In this age of digital transformation, everyone is dependent on and accustomed to a fast working internet. Digital technologies such as BYOD, IoT, and cloud computing are changing the nature of our work and social habits. This means having a consistent and updated network to facilitate user habits and working patterns. Depending on the type and nature of your environment, high or low density, a wireless site survey elevates network efficiency. Therefore, wireless site surveys are essential before getting a new network installed.
Managing network coverage can become complex in high-density environments where many devices are connected to the wifi, such as airports, hospitals, lecture halls, and stadiums. The wifi site survey in such areas plays a curial role in managing the capacity and coverage of the network to keep the system and our daily routine functioning. Here are the methods to plan and conduct effective site surveys for high-density environments.
What are High-Density Wifi Deployments?
High-density wifi deployments are design strategies applied to areas that require an extensive network connection. A high-density area has more than 30 clients connected to an AP. This includes large campuses, multi-floor buildings, stadiums, theatres, offices, and large event spaces. To cater to a large audience, these high-density wifi deployments are based on prior surveying and design testing. This makes the network pervasive and robust. Moreover, it works efficiently in office spaces with BYOD  and “wireless first” policies, where employees carry two or three connected devices. In high-density wifi strategy, key factors analyzed are access point placement and mounting, access point receive sensitivity, transmit power, client radio type ratio, applications used, and other throughput considerations.
A site survey is performed according to the site’s requirements; hence, not all surveys are the same. Additionally, there are two network deployments; coverage-based and capacity based. The coverage-based model determines the fewest access points to provide sufficient coverage throughout the area. Although this model is not fit for all sites, it doesn’t consider the number of clients, their capabilities, and their applications’ bandwidth needs. In a high-density environment, coverage and capacity can be the requirements; therefore, you will use these practices mentioned to cater to the requirements.
1. Capacity Planning
In wireless environments today, planning a network according to its capacity is crucial. This reduces the need for conducting wifi site surveys after installation, saving resources. Capacity planning entails calculating these components;
- Number of connected devices per person
- Number of specific people covered by a single AP in an area
- Percentage of active users
- Types of applications and throughput covered
- Mix of applications
- Types of clients in the network
When capacity planning is not carried out thoroughly, it results in poor performance of your network. Excessive contention and congestion of devices because of this translate to low network quality, buffering, latency, and frustratingly slow applications for users, and lots of complaints to IT or the network owner. Therefore capacity planning is carried out extensively. It starts by creating wifi requirement areas for different capacity densities, establishing devices and usage profiles, and moving to access points determination and placement.
2. Bandwidth Requirements
Determining the bandwidth for the wireless network is crucial. It tells what applications will be used and how much bandwidth will be consumed per application in terms of throughput per user. This establishes the type of applications used and the bandwidth requirements for the number of users expected on the wireless network. This means if the number of users increases, then throughput per user decreases, causing slower transmission rates. Therefore, the types of applications used are identified, and the bandwidth per application is determined accordingly. This can be done by multiplying the total Mbps with the expected users in the coverage area, giving you aggregate bandwidth requirements.
3. Access Point Throughput
When installing a new network or updating it, the access points need to be estimated considering the capacity requirements of the site. Increasing the APs is not always favorable, as it can reduce capacity due to channel contention and overlapping. You may require APs with external antennas and a focused coverage pattern for a high-density area. This way, you can add more ratios to high-density areas, ensuring increased capacity with a better spread of users and recused overlapping.
To reduce AP throughput, some factors you should consider are protocol and packet overhead, slow or far away clients, uneven distribution of clients, control traffic, co-channel and adjacent channel interference, network re-transmissions, and bad behavior clients.
4. Site Survey & Design
Finally, take note of all the essential details to analyze the actual physical onsite requirements. The physical onsite survey will further clarify the needs of the high-density area, such as RF propagation. When you perform an active site survey, you get a lot of information, such as the data rate coverage and the range. Moreover, you can perform spectrum analysis on the site to identify all the potential RF interferences, and then you can remediate them. Then before the actual deployment, carry out a stress test. In which you validate the design and ability of the network to handle the amount of traffic in the area.
The change in our lifestyles due to digital transformation affects our need for fast-paced and efficient networks. With BYOD, IoT, and cloud management-like technologies taking over our personal and professional lives, such wireless networks must be designed to cater to them. In high-density environments, more than one device carried by the user using multiple applications is connected to the network. This increases the demands on throughput. All these network requirements can be met by performing a wireless site survey determining your capacity and coverage needs. This enables your network to serve well in high-density environments.
1. What is a high-density wifi site survey?
A high-density area is a network where one single AP has around 25 to 30 active users. Meeting the network requirements of such an area can be complex. Hence site survey is performed before network installation to meet the coverage and capacity requirements of the room.
2. What is the purpose of a site survey?
A site survey aims to determine the co-channel interferences and identify radio interferences where all these interference can cause problems for the network—additionally, installing minimal APs to provide optimal coverage.
3. What calculations are performed in an active site survey?
During the active site survey, the measurement is signal strength, transmission rate throughout, round trip time, and packet loss in all site areas.
4. How is a site survey performed?
A physical inspection of the area is done in a wireless site survey. After this physical inspection, the wireless radio frequency network is installed. This inspection analyzes wireless coverage, data rates, network capacity, roaming capability, and quality of service.