Wireless Bridges – The Specifics

A few blogs back we wrote about Wireless Bridges. In this post we’ll go into a bit more detail about how to actually go about putting in a Wireless Bridge to link networks and/or buildings.

You might be wanting to link CCTV feeds, or maybe you need to network between two buildings. You may have a temporary site that needs internet connectivity, or be surrounded by difficult terrain that stops you from laying cables. If you’re based in the city then the infrastructure doesn’t lend itself well to having the ground dug up for fix fibre lines. Perhaps you’re running an event or have audio visual installation requirements.

What you don’t want to be doing is digging holes, laying cables and making a big mess, when you could just do it all wirelessly.
So let’s get started – the points to consider when doing point to point wireless bridging.



Are you able to see where you are trying to get your signal to? If there is anything interfering with your line of sight, then this will disrupt your signal, lower it’s strength and negatively affect data rates. If it’s in your sight, then it’s in the way of your wireless signal. Ways around any potential signal disruptions are sending the signal from a taller mast or a repeater. You don’t want to be losing data because things are in your way.



The scope of coverage between points can vary – Some links need only be 20 metres away, whereas some could go up to approximately 12 kilometres in ideal conditions. The longer the range between links, the more specialised equipment and licensed frequencies you will need. With larger scope also comes larger things to consider, like how the earth isn’t flat! A wireless signal might be straight, but our planet is not so you’ll need to consider adjusting height to mountings to get over that curve on longer point to point ranges.


Ingress Protection Rating

If your wireless link is business critical (which if you’re reading this, it probably is) then it’s very important that the devices you are using have an official IP rating. Devices that do not have this rating will likely not be reliable for your needs. An IP rating gives you an idea of how well a device can keep out dust and water. The IP rating will be given in the form of a number – The firs tis for protection against solids and the second is protection against liquids.


What Frequency Do I Need?

Almost any frequency can be used for Wireless Point to Point Bridges. The options are: 2.4GHz, 5GHz, 60GHz, 80GHz, Free Space Optics, or Laser Links.

If we start with 2.4GHZ, this one is more often than not overlooked due to heavy congestion. But if you’re in a rural area with little to no interference then this frequency would probably be fine for you.

If you’re in a busier, city based area like the centre of London then the next frequency in line of 5GHz would probably be too busy. If you are using wireless in the home or even a small business and not in the centre of a lively city then this frequency will likely be the one you go for.

If you are bridging a link over 1km and it is business critical then you’ll be wanting to have a look at 60GHZ and microwave technology. This frequency (like 24GHz)require licensing plans, but you’ll find details of this on the products you are looking to purchase.

If you’re a small business, enterprise or have a ‘business critical’ link over 1km or so, you’ll want to look into 60GHz and microwave technology.

To give you an idea of speeds, frequencies and distances, here is a basic guideline:
2.4GHz max speeds: ~170Mbps (15km max)
5GHz max speeds: 700+Mbps (12km max)
60GHz max speeds: 5Gbps (1.5Km max)
Laser max speeds: 10+Gbps (350m max)


Fresnel Zone

To keep it as simple as possible… “A Fresnel zone, named after physicist Augustin-Jean Fresnel, is one of a series of confocal prolate ellipsoidal regions of space between and around a transmitting antenna and a receiving antenna system.”

Basically, when a wireless signal is transmitted from one antenna to another receiver, it takes on a rugby ball type 3D shape. Imagine your signal emitting as a cone shape which peaks in size at the middle and then tapers back down until it reaches the antenna. Each side of the cone is a radio wave beam, so each signal is shooting 2 beams at the antenna.

We spoke earlier about your vision. Anything that interferes with your vision, interferes with the Fresnal Zone and will cause you to loose signal, throughput and data.



Do you know how much data you need to be transmitting? If not, then you need to work it out. The throughput is the amount of data your link can handle being transmitted across the air in both directions. A link will need to handle download and upload, so a link that can cope with a total of 180Mbps will br broken down into 90Mbps upload and 90Mbps download.

When you are working out how much data you need, make sure to leave a little wiggle room. Remember that wireless links aren’t always the absolute ideal – There can be external factors that might affect this, weather for example.

So if a link can handle 85Mbps, and you have a device that pushes 4Mbps, you wouldn’t be silly for thinking that said link would be able to handle 20 devices. But it’s leavings things a bit close for comfort which is a tad risky. Always err on the side of caution.


Wi-Fi Protocol

Rules and guidlelines for communication are governed by Wireless Protocols. For example, the waveform and total throughput is dictated by protocols such as 802.11ac and 802.11n. Products on the 802.11n protocol can push 170Mbps, whereas if you configure it correctly and push it to the absolute limit, 802.11ac products can push up to 700+ Mbps.

When the supercharged version of 802.11n arrived in the form of 802.11ac it was a dozen times faster. 802.11ac presented a waveform with a much higher complexity – It had an additional channel which allowed for larger bandwidth as well as increasing Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (QAM – digital modulation methods used to transmit information via telecommunication) from 64 to 256.

Remember though, that 802.11ac is only on a 5GHz frequency.


Quality of Service

Quality of Service enables data deemed a priority to get across the link first, before other data.

For example business critical, sensitive or easily lost data would be prioritised.

Video and voice data are also seemed a priority as they must be sent in the correct order and cannot be dropped or re-sent to ensure that the integrity of the data is intact.

Thus, anything that is not this core data may be subject to a second class service level to ensure that the most important data is sent securely.


Antenna Power

Don’t forget to consider the power or gain of the antenna you are using for your Point to Point links.

You’ll need to know how far you are firing your link – Will it be short range or longer? Make sure you choose the product that best matches the range you are trying to reach. Some products will better much short range links, and other will manage long range links over several kilometres.

