The Importance of Performing a Wireless Site Survey
Getting the basics right for a wireless first strategy
Its nothing new for a business to hear that they need to start preparing for digital transformation. In simple terms it means to modernise your business to accommodate the ever-changing technology trends. Putting wireless as the poster tech for this transformation is a no brainer. One of the major oversights many businesses conduct when they think about the strategy is neglecting the importance of performing a wireless site survey. We all tend to think that newer hardware will make all the difference but will it?
The key goals of digital transformation are to mobilise your work environment, provide superior customer service and essentially harvest business innovation. Wireless enables most of this simply by its general physics but as it too adapts to its environment so do the next trends of digital transformation.
The objective of this post is to highlight a business cannot neglect the fundamental physics behind the technology that enables wireless first strategies. Although new features and standards like WiFi-6 come along, the initial deployment strategy has to be executed correctly to enable those augmentations to the technology. To touch lightly on the new technologies coming into play in the wireless world the focus is on 3 key new game changing ideas.
OFDMA – Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access
The technology allows for an AP to split the channel into multiple sub-channels known as Resource Units (RUs). The great advantage of this is that an AP in a high-density environment can now transmit to multiple clients simultaneously whilst scheduling devices on the uplink, this helps an AP to avoid channel contention. Auditoriums or canteen areas that transform into presentation areas can now handle the spontaneous increased capacity which is a massive business benefit for flexible working environments.
Wi-Fi 6 also enables each AP to add a unique colour to each transmitting channel. With 63 different colours available, it ensures that neighbouring APs can all be assigned unique colours. With each AP transmitting a locally unique colour, a device can easily distinguish transmissions coming from its AP from that of a neighbouring AP. This distinction enables a device to ignore a neighbouring APs transmission when attempting to transmit. Colouring leads to increased capacity by enabling simultaneous transmissions between APs on the same channel.
Business benefits in this case are also quite clear. As office space trends now lead to open plan environment designs, this enhancement allows for uninterrupted performance in what traditionally would have been very congested due to the limited amount of signal attenuation in the area due to lack of walls.
TWT – Target Wake Time
This mechanism enables each device to negotiate with APs to set how long it will sleep between transmissions, thus saving power. At the end of a sleep period, the device wakes up and waits for a trigger frame from the AP that enables the device to exchange data. With the growth of business adopting to the IoT trend the need to save device battery life has never been so imperative and with this new technology WiFi-6 helps combat excessive, unnecessary power loss.
Wireless site surveys are the key to ensuring seamless network service
Wireless is a victim to its own success, as the technology has developed more and more data intensive devices have joined the network. The shift from wired to wireless devices has put a large strain on current standard wireless networks. Clearly, there is a need for technology adoption but what I also want to point out is that a straight like for like swap of hardware isn’t always going to provide businesses with the services they now desire.
The key to a wireless network being able to fulfill the requirements a business needs is quite simple in part. Firstly, you need to understand each individual business objectives to deploying wireless. Understand the services they deem critical within their organisation and from this you can begin to plan out the physical deployment aspects.
This leads me to the main objective of this post – the need for a business to understand the importance to the wireless site survey procedure. New developments such as WiFi-6 bring great enhancements as mentioned above but they also do not remove the basic physics behind wireless. It is very adaptive to a lot of its environment, but it is still hindered by its physical aspects (if a wall is lead lined and 10-inches thick with concrete – there is no way that signal will penetrate through).
Using strategic RF planning tools allows for realistic project budgets to be developed and performing onsite RF surveys with skilled engineers provides the ability to overcome most if not all physical boundaries with precise AP placements.