Wondering when smart home gadgets that support Wi-Fi 6 will get here?

Don’t hold your breath!

We’ve done a couple of blogs before on Wi-Fi 6, or to use it’s technical name, 802.11ax. This year sees the debut of this new version with the key improvement being it’s ability to send information to multiple devices simultaneously with one transmission. It also has better energy management for batter-powered devices. These imrovements will mean that consumers who have lots of home gadgets under one roof – Which, let’s be honest, is many of us! – will see less competition for bandwidth.

This Autumn will see the Wi-Fi Alliance begin offering certification for new Wi-Fi 6 devices followed shortly thereafter with the formal consent of this new standard.

However, despite this still being months away, router manufacturers have gone ahead and embraced the new standard already. You may have already seen the likes of Netgear offering new Wi-Fi 6 routers on vendor websites or in stores. Also on the way are Wi-Fi 6 mesh options.

So do you need to rush out and replace your router in eager anticipation of this coming Autumn?

Probably not. These flashy new routers might be backward-compatible with older versions of Wi-Fi, and thus able to still support your old devices but until you’ve actually got new Wi-Fi 6 smart home devices it’s not actually going to speed anything up. Your current devices using older versions of Wi-Fi aren’t capable of taking advantage of next generation Wi-Fi features (for example OFDMA and Target Wake Time) and gadgets that can, don’t actually exist yet nor have any been announced.

However, this is only true for the world of smart home gadgets like Amazon Alexa and Google Home. In the wonderful world of smartphones, the new Samsung Galaxy S10 already supprots WI-Fi 6 and it won’t be long until other new phones join the next-gen Wi-Fi club. It’s likely too that you’ll start to see new laptops that are capable of supporting Wi-Fi 6 by the end of the year . Some computers are even compatible with a Wi-Fi 6 adapter which is currently on sale already.

Alexa, when are smart home gadgets coming?

“Nothing on this that I can share, sorry!”

Odds are that the new year will see the beginning of brands attempting to grab headlines and stand out from the crowd by touting their new gadgets that support Wi-Fi 6.

Currently though, there’s not really much demand for these devices. Those who are extremely tech savvy and are keen to future proof their smart homes might be already on the market for them, but these early adopters are probably quite few and far between at the moment to warrant brands to bring out their next generation Wi-Fi 6 smart devices.

The market for these devices will likely spike once the Wi-Fi Alliance gives it’s certification and formal consent for the new standard. It’s predicted that early 2020 will see the start of a major global embracing of Wi-Fi 6 technology by manufacturers and it will then begin it’s establishment as the standard feature for all high-end WLAN enabled products.

As with most technological advances, once once brand or manufacturer takes a leap and offers the newest tech, others begin to follow. The more noteworthy manufacturers could decide to get ahead of the curve and introduce these Wi-Fi 6 devices sooner than anticipated. Products that support current standards with the ability to update to Wi-Fi 6 once it’s been certified could be a particular popular way to go.

No signs of anything just yet though. There are new versions of this and that popping up all the time, but still utilising the old standard of Wi-Fi 5. For example, just last month Amazon introduced a new Alexa smart display called the Echo Show which connects with your router wirelessly – This devices runs on Wi-Fi 5 with no mention of Wi-Fi 6 in the specs.

There might be a few early birds creeping onto the market but there are some pretty big names that aren’t just yet and you can understand why.
The average Google Wi-Fi user has 18 devices connected to their home network, but to notice a significant difference between Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6 you would need to have 50 connected devices. Not only that, they would need to have an 11AX chip and be no more than 15 geet away from the router.

The other thing to bear in mind, is that new technology inevitably comes with a larger price tag. Over time, this tends to come down and with the price for Wi-Fi 6 routers currently at about £100 more that Wi-Fi 5, it makes sense to wait until the price is worth the impact it will have on those using it.

In general, most brands tend to embrace new technology but it will likely take a little bit of time.

The biggest takeaway from all this at the moment, is that it’s pretty silent on the whole Wi-Fi 6 front when it comes to smart home device manufacturers. It would seem that it will be smartphones and laptops that will move things along with the new standard and encourage compatibility with new home devices but it is still very early days.

So in short, don’t rush out to replace your router with one that supports Wi-Fi 6. There’s plenty of time for all that yet.

Does Good Business Wi-Fi Actually Really Matter?


We could leave this blog at that one word answer, but thought we’d take the time to explain why it does indeed matter when it comes to having good business Wi-Fi.

According to Statista.com, 23 billion connective devices utilise Wi-Fi as their primary communication medium, and this is predicted to increase to 75+ billion by 2025.

So firstly, let’s address why good business Wi-FI is so undervalued.

The big issue is not understanding the difference between residential and business Wi-Fi. It’s typically very easy to get a router and Wi-Fi up and running well in the home, and you’ll rarely have any major issues. Thus, people expect to e able to do the same in a business capacity. But the differences are number of users, the number of devices these users have and the distance it needs to span to keep these users connected. Say you’ve got 5+ users, each with at least a smartphone and a laptop and all of a sudden you’ve got 10+ devices trying to connect. Add to that an office spanning thousands of square feet and you’ve got yourself some potential problems.

A standard router is unsuitable to meet the requirements of an enterprise network that needs to perform across multiple floors and buildings, supporting thousands of devices using Wi-Fi at the same time. To be able to deploy a reliable network that can handle the area and number of users in a business environment, it’s wise to employ a wireless expert that can design a custom network that will be effective specific for your company’s various requirements.

You may think that more AP’s could sort out any problems, but more Wi-Fi doesn’t necessarily mean better Wi-Fi especially when there’s only a certain amount of airspace in business environments. There is a bit of a balancing process, and only a Wi-Fi expert will be able to design a network that will work well.