Most products will display the antenna gain within the product name so try and get yourself clued up as much as possible so you know what you’re looking for.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that going for the longer range products is the safest option. It’s worth knowing that you may run into problems if you choose an antenna with a higher gain but try to deliver high dBi (decibel isotropic – uniformly radiating in all directions) at close range. The higher the gain, the harder the radio waves are ‘projected’ and the thinner the beamwidth will be.


AES Encryption

WPA2 is a type of encryption used to secure the vast majority of Wi-Fi networks. A WPA2 network provides unique encryption keys for each wireless client that connects to it. Additionally, an AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) is available on most wireless links as standard. This AES extends the security of WPA2 and gives you an added lasyer of security.


Protocols such as AirMAX

We mentioned earlier about QoS and how voice and video data take priority. AirMAX is an example of a wireless link from Ubiquiti where proprietary protocols try to ensure their QoS voice and video prioritisation.


Time Division Duplex or Full Division Duplex – How Do The Radios Talk to Each Other?

Imagine playing walkie-talkies. When you’re speaking to the person on the other end, you hold the button and speak. While you’re speaking and holding down the button, you can only talk but not hear. When you’re finished speaking, you let go of the button and wait for the other person to speak to you. This is essentially Time Division Duplex.

There are also radios that can speak to and hear each other at the same time – This is Full Division Duplex and usually doubles your throughput capabilities.


Alignment and Mounting

It’s all well and good understanding the technical bits and choosing the right products, but it won’t do you justice if they’re not mounted or aligned properly.

You want to achieve the best possible throughput that your hardware can offer so you need to align them as precisely as possible.

The finer the alignment, the more likely you will get the link you desire, so don’t skimp on mounting brackets and sturdy poles.

Remember that wind, heavy rain and even wildlife can affect alignment so take this into consideration when securing everything.


Alleviating Interference

You might notice on the product you’ve got that the manufacturer has specific coded software to reduce interference.

With a bit of common sense, you can also ensure that you minimise any potential interference through the placement of your products during installation. For example, don’t install twenty 5GHz radios on one pole, with 3 of them on the same channel.

So there you go, a pretty comprehensive list of things to consider when setting up wireless point to point links to save getting your hands dirty digging trenches. If you’ve read this until the end and still feel a bit none-the-wiser, then why not give one of our Hampshire, Wales or London based Wi-Fi experts a call and discuss how Geekabit could help with your point to point needs.

What is 802.11ax Wi-Fi, and what will it mean for 802.11ac?

You might have heard talk about 802.11ax and how it is the emerging Wi-Fi standard that seems set to displace the current 802.11ac standard. With higher throughput and the scope to overcome poor performance in crowded environments, this is an exciting development in the world of Wi-Fi.
We’ve already seen significant performance improvements with each new Wi-Fi standard that emerges. 802.11ac was the previous one which offered a theoretical maximum rate of 1.3Gbps which definitely impressed.

As with many technological things, things move fast and unfortunately the gains we saw with this Wi-Fi standard weren’t quite enough to keep up with the demand in crowded places where whines of ‘Why is the internet so ssssslllllooooowwwww?’ was heard across airports, hotels, stadiums and even offices and homes where multiple people were trying to use various wireless devices.

In a bid to boost Wi-Fi, the world’s largest technical professional organisation the Institute of Electrical and Electronics are introduxing a new standard called 802.11ax. Alternatively called High-Efficiency Wireless, which promises a fourfold increase in average throughput per user.


802.11: Wi-Fi standards and speeds explained

The new standard is specifically designed to cope with high-density public environments. People trying to use Wi-Fi on trains, in stadiums and at airports will be helped immensely with the introduction of 802.11ax. Other areas which will reap the benefits are apartment buildings, heavy-usage homes, Internet of Things deployments and offices that applications like videoconferencing that hog bandwidth.

Not limited to just that, 802.11ax is also designed for mobile data offloading. The mobile network offloads wireless traffic to a complementary Wi-Fi network where local mobile reception is poor or in situations where the network is being taxed.

There has been an excited buzz surrounding this standard for a few years, coming to a head now it’s 2019. Pre-standard chipsets have been shipping for a while and the first 802.11ax routers are already available on the market. Typically, early users are very comfortable using pre-standard products for their Wi-Fi deployment as they tend to later fully comply with standards via firmware upgrades and thus readily get certification from the Wi-Fi Alliance.


What problem is 802.11ax trying to solve?

We’ve spoken about this standard solving problems in high density areas like airports and hotels. Fundamentally, the problems that arise in these areas are down to user devices sharing bandwidth and access points having overlapping coverage areas where the end user moves between them.

Currently, we have relied on Carrier Sense Multiple Access with Collision Avoidance (CSMA/CA) technology from the old shared Ethernet days. Basically, the end user device listens for an all-clear signal before transmitting. When they encounter interference, congestion or collision, the endpoint ‘backs 0ff’ and waits for the all clear before it transmits.

I’m sure you can imagine that in a crowded environment like an airport, hotel or busy train where hundreds (or maybe even thousands) of users trying to stream a video all at the same time, it’s not surprising that it suffers low efficiency and poor performance.

That’s where 802.11ax comes in to save the day! It promises to improve performance, extend coverage and elongate battery life. With the ability to deliver a single stream at 3.5Gbps, 802.11ax uses new multiplexing technology borrowed from the world of Long-Term Evolution (LTE) mobile broadband. Amazingly, It can deliver four simultaneous streams to a single endpoint for a total theoretical bandwidth of an astounding 14Gbps.


How does 802.11ax work?

