Why Wi-Fi Planning Prevents Poor Performance

Date March 1, 2017 Author Comments Leave your thoughts

WiFi survey planning

Planning for Wi-Fi is the MOST essential part of any wireless project –  as the old British Military adage goes: Prior Planning Prevents P@#s Poor Performance.  ‘Tongue-in-cheek’ the use of language may well be, but the sentiment is far from glib; those who fail to plan prior to any major project or event set themselves up for mild annoyance at the very least and total disaster in the very worst cases.

In terms of planning and deploying wireless LAN, businesses should view site surveys as an investment in their future, a fail-safe or guarantee that their shiny new network will perform as expected and won’t end up costing them dearly at some point down the line, either in direct monetary terms or through the undesired  acquisition of a poor reputation (a particularly pertinent point for the Hotel and Hospitality sectors).

So, your hotel Wi-Fi miss-behaving? Kidding! That’s not what this blogs about, (there do seem to be plenty of blogs on this subject).

However, joking aside, before you can even get to the stage of querying “how good the hotel, building, office or warehouse Wi-Fi is”, many detailed steps must be navigated in the process of designing and implementing a successful WLAN or Wi-Fi solution.

Why Are Site Surveys So Vital?

From initial enquiry, the information gathered during a site survey will be used to estimate not only how much and what type of hardware and cabling to use or where best to place the access points, but the amount of time/man hours it will take to install.

So, in an ideal world, an on-site or active survey will always be the preferred course of action, as this will garner the most accurate data about the proposed RF environment. An active survey entails the use of an actively transmitting access points (AP) positioned at various locations and a Wi-Fi enabled laptop to measure the RF signal in the proposed physical environment.  Being, obviously far more involved than the previous sentence would suggest!

Unfortunately, sometimes on-site surveys may simply be an impracticable option! Maybe the deadline for “going live” is too close to warrant a potentially labour intensive site survey or perhaps the site in question simply doesn’t exist yet or has limited access.  So, game over?

Predictive Wi-Fi Surveys

Well evidently not (hence the blog), so what’s the other available option?

Predictive Surveys, a virtual survey using computer-based software programs.

As you would imagine, to perform a predictive site survey, tailored software programs are used. These can model the proposed site RF environment and can be an acceptable option when planning for small WLAN deployments.  Although for larger, more complex deployments, follow up on-site surveys may be required.

These programs allow you to import plans or blueprints on which to super-impose and define the sites structural outlines and material types to estimate the RF signal attenuation and minimum signal strength thresholds.

From this the number of APs, type and locations can be modelled to give the optimum resilient coverage and also plan for the power and channel settings of the APs to minimize co-channel and adjacent-channel interference.

‘Co-channel interference (CCI) is the crosstalk from two different radio transmitters using the same frequency.

‘Adjacent-channel interference (ACI) is the interference caused by extraneous power from a signal in an adjacent channel.

AutoCAD

In conjunction with using a predictive site survey application, another key bit of software that we here at Ensign Communications use is the drafting package AutoCAD. This is used also for planning, design and documentation of various WLAN/LAN solutions.

With AutoCAD we can take original electronic drawings and clean up the plans by removing ambiguous detail or even import PDFs or raster images to re-scale one-to-one, if needed and export into compatible file formats i.e. dwg, png, jpg.

So when the plans are then imported into the RF planner, we have a true scale representation of the building, site, office or warehouse (or hotel!) to help achieve the most accurate results.

Once APs have been located in their optimum position and the desired coverage is obtained we can, using AutoCAD again, plot these AP positions back in the drawing. We can then draught in the CAT5/CAT6 and Fibre runs necessary, not only for all the APs but for any LAN data outlets and data cabinets etc.

Utilising the various tools in the drafting software, cable lengths, basket, cable trays and other containment quantities can be worked out, giving accurate margins for facilitating materials procurement and documentation.

Confidence in Your Wireless Network

Although a predictive survey model will never be 100% accurate, by utilising these software applications and employing the in-house expertise of specialist companies such as Ensign Communications, a predictive site survey can result in a Wireless LAN solution that meets all necessary requirements to a high degree of confidence.

Badly behaved business Wi-Fi need never be a limitation again.

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Author Durand Wordsworth

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