed where it looks like bad art in your lobby or guest rooms. Sometimes we have to install it behind or underneath furniture. Just remember that you’re going to have to maintain it, so put the APs where you can get to them relatively easy. And turn off the status lights when installing in hotel guest rooms, so the guests won’t unplug them (or worse) when they want to turn off the bloody bright, blinking lights.
  3. There are limits to what can be compromised however. RF is subject to the laws of physics, so installing an AP a long distance from the user and expecting optimal speeds is unrealistic.
  4. No, you can’t just install one, great big AP to cover 15 acres.
  5. Can’t we just turn the APs up to full power, or just install a bunch of APs to cover any gaps? No, not unless you want to DoS yourself. You will create co-channel interference. It’s like having everyone in a room start yelling and you’re trying to hear the person next to you. It works best when everyone speaks in at a reasonable volume.
  6. Design for the lowest power client you intend to support. In most cases, this means phones. Laptops and tablets are larger, so they can have better antennas and higher power transmitters than phones. Take that into account when establishing your design standards…
  7. You do have performance standards - right? Most of our clients don’t, and that’s OK, because we help them determine what they need. But you do need to define success, or you’ll get an AP that covers a space with a signal, but the 100 people trying to connect to it will be most unhappy with the performance. This is why most hotel WiFi irritates hotel guests.
  8. Don’t forget the back haul. Wireless actually requires lots of wires. How are you going to get the cable to the AP? Is it within distance? How can you keep the conduit costs down? What’s the bandwidth available for the entire network and to each AP? Will you have to mesh to reach the APs at the pool or parking lot? What’s the available throughput going to be then?

These are just a few things to consider before you install an AP.

We start by looking at what our clients’ need, what devices and applications they intend to use on the network. Then, we look at capacity and throughput requirements. We’ll design to those requirements and plan for growth. Then, we walk the space to see where we can install the APs without breaking the client’s budget for conduit and cabling. There may be some interior design considerations that we take into account as well. After all of that, we deliver a design along with an estimated timeline for installation.

That’s how we deliver WiFi that works!