If you’re wondering whether your old or current devices will work with the new standard, don’t panic – 802.11ax will maintain backward compatibility with both 802.11ac and 802.11n. The new 802.11ax standard works by taking a variety of well-understood wireless techniques and then combines them in a way that achieves a significant advance over previous standards.

Thanks to higher order Quadrature Amplitude Modulation, 802.11ax delivers almost a 40 percent increase in pure throughput. This in turn means more data can be transmitted per packet. The spectrum utilisation is also more efficient by making it easier for endpoints to find a clear path to the access point – 802.11ax creates broader channels and then splits those channels into narrower sub-channels.

Let’s talk in terms of downloads. Early Wi-Fi standards could only permit one transmission at a time per access point for downloads between the AP and end user. Then came Wave 2 where MU-MIMO (Multi-User, Multi-Input, Multiple Outlet)made it possible for 4 streams per access point simultaneously. Then we come to the new 802.11ax which allows for eight simultaneous streams and makes use of explicit beamforming technology to aim those streams more accurately at the receiver’s antenna.

Even better than this, 802.11ax uses on MU-MIMO with an LTE technology called Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access (OFDMA). This boosts the effective bandwidth per user by 4 times by allowing each MU-MIMO stream to be split in to four additional streams.

A great analogy to visualise this is imagine you’re queueing to pay for your shopping. Early Wi-Fi was like waiting on one long line for one cashier. MU-MIMO means that this would then evolve into 4 cashiers splitting that long line into 4 lines of shoppers. Then OFDMA lets each cashier serve 4 shoppers at the same time.


How is 802.11ax different from 802.11ac?

The new standard creates more available channels as it operates in both 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz ranges whereas 802.11ac only operates in the 5Ghz range. Early chipsets support a total of 12 channels, eight in the 5Ghz and four in the 2.4Ghz range.

With the old 802.11ac standard, MU-MIMO is limited to downlink transmissions only whereas 802.11ax creates full-duplex MU-MIMO. This means that with downlink MU-MIMO an access point can transmit concurrently to multiple receivers and with uplink MU-MIMO an endpoint may simultaneously receive from multiple transmitters.

The old standard supports only 4 MU-MIMO transmissions at a time, whereas 802.11ax can manage eight. With it’s aim to improve efficiency, 802.11ax brings with it several new technologies – one of which is OFDMA, as well as trigger-based random access, dynamic fragmentation and spatial frequency re-use.

The final difference relates to battery like. ‘Target wake time’ is a technology being introduced by 802.11ax, which improves wake and sleep efficiency on smartphones and other mobile devices. This technology is expected to make a significant improvement in battery life.


When will we see 802.11ax products and adoption?

Products started appearing on the market as early as 2016 with follow ups and adaptations following suit in subsequent years.

There has previously been a 6 year interval for the IEEE to approved 802.11n in 2007 and then 802.11ac in 2013, so when it comes to 802.11ax we’ll be seeing the new standards final approval properly around now.

We’re likely to see the volume of 802.11ax products really ramp up now with mass adoption probably being seen next year.

But for the forward thinking IT specialists and businesses, in particular those with high-density Wi-Fi networks, the time is now to start those pilot projects and 802.11ax launches.

How Many Access Points Do I Need?

One of the first questions you’ll ask when in the planning stages of a new Wi-Fi project will be how many access points are needed. There are various factors which will affect the answer to this:
– Coverage area – floor plan
– Shape of area – floor plan
– Building – wall material
– Number of users
– Capacity/Throughput requirements per user/application

The more information you have, the more accurate you can be with your estimate of how many access points you’ll need for reliable coverage. If you follow our blog, you’ll have read our previous posts about site surveys. These are a great way of getting detailed data about coverage, building materials and potential causes of interference, so not only will you get the best advisories for number of access points, but also the best places to put them and other bits of wireless kit.

Without knowing the details above, the estimate would be extremely rough, and you would be taking a bit of a risk on any purchases made.

You might be able to get a rough estimate for a certain number of access points per number of users, or by square footage, but these don’t take into account any of the other variables that could significantly affect coverage.

Let’s take a look at each factor in a bit more detail.


Coverage Area

The best place to start is finding out how big the space is in square feet (or metres). Some rough estimates might give you a basic guide of 1 access point to every 1600 square feet, but these are based on some very simple assumptions on that given space.

For this ratio of access point to space size to work effectively, the office would be:
– A typical office or residential space
– Square or rectangle in shape (no nooks or crannies)
– A single floor area (not multiple levels)
– Built with drywall partitions or cubicles (not thick concrete or brick behind dry wall facades)
– Basic internet and streaming requirements

Basically, the simplest of the simple.

Shape of Area

This goes one step further than just making an estimate based on size alone. Knowing the shape of the area gives a much clearer picture of whether one access point will be sufficient for the size. A rectangle shape with a size of 1600 square feet will have a very different access point requirement to a space of the same square footage but in the shape of an L, T or an H.

It wouldn’t be possible to place an access point that would be in a central location for all users, without the signal being affected by multiple exterior or interior walls.

A general rule of thumb in these situations is:
– For an L Shape space, multiply the square footage estimate by 2
– For a T Shape, multiply the square foot estimate by 3
– For an H Shape, multiply the square footage estimate by 4


Building Material

So you’ve worked out the square footage, and you know the shape of the room – Next on your list for making a more accurate estimate is knowing the building material in each wall.

If any of the walls are built with brick, cement or cinderblock, then the number of access points you will need will increase.

A very basic guide to how many access points you would need in a building made of these types of materials would be one to every 800 square feet, but we wouldn’t recommend you make purchases based on this basic idea.
Remember, it’s not just about the access point signal reaching your users, but the lower power user signa; getting back to the access point.


