Designing Gigabit Wi-FiApril 20th, 2016 by Sam Cobley
It’s not good enough to just have Wi-Fi coverage
In practice you are never going to see an 802.11ac reach its theoretical maximum of 1.3 Gbps because you need laboratory, not office conditions to do so. However if you want to maximise the speed of your wireless network you need to understand that it’s not good enough to just have Wi-Fi coverage.
An enterprise grade Wireless LAN (WLAN) access point (AP) can cover 5,000 to 10,000 ft2 depending on the power settings, antenna gain, and physical environment. Sadly planning a WLAN isn’t as simple as drawing circles on a floor plan to determine where your APs need to go.
BYOD has become mainstream
Historically WLANs were designed to maximise the service area with the fewest APs possible, however this was before bring-your-own-device (BYOD) became mainstream. Nowadays people have up to three wireless devices each: a smartphone, tablet and laptop. These are often constantly connected to the network and are potentially running bandwidth-hungry applications such as VoIP, Office 365 and HD video.
Many old WLANs aren’t meeting modern bandwidth demands because planning for coverage and planning for capacity are very different things.
Designing for Capacity
Obviously, designing for capacity is more complicated than designing for coverage because more factors need to be taken into account such as;
- How many users (and therefore devices) will be covered by one AP
- How many of these users will be active at once
- What applications are being used and what the throughput demands of those are
- Which spectrum will be utilized (2.4GHz or 5GHz)
- The physical layout of the surroundings/building
To make sure the WLAN provides adequate bandwidth to support the capacity requirements you often need to install a greater number of APs set at a lower power so that they don’t interfere with one another. Other techniques such as load balancing ensure those APs provide good reception to the maximum number of devices possible. This is where a tool like Ekahau Site Survey really comes into its own. It allows you to troubleshoot, plan and create Wi-Fi networks according to your performance and capacity requirements, whilst taking into consideration the increasing amount of wireless clients and applications such as VoIP, HD video streaming and web browsing.