Many of us face slow Wi-Fi and connectivity issues on wireless networks. Just the other day, I was in a café having coffee and browsing the internet. Suddenly, my connectivity dropped. I tried to reconnect, but the signal strength was too low. In the end, I gave up.
I am sure you have faced the same issue. Usually, at this point, you might blame the wireless network and question the capability of the access point (AP). But did you know often this is not the case? Mostly, the AP is not to blame. Connectivity problems arise due to improper designing and planning of the wireless network. Below are some of the best practices that you can follow to provide the best user experience from your wireless network.
- Perform a site survey before installing access points
Before deploying your AP, it is critical you understand your environment and the type of deployment you require. Would you prefer coverage over density, or vice versa? To ensure the café scenario doesn’t happen, plan your network based on density. This ensures you are prepared for data traffic during peak hours on your wireless network.
Performing a site survey before deploying your wireless network can help with determining how many access points are required, and what type of coverage you can expect with your APs. Advanced site survey tools, such as SonicWall’s Wi-Fi Planner, will be able to predict the coverage automatically. This tool also lets you choose the coverage zones, and identifies what type of obstacles and areas are present in your location.
SonicWall’s Wi-Fi Planner uses heat maps to help you accurately design a dense, secure and reliable wireless environment.
- Before plugging in your AP, check if it requires 802.3af or 802.3at
It is essential to check the power compliance of your AP before connecting it to your network. The maximum power from an 802.3af source is 15.4W, whereas 802.3at is 50W. If you are plugging an 802.3af-complaint AP into an 802.3at power source, make sure that your power supply is backward compatible with 802.3af devices. If not, your AP could be fried.
- Max AP power does not mean max performance
Blasting your AP at full power does not ensure maximum performance. While it would showcase more coverage, the user experience may be impacted.
Think about two people in a room. They are in close proximity to each other, trying to have a conversation, and both of them are screaming at the top of their voices at the same time. Neither of the two would be able to understand each other and carry out a meaningful conversation. Similarly, based on your environment, it is essential to tweak the transmit power of the AP.
- AP mounting is critical for ubiquitous coverage
APs are built to work in certain use cases or environments. For instance, an indoor, integrated-antenna AP is designed to work as a ceiling-mount AP in spaces like indoor office environments. This is because the APs with integrated, omni-directional antennas have a 360 degree radiation pattern. Much like the sun radiating rays, the omni-directional access points radiate RF signals. Barriers like walls, concrete and metal partitions can cause RF blockage.
- Use 20 MHz or 40 MHz channels for high-density deployments
For high-density deployments, it is essential to choose lower channel widths, such as 20 MHz and 40 MHz. With 80MHz channels, there are just five non-overlapping channels, while for 160 MHz, there are only two non-overlapping channels. This makes it hard to deploy the higher channel widths without causing co-channel interference. Higher channel widths are ideal for low-density, high-performance requirements.
- Deploy indoor APs every 60 feet for high-density deployments
APs should be deployed based upon your coverage or density requirements. For high-density, high-bandwidth requirements, deploy your APs every 60 feet. Make sure your Received Signal Strength Indicator (RSSI) stays above -65 dBm. Up to -65 dBm is recommended for VOIP and streaming.
- Disable lower data rates
Based on your coverage design, it is advisable to turn off lower data rates below 24 Mbps. This ensures that the AP and client do not communicate at, say, 6 Mbps, which could result in low performance and lead to a poor user experience.
To learn more about wireless networking best practices, read our solution brief, “Best Practices for Wired, Wireless and Mobile Security.”