Number of Wireless Users/Devices

The estimate for the number of access points you need is improved further by knowing how many people will be using your Wi-Fi. This is particularly useful for places like lecture halls, auditoriums, stadiums and other places for a large number of users.

As an example, let’s look at two ways to work out an estimate for a sports stadium.

If you based it on the standard size estimate, based on a stadium that seats 80,000 peoplewith dimensions of 650 x 750 feet, you would need to do 487,500 divided by 1600 (square feet per access point from above) which would give you an estimate of 305 access points to cover this area.

However, you could also estimate it based on user count. Let’s say that only 50% of the attendees connect to the Wi-Fi, and out of those users only 25% actively use Wi-Fi at any given time. If you base it on 30 users per access point, then you would need 334 for an 80,000 seat stadium. This would be a better estimate in terms of coverage.


Applications/Wi-Fi Usage/Capacity

Taking into consideration all of the above influences on your estimations is great, but they don’t also factor in what can make Wi-Fi inefficient in denser user environments.

An alternative estimation would be basing it on capacity requirements. If we stick to the stadium example, then we’d work it out as follows…

Select a per user throughput number: 1 Mbps / 1000 kbps
Estimate percent of users that will connect to WiFi: 50% adoption rate / take rate
Estimate percent of users active on network as same time: 25%
Target throughput per AP/RF efficiency: 20 Mbps per AP (5 GHz)

1. AP Throughput Divided By User Throughput = Users Per AP
20 Mbps / 1 Mbps = 20 users per AP sharing 20 Mbps

2. Users Per AP Divided By Active Users = Serviceable Users Per AP
20 / 0.25 = 80 user seating area (only 1/4 will be active on WiFi at same time)

3. Serviceable Users Per AP Divided By Take Rate/Adoption Rate = Service Area/Cell Size
0 / 0.5 = 160 user per cell/seating area (1/2 will connect to WiFi)

4. Stadium Spectator Capacity Divided By Service Area = AP Count
80,000 seat stadium / 160 users per cell/seating area = 500 APs

When initiating the design phase, the more detailed your approach the more reliable your Wi-Fi will be. Taking into consideration all of the above factors will help build a clear picture of your environment and make your estimations on access points as accurate as possible.

Why Site Surveys Are a Good Idea

Here’s a little photo of one of our previous clients who was having a bit of trouble with their signal strength… (and no, that’s not a pot of Jaffa Cakes).

You don’t need a site survey to understand why their Wi-Fi wasn’t working particularly well. A thick castle wall, hundreds of years old, is not the best place to plonk a bit of wireless kit – The signal just isn’t going to get through that.

However, there are plenty of reasons why a Wi-Fi site survey is a good idea for your business. If you’re in a very newly built building or have a very open-plan office, then you might be lucky and not need too much thought behind your WLAN.

However, many offices and buildings will need a slightly more detailed review of potential interferences, rather than just relying on intuition. For example, what if a wall you think is just dry-wall actually has brick underneath?

A site survey will enable you to make informed decisions when designing your WLAN – The aim is to collect as much as data as possible.

When we carry out a site survey at a specific location, we are able to ascertain whether signal would be lost or hindered through certain walls, where glass or tiling could have an affect, identifying any appliances or other causes of interference, finding reductions in RF, seeing where any reflections or refractions happen and much more. Things that you might not even think of – Enormous fish tanks for example! A popular addition to many businesses, but not so friendly to Wi-Fi signal.

Our aim is to gather as much information as possible, so that when we design your WLAN we can ensure that by knowing the building materials, RF characteristics and possible inhibitors of Wi-Fi signal in your specific location, we can design the most accurate, successful and reliable WLAN for your business.

If you’re just about to move into a new business space, it’s an ideal time to get in touch so we can carry out a site survey and make sure that the design of your new WLAN will work perfectly. That way everything is already in place and will work well, making your transition to a new office as smooth and problem-free as possible.

However, if you’re already in your office but your having Wi-Fi problems then we can also help with that too. By doing a site survey on how your current infrastructure and devices are working (or not working), we can advise how it can be improved and design a new WLAN for your space that will work more efficiently.

Either way, a site survey is most definitely a good idea.

How Does Wireless Mesh Networking Work?

As with so many technological things, something that starts off on a big scale, slims down for the everyday. It wasn’t that long ago that wireless mesh networking was was used to span cityscapes; now it can be found in homes, helping signal to reach games consoles and tablets in your loft and basement.

You might find yourself seeing mesh networking everywhere, but is it always the right choice? Hopefully this blog will help you understand why and when your business would need to use wireless mesh networking. And if it doesn’t, well you can just give our Wi-Fi experts a call instead!


What Actually is Wireless Mesh Networking?

Mesh is one of those great words that depicts a picture of what is it perfectly. If you imagine access points (APs) all connected to each other, drawing lines from AP to AP to AP etc, the interconnections between each one starts to look like a woven mesh. You could even think of it as a safety net – an analogy that will pop up again later!

APs are attached to the wired network, whereas devices talk to APs wirelessly. APs use that cable connection to send data to switches for distribution (also known as backhauling data). An AP that is connected by a wire is a root AP. In a situation when an AP doesn’t have a wired connection, for example if it loses it, it can then operate as a mesh AP. This it connects wirelessly to another AP for backhauling.

You might be wondering why we don’t just eliminate as much cabling as possible and connect all AP’s wirelessly. The reason for that is when an AP is working in mesh mode, there is a performance penalty. So generally, the rule is wire wherever you can, and mesh where you must.


