5 Tips To Better Wireless Planning [A Wi-fi Network Design Guide]

Imagine not being able to check-in with your e-commerce business or not being able to send out a time sensitive email because the Wi-Fi connection is bad. Bad wireless planning is one of the great frustrations of the modern workplace. You’ve been there. Everyone is so dependent on unlimited access to the internet that any disruption can instantly sour our moods. Every business needs strong, reliable Wi-Fi, and any Wi-Fi network can be improved with this wi-fi network design guide.

Make Goals

Creating Wi-Fi networks is not as easy as one may think. Effective networking is the result of clear planning, but planning can only be effective after your business’ goals are set. Any network needs to have expectations for traffic, security and physical dimensions. After you know what the network needs to do and what problem it is solving, you can design it effectively.

Plan For Performance

Setting goals is extremely important, but so is having a product that performs flawlessly. First and foremost, one should measure signal strengths of Wi-Fi and background noise. This will allow you to identify weak spots and allow you to improve the signal where necessary.

Devices can cause background noise which will make it difficult for Wi-Fi devices to interact with each other. Cordless phones, video transmitter, audio devices and even bluetooth devices emit signals that Wi-Fi isn’t able to demodulate. A simple spectrum analysis will help you visualize, identify and locate the source of noise.

Understanding What Signal-to-Noise Ratio Is

We’re sure you’re familiar with what poor Wi-Fi signal is like. Apps, websites and emails take forever to load. This is a result of low signal-to-noise ratio. Similar to people having conversations, Wi-Fi devices need a sufficient amount of signal strength to overpower the background noise.

Similar to poor Wi-Fi connections not being able to connect to the internet, low signal-to-low- ratio means there is not enough strength from the signal to overcome the background noise. Wi-Fi devices require a strong signal strength in order to overpower the background noise. Ideally, you want a high Signal-to-Noise ratio.

However, there are numerous ways to achieve a higher Signal-to-Noise ratio. One quick fix is to improve the locations of Wi-Fi routers and access points. Another fix is to increase the transmit power on Wi-Fi devices.

Conducting a Site Survey

We just talked the talk, but can we walk the walk? You bet! Here’s a breakdown of what our survey process looks like.

1. Gather blueprints and/or floorplans
2. Determine where Access Points can be located. Consider power and cabling capability
3. Use a survey tool such as Ekahau to run a predictive analysis
4. Run a second survey post-deployment to measure actual R/F
5. Adjust AP placement as necessary

Position Antennas for Maximum Coverage

One of the essential components of point to point wireless network design is antenna placement. In a physical sense, a network layout floor plan is the map for each component's position. There are a few things to keep in mind when discussing antenna placements. The first is antenna directionality. Standard Wi-Fi antennas are omnidirectional, but you can get semi-directional and directional antennas. The shape of the area you’re servicing determines which is best for your layout.

Even with omnidirectional antennas, the strong signal is mostly two-dimensional. Antennas broadcast perpendicular to their length. The most common tip in the business is to array antennas perpendicular to each other in order to maximize your wireless network coverage area.

The other major factor is range. As a ballpark, you can expect any given antenna to have a range diameter of 100 feet, but higher gain antennas can change range dramatically. Ultimately, you need to know the expected range of each antenna and account for expected signal loss (going through walls, ceilings, etc.). That will enable you to create a wireless network diagram that provides a strong signal everywhere you need it.

Dual Band Networking

Perhaps the most vital aspect of your network design is anticipating traffic. High traffic requires more channels and more switching to prevent interference and slowdowns, and one of the most cost-effective way to increase traffic support is with dual-band networking. There are two approaches. You can simply offer both bands to all users and allow the increased number of channels to mitigate stress, or you can devote each band to a specific purpose. For many businesses, it’s sensible to put internal traffic on one band and limit guest traffic to the other.

With so many components of Wi-Fi design, it’s easy to see why sticking to the basics is so important. Here’s a quick recap of those points:

  • Start by making goals.

  • Planning around your goals is largely an exercise in managing a budget.

  • Antenna position is the key to preventing dead zones.

  • The weakest component of your network should do the least amount of work.

  • Traffic is stressful for equipment. Adding a second band can help.

These principles can help anyone design a better network, but if you really want the best, you need an expert eye. By signing up for a free consultation, a Spatial Code Wi-Fi integrator will walk you through the in-depth process, creating a Wi-Fi network based upon your unique business needs. To learn more about Spatial Code’s service, click here. To sign up for a free consultation, click here.