BLOG: The Art of Wi-Fi Deployment

BLOG: The Art of Wi-Fi Deployment

By George Caspar On 08/05/2019

At the 2018 Wi-Fi Trek conference in San Diego, California, Network Engineer Charles Ahiwe gave an informative presentation on the art of wi-fi deployment. This VLog is a summary of his salient points.

Wireless network professionals can appreciate the fact that although there is certainly a set of generally accepted practices for the deployment of a wireless local area network ("WLAN"), a great deal of what will ultimately make a WLAN a seamless and dependable experience for the user will ultimately depend upon how it was designed and constructed. A successful deployment requires an intimate knowledge of the building in which it is to be deployed, the people who will be using it, and what they will be using it for. Navigating all this information raises the deployment of a WLAN from science to art according to Mr. Ahiwe.

To illustrate the point, Mr. Ahiwe discussed how there is a big difference between the user experience and requirements of industrial wi-fi versus the user experience and requirements of office wi-fi. Most people working in an office use primarily a wired connection at their desks. In this environment, Wi-Fi is a secondary consideration. For example, an office worker will primarily work at their desk which uses a wired connection. Occasionally they may at some point take their laptop to a conference room (for example) which would then use Wi-Fi. By contrast, in an industrial setting (e.g., a hospital, warehouse, department store, etc.) where workers carry around tablets or other wireless devices in order to perform their jobs, a secure wi-fi connection is of primary importance. Obviously, for this reason, a WLAN for an office will be designed and constructed differently than a WLAN for an industrial setting because the requirements are different.

Getting Input from the Stakeholders

There is an art to deploying access points in a WLAN design because there are many factors to consider that are unique to each setting. When designing a WLAN, it is important to first identify the purpose of the project. The design of the WLAN then must be made to accommodate this purpose. To better understand the needs of the people who will be using the WLAN, it is important to receive their input before the WLAN is designed. This requires communication with and understanding of the needs of the various stakeholders including the executives, the project managers, the team of users, the technical team, cross-functional teams and the team who will actually construct the finished product. Each of these groups will have unique needs relative to the WLAN. For example, the executives will likely be concerned with the overall cost of the WLAN construction. The project managers will likely be concerned with the functionality of the WLAN and how this will affect the ability of the users to accomplish their tasks. The users of the WLAN will likely be concerned with ease of use. The technical and construction teams will likely be concerned with issues related to the architecture of the building and how that will affect the functionality and maintenance of the WLAN. Of course, there are many other factors to consider that will be unique to each situation as well.

Site Survey and AP Installation

After gathering this information, the building site itself must be surveyed. To accomplish this, it is important to engage qualified engineers and to ensure that the most up to date version of software and hardware required is available for use. Also, the most up to date floor maps of the physical space where the WLAN is to be constructed should be obtained and consulted. The infrastructure must be meticulously analyzed including power requirements, network cabling, DHCP, fiber connections, management equipment, RADIUS, LDAP and NTP. 

When installing the access points there are many factors to consider. For example, it is important to make sure the access point floor map is current. This should be compared with a heat map of the area to avoid problems. Also, it is important to design a "rip and replace" strategy should that be necessary, and to ensure proper installation kits are in place. Reusing existing kits is not recommended. The access points should be mounted in accordance with all applicable site and safety codes and so on.

Testing and Validating the WLAN and Receiving Feedback

After the WLAN has been constructed it is vitally important to see that it functions the way it was designed to function. One important suggestion Mr. Ahiwe made was to test the WLAN using different brands of devices. Also, testing the WLAN's signal in high density areas is crucially important. The WLAN should operate seamlessly throughout the entire physical space where it is likely to be used and to be able to accommodate the number of users who are likely to use it. After the WLAN has been used by actual users it is then helpful to get their feedback by whatever means will most effectively gather this information. Again, this will depend on the people involved, but various means (e.g., email, questionnaires, phone calls or personal interviews when appropriate) should all be employed if necessary, in order to assess and fix problems as well as to learn from the experience. 

Ultimately, designing a WLAN requires the consideration of many different factors. Moreover, the construction of a WLAN will have to be uniquely tailored to each situation. This is what makes the undertaking an art in addition to being a science.

Tagged with: conference, presentation, Ahiwe, wifi, deployment, userx, wlan

Blog Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within these blog posts are solely the author’s and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the Certitrek, CWNP or its affiliates.

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