Optimise Your Connections with Wireless Mesh Networking

Unfortunately, not all APs are able to transform from a root AP to a mesh AP well. To form a proper mesh, a certain amount of intelligence is required. The Wi-Fi environment is a dynamic one, and one where the best connections can’t be predetermined. In mesh AP mode, an AP needs to be able to search for and assess every AP to pick the optimal AP mesh partner when working in mesh. If an AP loses its cable connection, it has an instant to determine which AP to mesh with in the blink of an eye.

Imagine there’s a little WLAN engineer inside every AP. It determines which AP to mesh with using the same data, variables and calculations that an experienced WLAN engineer would use. Algorithms enable APs to collect data, analyse options, and make the best mesh connection.


Make your Wi-Fi More Resilient with Wireless Mesh Networking

Mesh networking is a firm choice for those looking for Wi-Fi resiliency. At the start we mentioned the mesh being like a safety net – This mesh technology hass reat back up capability should there be any disrutions in the wired network.

Take a look at whether your APs have a check box saying ‘Enable Mesh’ when configuring your network. This can be found in either an on-premises controller or a cloud based Wi-Fi dashboard. Once checked, each AP in your network should be able to transform to a mesh AP from a root AP if needed, and vice versa when it detects that the wired connection is restored.


The best mesh technology is self-organising, self-optimising, and self-healing, so you have the confidence to just leave it to it.

3 questions you should be asking if trying to implement this type of network are:
– Do your APs support mesh? How easy is it to configure?
– Do all of your APs have integrated mesh technology?
– Does the mesh automatically configure itself? Can it self-heal if an AP fails?

The answer you want is YES! To learn more about wireless mesh networking, give our Wi-Fi experts a call.

What’s The Difference Between Wi-Fi Bridges and Wi-Fi Mesh?

Incase you’re wondering what both of these things are… Wi-Fi bridges and Wi-Fi mesh are both instead of physical cabling.

You might be a bit disappointed to know that the magic of Wi-Fi isn’t all up in the air – Access points (APs) need to finish in a wired connection. While the end users may be free to roam free with Wi-Fi, APs prefer to be a cabled.

However it might not always be possible to run a physical cable to connect to an AP. It might be that there’s no actual access, or it could be that there is an option but it’s too expensive. And that’s where Wi-Fi bridges and Wi-Fi mesh come in – They fill the gap! Well, the air actually.

Sometimes it’s super apparent which one is the best choice, and other times it’s a bit of a smackdown in the bridge vs mesh arena.

So here are some points to consider in the wireless-to-wireless connection contest.

(It’s also worth noting that sometimes there’s a bit of confusion here with Wi-Fi extenders too. These are closely related to a repeater or booster and are designed to amplify Wi-FI signal strength so that it can be extended past it’s reach).


What is a Wi-Fi Bridge?

Here are the basic things to know about a wireless bridge or wireless Ethernet bridge (so-named because the bridge replaces Ethernet cabling):

  • A Wi-Fi bridge is an appliance with one purpose. It’s set up in a fixed configuration, for example, point to point. Bridges tend to be used outdoors, but that’s not to say you can’t use bridging from an outdoor location to an indoor one. An example of where this might be useful is a warehouse where spanning the whole thing would make cabling cost-prohibitive).
  • In general, a bridge is designed specifically to span greater distances and carry more data through the air compared to mesh technology.
  • In physical terms, a Wi-Fi bridge looks a bit like an AP and is a RF device just like an AP too. However, they’re not people oriented, can’t talk to Wi-Fi clients and where they lack people skills they make up for it by making up for it on their mission to transport data wirelessly.
  • A bridge can be segmented to support multiple networks. You can use VLANs to separate and secure traffic over a Wi-Fi bridge.


What is Wi-Fi Mesh?

In essence, Wi-Fi mesh technology does the same thing as Wi-Fi bridges. They do the same thing but are very different – A bit like saying you can watch movies at a cinema as well as on a tablet. You use them for the same thing, but they’re really rather different.

Mesh technology will wirelessly connect an AP to a cabled AP. But here’s how it handles the task:

  • Mesh is enabled or disabled inside your AP. You can check whether it’s a standard feature or not. On those where it is featured, you can make mesh available by just clicking “Enable Mesh” on the on-premises controller or if it has one, a cloud-based Wi-Fi dashboard.
  • Mesh is people-oriented: Because mesh is actually inside an AP, clients and devices can still talk to the AP. So mesh is more of a multipurpose solution than a bridge. So for example, perhaps you’re having an outdoor event like a school fete and you have a vendor that needs a Wi-Fi connection. Mesh would be the best decision here as you can create a connection between the cabled AP and the uncabled AP across the field.
  • Using a bridge wouldn’t really be worth it just for something temporary, and it also doesn’t talk to user devices.
  • One of the downsides however, is when you use mesh there is a performance penalty for the root AP because it’s backhauling the data from the uncabled AP, supporting other mesh APs and devices, etc. So while visitors to the fete might get the benefits of using the vendors Wi-Fi hotspot, the performance wouldn’t be as great as without mesh being in use.
  • Mesh is dynamic but not divisible. Mesh networks can form dynamically in the event that an AP in a network loses its wired connection. But you can’t separate the bandwidth of a mesh connection with VLANs.


So Which One is Right for Your Wi-Fi Deployment?

Perhaps the best bit about mesh is that it’s built into your APs, so you have it at your disposal whenever you need it. And if needed, adding bridges is pretty straightforward too. If you’re still not sure which to use and when, then why not give our Wi-Fi experts a call here at Geekabit and we can run a couple of planning scenarios to determine which would be best for you. And we can install it too!

Capacity, Interference and Roaming – 3 Wi-Fi Myths

Are you familiar with the laws of physics? Maybe, maybe not. We’re talking specifically electromagnetism – The same laws that govern mobile phones and radio waves also govern Wi-Fi which means that there are particular elements that are predictable.

