In the previous post, we discussed how the upcoming 802.11ax Wi-Fi standard is designed to support the growing capacity requirements of wireless networks. 802.11ax increases performance, efficiency and reliability in high-density environments by opening up more available channels, supporting more simultaneous streams and providing more available bandwidth per user.
While it’s relatively safe to invest in the pre-standard 802.11ax products that are starting to hit the market, not every organization is going to want to upgrade. Luckily, there are ways to increase Wi-Fi capacity with today’s technology. The most important thing to understand is that a network that’s well-designed for coverage won’t necessarily provide adequate capacity. A strong connection signal does not mean your Wi-Fi network is delivering the kind of wireless service that users require to do their jobs productively.
The bandwidth between a device and a wireless access point is shared with other devices in the same coverage area on the same frequency. The more devices you have trying to establish a connection and transmit data, the more difficult it becomes to maintain high levels of performance and reliability. Today’s Wi-Fi networks should be designed based on current and future capacity and performance requirements. Capacity-oriented design focuses on minimizing interference, maximizing spectral capacity, making the most efficient use of spectral capacity, and load balancing between access points based on application requirements.
These variables speak to the importance of network planning and design, particularly in high-density environments. You can’t simply add more access points and expect the limitations of coverage-oriented network design to disappear. How many devices, and what types of devices, must your Wi-Fi network support? What types of applications must the network support, and what level of performance do they require? Once you’ve identified Wi-Fi requirements and conducted a site survey, you can develop and verify a network design that aligns with business objectives.
Understanding capacity requirements and then planning and designing a network based on those requirements can be complicated. Explanations of different Wi-Fi standards are thousands of pages long. There are no guidelines that can be applied to every situation and ensure the desired outcome. More than the capabilities of any particular product, Wi-Fi design requires an understanding of the relationship between access points, network configurations, end-user devices and the constantly changing radiofrequency environment. All these factors affect network performance.
For example, a high number of access points at low power with small cell sizes on alternating channels is often the best approach to optimizing capacity and preventing overlap and interference. Band steering will allow you to take full advantage of both the 2.4Ghz and 5GHz bands and avoid congestion. Load balancing will prevent access points from becoming overloaded and improve performance by evenly distributing wireless traffic across multiple access points.
Keep in mind that the physical structure and building materials need to be assessed because they can affect signal strength and diminish both coverage and capacity. Schools with cinder-block walls, medical offices filled with equipment and manufacturing plants with lots of heavy machinery will all need different network designs than the typical office environment.
SSD has a wealth of experience designing Wi-Fi networks. Our engineers use sophisticated tools to plan the network, measure capacity and identify interference. Let us help you use today’s technologies to meet ever-increasing demands on your Wi-Fi network, now and in the future.