Here we’re going to aim to clear up 3 misconceptions about capacity, interference and roaming.

Myth #1 – Capacity: Higher capacity means an AP talks to more devices at the same time

First things first – How many devices can an access point actually talk to at one time? The answer is one.

How then does an AP appear to be talking to many devices concurrently, and how do some AP’s support greater capacity than other AP’s?

Imagine you’re out on a Saturday night, sitting in a busy pub, music’s blaring, and you’re trying to keep up with the conversation next to you and across the table. You can never quite make out what everyone is saying can you? You’re trying to follow everyone’s conversations but end up missing the main bits of all of them because you’re trying to do it all at once.

So imagine now that the AP is at the pub, they’re sat at the table nodding, appearing like they’re talking to everyone at the same time (everyone being devices). An AP is like the ulimate socialite – They look like they’re talking to everyone at once but what they’re actually doing is listening or talking to each device in turn at superhuman speed.

They interact with one, and then move on to the next. All the conversations between the AP and the device are based on the assumption that they will be brief ‘conversations’ or interactions. A device requests to connect – Done. A device requests to download – Done. A request to upload – done.

While it might seem like they’re talking to them all at once, they are actually not in continuous contact – They interact and then move onto the next. Constant, super quick interactions.


Myth #2 – Interference: Add more APs to get more capacity

One of the pluses of knowing the laws of physics when it comes to Wi-Fi, is you can be confident in what your Wi-Fi designer is telling you is right.
For example, you don’t want them telling you that putting two AP’s close together will increase capacity.

As we just explained, devices have to wait their turn to speak to an AP. If two are sharing the same channel, then they’re going to create interference rather than extra capacity. You could have 2 AP’s or 2 dozen, but if they’re all on the same channel then only one will be able to transmit at any given time.


Myth 3 – Roaming: AP’s drop their signal

What it comes down to is this: AP’s are cleverer than devices.

AP’s don’t sit there saying ‘Hey! You! Disconnect from that AP, and connect to me now!’

Unfortunately, it’s the device that’s in charge of roaming, and they just don’t have the smarts that AP’s do. They’re a bit clumsy when it comes to disconnecting from one AP and connecting to another, and that’s where dead spots come in.

Obviously roaming is a wonderful feature, but not during those hand-off periods. Devices tend to desperately hang on to that connection until it gets really bad, before looking for the next one. What you really need is the smartest AP technology, where it tells your device to just let it go and enables the device to find a stronger signal before the current one goes bad.


The best bit about dispelling myths about Wi-Fi is not only that it helps you avoid mistakes in design, but also helps you appreciate smart wireless network designs and installations. You can rely on the laws of physics for better Wi-Fi, and you can also rely on Geekabit.

Give one of our Wi-Fi experts a call in Winchester, London or Cardiff and we’ll show you how we can improve your business Wi-Fi.

What is Smart Wi-Fi?

Subjective, is what it is.

Technology moves at a quick pace and our society tries it’s best to keep up with it – We are always reaching for the best smartphone, the latest smartwatch, the most innovative laptops/ tablets and the flashiest televisions.

But what about Wi-Fi?

You can put an ‘HD’ sticker on a TV, or a number of megapixels on the latest smartphone camera, the amount of gigabytes of storage on a tablet. These are quantifiable things, technology that can be measured and defined.

Smart Wi-Fi is a little different. Is your Wi-Fi as smart as my Wi-Fi? It’s a bit like me saying my baby is more beautiful than your baby. I mean, he is, but that’s beside the point – It’s subjective.

There’s not an independent industry measurement for smart Wi-Fi or a shared definition or published standard. Devices, networks and tech aren’t tested by the Wi-Fi Alliance and certified ‘smart’.

Product manufacturers could stick a ‘smart Wi-Fi’ label on to anything really, but what would that really mean?

It might be subjective, but there are absolutely ways of judging the smartness claims on products and choosing the smartest Wi-Fi.

Firstly, there are a couple of distinctions to make.

Smart Wi-Fi vs. Wi-Fi extenders – An extender is often used interchangeably with a booster or repeater. This technology amplifies the signal when it starts to weaken over distances, thus improving coverage. This isn’t really ‘smart Wi-Fi’ it’s just a product carrying out a fairly straightforward task, designed to manage a specific potential issue.

Smart Wi-Fi vs. Wi-Fi automation – When designing and installing a wireless network, a designer is able to automate a repetitive set of actions based on a set workflow. Smart Wi-FI would instead have the ability to adapt to the unpredictable, rather than follow a standard set of actions.


Smart Wi-Fi has autonomy, rather than needing to be micro-managed

Imagine a smart access point (AP) as a new starter at a company. The smart AP has done it’s research, knows the layout, knows what it’s doing, and gets on with it. It doesn’t need too much attention, guidance or managing. The smarter the access point, the less attention it needs.

For example, let’s look at wireless mesh networking; It doesn’t require handholding. If you check the box on the management console to enable it, the smart AP knows when it loses its wired connection, and when it does, it’s already looking for the best AP in the network to wirelessly connect to. All of this is based on the criteria the WLAN engineer would use. What’s really smart about this, is that the amount of time you’ll spend coordinating this activity to be your backup is absolutely none.

Wi-Fi conditions are ever-changing and fast-paced. For it to be watched by a member of IT staff would mean having their constant and undivided attention, and that usually just isn’t feasible. And what if your business doesn’t have an IT department? If it gets to a point where users are complaining that there are dead spots, lost connections and long slow waits for service, then your Wi-Fi isn’t smart. It’s depending on a member of IT staff to come and give it a little tweak every time the conditions change , and that’s not efficient for anyone. Conditions are always changing with Wi-Fi, so the smarter it is, the less tweaking and managing it needs.


Smart Wi-Fi tunes in to its environment

Out in the real world there is an adundance of interference that could effect radio frequency (RF) signals at any given moment. The signals might conflict with other radios, they’ll differ with cable length or bad cables, they’ll struggle with thick plaster, concrete and metal and can even falter due to static electricity and Electromagnetic Interference.

In last weeks blog we spoke about Wi-Fi Site Surveys. Sometimes a part of these surveys is a heat map, where at the start of a WLAN deployment plan you figure out where the strong and weak RF signal areas are. However, when these conditions change, whether gradually over time or all of a sudden, AP’s aren’t always smart enough to adapt to the change.

Most AP’s use fixed antenna technology – It will be chosen based on transmitting either in a single direction, or all directions at the same time. The decision is based on the results of the Site Survey and heat map. However, if conditions were to differ from those found on the site survey, you would have to call on a WLAN Engineer to come and reposition your AP.

There is however a patented RF technology where a smart antenna senses user locations and device orientation and adapts. It can transmit in all directions or a single direction, can strengthen the signal and extend the coverage area. This smart antenna technology of course goes hand-in-hand with the software built into the APs that allows them to monitor the current conditions and make changes in real time to ensure the optimum signal.

The more smart technologies you can combine, the smarter your Wi-Fi is going to be.


Is smart Wi-Fi for you?

We said at the start, it’s subjective. How do you value your time? Do you have an IT department or do you rely on outside services? How important is reliable Wi-Fi to your business?

If you don’t have the time or resources to be tweaking your Wi-Fi everytime conditions chang to make sure it’s performing to the level required then smart Wi-Fi could well be the answer you’ve been looking for.

What is a Wi-Fi Site Survey and Why Do You Need One?

What were you doing 15 years ago? Were you scrolling through emails on your phone whilst sat in a cafe, or working remotely via laptop? Chances are the answer is no, as wireless networks were still rather a rarity.

If you worked somewhere with a big budget for IT including systems as well as in-house experts, you may well have had Wi-Fi at your business back then but in today’s digital world wireless networking is an absolute must across all industries no matter how big or small the business.

The prevalance of Wi-Fi is now akin to having electricity and running water (imagine getting to work and not being able to turn on a light, or make a coffee?). Not being able to check your emails or even a sneak peek at your social channels whilst the kettle’s boiling is almost as unimaginable.

But even though we have Wi-Fi almost everywhere, does that mean it’s reliable enough to support your workforce? Is it fast enough to meet the needs of your company?

Making sure that the Wi-Fi is working as efficiently as it could, and should, be isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity and an investment for your business.


So let us ask you – Is your Wi-Fi reliable enough? Is it fast enough? Is it keeping your workforce happy and productive?

If you answered no to any of these questions then read on…

What can you do about it? You can start with a Wi-Fi Site Survey.

Who can carry out a Wi-Fi Site Survey? Trusted Wi-Fi experts with knowledge and expertise of network design – like us here at Geekabit.

You could just leave it to the experts, but if you’re interested in exactly what a Site Survey is and what it entails, then carry on reading.

There are 4 categories of Wireless Site Surveys – Which is right for you?

  • Predictive Site Surveys – Cost effective, time efficient and accurate. You tend to get the best results from this kind of survey if you’re able to supply your building blueprints or floor plans, as it relies on the engineer using simulation tools to create a radio frequency (RF) model of the environment in your exact location. This type of survey is generally good for small or new projects as it wouldn’t analyse what you currently have, or identify why you’ve been having issues.
  • Physical Site Surveys – The above is great for simpler Wi-Fi networks, but if yours is more complicated then a physical site survey could be the better option. During the survey the engineer focuses on applications that roam across access points (APs) as well as applications that are especially sensitive to latency.
  • Passive Site Surveys – In this site survey the engineer will use software to passively listen to traffic on your wireless network. This identifies any problems with access points, signal strength, and environmental noise.
  • Post Validation Site Surveys – This type of wireless survey is to make sure that your Wi-Fi network is performing at the level it was designed to perform.


What’s Included With Wireless Site Surveys?

What can you expect when you invest in a wireless survey and what’s included?

Perhaps the most important element of a site survey is actually having a Wireless Network Design Engineer come on site to carry it out.

They are specialists in their field and will do the following:

  • Manual inspection of wireless hardware including mounting and orientation
  • Running wireless analysis software to capture data on your wireless performance
  • Assessment and analysis of data captured and presented in a report document

The report begins with general information including:

  • Purpose – Why is this wireless site survey being conducted? What is the goal? (Often, assessments are scheduled to determine if RF coverage shown in a Predictive RF design matches what’s seen during the survey. Other times, assessments review the current wireless network design and identify sources of ongoing performance problems.)
  • Scope – What’s included and what’s not?

Survey Test Infrastructure – What hardware and software tools are being used to measure RF coverage?

The report outlines requirements such as:

  • Signal strength minimum
  • Signal-to-noise ratio minimum
  • Data rate minimum
  • Minimum number of audio access points


A floor plan listing routes for the site survey, as well as access point locations


Coverage and performance narrative including:

  • Data rate heatmap for both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz wireless frequencies (the highest possible speed that a wireless device can transmit data)
  • Maximum effective throughput heatmap for both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz wireless frequencies (Due to its half-duplex nature, true data throughput tends to be about half of the data rate.)
  • RF signal strength/coverage heatmap for both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz wireless frequencies (the most basic measure of wireless networking health that can often explain problems with unreliable connections and low data throughput)


Depending on the type of site survey, you may also have

  • CCI (co-channel interference) analysis that identifies any crosstalk between two different transmitters on the same RF channel
  • ACI (adjacent channel interference) analysis that identifies any extraneous power from a signal on an adjacent RF channel.


In most wireless site surveys, a floor plan with access point locations, data rate heatmap, throughput heatmap, and signal strength heatmap is created for each floor in the building.


How Can Your Company Benefit From This?

You may be wondering how your business will benefit from signing up for a site survey, and what kind of information is typically found.
Generally, the main aim of carrying out a Wi-Fi Site Survey is to find things that would have a negative impact on the performance of your network.

Some examples of what we might find are:

  • Identifying access points that are deployed for the wrong purpose. For example, if you were using the incorrect models of APs in locations throughout your office or building, you would likely end up with very low signals. If the APs you’re using have omni-directional antennas and they are installed on 20-30 foot ceilings, any devices being used at ground level would be receiving very low signal levels.
  • Identifying RF cell overlap problems between access points. Using the same example, if you were using omni-directional antennas on your APs, there would likely be too many RF cell overlaps between the APs. This would mean that when a device saw multiple APs using the same channel, wireless devices using the network would have to ‘wait in line’ before they could use that channel.
  • Identifying a coverage void or null with outdoor APs. If a network is designed poorly, they may not have thought about mounting heights and thus, identifying this as a problem and changing the height of the AP would alter its covereage because of the antenna’s vertical bandwidth.
  • AP power levels left at default configurations. Many people believe they can set up their own Wi-Fi network, but don’t (or can’t) configure their hardware, so leave them at their deafult settling. Power levels can, and should be, customised so they are matched to the power levels of your devices. If this isn’t done, performance will suffer.
  • APs installed/mounted at troublesome locations. Again, this would come down to poor network design, where APs are mounted too close to objects that block or alter the RF signal. This would ultimately mean that the signal delivery to your devices would take a hit.

Where these issues are identified and solutions are implemented, your business could see a dramatic and immediate improvement in your network performance, even if only one of these issues was present. This in turn could really boost productivity in your workforce and improve client satisfaction.


So if our engineers found these issues, what would their recommendations be to remedy the problem?

Our experts would suggest:

  • Better suited AP models, especially AP models with an antenna that can better adapt to your environment and needs
  • New indoor RF wireless network design that takes into account emerging software application requirements
  • New outdoor RF wireless network design that’s better suited for outdoor spaces where there are usually no reflective objects or attenuators
  • Removing channel bonds as needed to limit the possibility of channel reuse and all the co-channel and adjacent channel contention problems that crop up
  • Removing lower data rates again to improve the design of the wireless network by forcing devices to use closer APs with better signal strength
  • Setting/optimizing symmetric power levels to match the lowest power device
  • Improving AP mounting for improved RF signal delivery
  • Improving bridge/mesh links to greatly improve signal quality


In conclusion?

Investing in a wireless site survey for your business will provide you with an invaluable insight about the performance of your wireless network. From this detailed report from our expert Wi-Fi engineers, you’ll learn what needs to be addressed to improve end user experience and overall system performance. This in turn makes for productive employees and happy clients.

It also provides a great baseline for the future, where you can measure wireless network design improvements and document performance upgrades.

If you would like any more informations, or talk to one of our experts about a Wi-Fi Site Survey for your business, please don’t hesitate to contact us here at Geekabit on one of the below.

Phone: London 0203 322 2443 / Cardiff 02920 676712 / Winchester 01962 657 390

What Does a Wi-Fi Site Survey Cost?

If you’re not sure whether your Wi-Fi is working as efficiently as it should, or you’re wondering whether there is a way of improving it and how, then you could consider doing a Wi-Fi survey.

Perhaps you’ve secured new office space, and want to overhaul the Wi-Fi set up before you and your employees move in. The site survey is an important tool for ensuring no issues happen when business begins. It could also save you money in the long term by enabling you to choose the right equipment up-front.

If you choose Geekabit to carry out your Wi-Fi site survey, you will be provided with an appropriately experienced and qualified Wi-Fi professional who will have undertaken similar work for a number of years. Their experience and expertise will mean that they will likely know what to expect and thus what to recommend for your needs.

What exactly will we do?

When we arrive we will generate coverage and performance heatmaps, determine network requirements and test network health to spot any potential issues.

We’ll check both 2.4 & 5GHz separately as well as Access Point coverage and Signal to Noise Ratio.

There will be a detailed review on capacity requirements and bottlenecks, providing a report on all surveyed areas.

Built-in requirements for VoIP, RTLS, video etc will be checked. We’ll factor in customizable requirements unique to your location and locate all access points. All APs, per SSID, channel or AP will be analysed.

Using the data we collect, we can visualize all or selected surveys, as well as measured, simulated or both.

We are also able to simulate how the network will perform using different Wi-Fi devices, helping make recommendations for what products you will need.

Our surveys fully support 802.11a/b/g/n/ac and provide a detailed, combined Wi-Fi and spectrum analysis.

Will we need anything from you?

Ideally you will be able to provide us with scale maps and drawings of your offices. If this isn’t possible, then we will have to factor in extra time to generate these prior to the site survey. This will mean that there will be an extra cost incurred.

Which brings us to the price. This is mainly based on the time it takes to survey each area of the building.

We then generate the survey report. This will provide analysis and recommendations to give an accurate guideline of products and where to place them.

Our average Wi-Fi site survey cost starts at around £750 for a multi-floor office of 300-400 workers, or a small care home based on one days work.

For more information or to get in touch, head to our website https://geekabit.co.uk/what-we-do/wi-fi-site-survey/