If you think about it, it’s extremely likely that your company will rely on Wi-Fi to connect people, devices and equipment across the country if not the globe, so why wouldn’t you in invest in a long-term, reliable solution?

People. Businesses frequently communicate with customers and colleagues that aren’t in their office or immediate vicinity. In an age where we are desperately trying to be greener and have a lesser carbon footprint, gone are the days where employees have to travel across the country for a meeting, when a reliable Wi-Fi connection can provide a flawless video conference.

Devices and equipment. Daily operations within an organisation depend on Wi-Fi – It’s an integral part across all industries, from mobile point-of-sale terminals, healthcare equipment, inventory systems, manufacturing sensors or the Internet of Things (IoT).

If you’re serious about the future of your business, then Wi-Fi is a critical investment in your digital future. When deployed correctly it can result in:

  • Streamlined workflows across multiple sites
  • Mobile data access for staff dispersed across large geographical locations
  • Untethered voice services
  • Multiple mobile end-points with stock/ inventory consolidation
  • Savings on corporate device expenditure with Bring Your Own Device policies
  • Increased customer loyalty for hotels, restaurants and cafes
  • Wi-Fi analytics platforms can provide valuable business insights on customer frequency and how long they spend in your establishment

In many industries, Wi-Fi is a mission-critical necessity. Business operations in retail, healthcare, warehouse/manufacturing and government industries rely on effective Wi-Fi. Retail need their customer loyalty systems, healthcare establishments require timely access to data in order to save lives, warehouses streamline their inventory and stock production lines and then there’s security protocols within government industries just to mention a few. The risk of Wi-Fi failing in these networks would be a significant issue.

Of course, most business will have some kind of system in place in order to maintain operations should an outage occur (do you?) however this is often a manual system and the impact of reduced operations, lower productivity and lost profits is a big one.

And that’s just for employees. What about customers? Wi-Fi isn’t just essential for employee operations, but to customer satisfaction too. Customers want Wi-Fi, usually for free, and they’ve come to expect it as the norm. If your business doesn’t offer it, then you can probably expect those customers to go elsewhere.

Never before has providing a reliable Wi-Fi network been so important for businesses.

So does Wi-Fi really matter? Yes, and hopefully we’ve managed to convince you as to why. If you’re wondering if your business Wi-Fi is up to scratch, or you need a network designed and installed, give our Wi-Fi experts here at Geekabit a call and see how we can help.

What is the difference between Cat 6 and Cat 7?

We’ve compared cables before (Cat 5, Cat 5e and Cat 6) so here we’ll be comparing Cat 6 with Cat 7.

The focus is so often on Wi-Fi that we wouldn’t blame you forgetting that sometimes, a cable is actually better!

Our homes and businesses are filled with electronic devides that need an internet connection to work. It used to just be out computers, but now it’s smart TV’s, printers, media players, games consoles etc. So it becomes even more importantto have everything connected properly.

All of these devices can connect to the internet via Wi-Fi nowadays, but sometimes a wired connection is better as it is more stable as well as faster.

And so we come to the cables – These are UTB cables (unshielded twisted pair) and they are available in different categories as we said before.

Starting at Cat5, they run up to Cat 7. The higher the category, the faster the network cable and here we will be looking at Cat6 and Cat7.

Speeds for each cable are:
Cat6 – 10,000 Mbps, 250mhz
Cat7 – 100,000 Mbps, 1000mhz

The main difference between Cat6 and Cat7 cables is the frequency. As you can see above, a Cat7 cable and a Cat6 cable have the same speed.

However, the difference is that Cat7 has a higher frequency than the Cat6 so a higher bandwidth. This shows how often the signal can pass through the cable, and thus how fast it can transfer data. So the higher category the cable, the faster it can transfer data.

The speed also depends on the distance. For Cat6 cables, speed is 10,000mbps upto 55 metres, and then drops down to 1000mbps between 55 and 100 metres. With Cat7 cables, their speed drops after 15 metres.

With higher speeds on data transfer comes higher price tags. This isn’t much of a problem if all you’re doing is plugging in your computer, however if you are cabling an entire house or business full of devices then it might start to get pricier. Of course, it depends on how much you rely on your connection being fast and reliable.

So which cable should you get?

The great thing about these cables is they work backwards, so the higher category cables are still compatible with the lower categories.

Even if you don’t think you need the faster cables right now, it might be worth investing in them anyway, should you get newer devices later on that would benefit from the higher bandwidth and transfer speeds.

If you’re not worried about how things may change in the next 5-10 years then you will probably go for the lower category cables.

If you’re unsure which would benefit your business set up, then get in touch with our Wi-Fi experts here at Geekabit and we can help advise what would work best for you. You get in touch on 0203 322 2443 (London), 01962 657 390 (Hampshire) or 02920 676712 (Cardiff).

5 Benefits of Wireless Network Monitoring for Your Business

Do you know why wireless network monitoring (WNM) is a must to keep your organization running efficiently?

It’s safe to say that most businesses rely on a solid internet connection for at least part of their day to day operations, proving that fast and high-performing Wi-Fi is extremely important.

In large, complex organisations like hospitals, it’s an absolute must that the network is reliable and can handle hundreds of users constantly entering and exiting on both personal and business devices. It’s imperitive that people can stay connected.

This is where WNM comes in – It discovers and addresses any problems as soon as they happen.

So what actually is WNM and how does it work?


What is wireless network monitoring?

Using a set of tools, WNM continuously and proactively monitors an entire network, even the various devices on it. This includes any hardware like access points (APs) and wireless routers as well as user devices like smartphones, tablets and laptops. It maintains a reliable connection for the organisation whilst checking these all these devices.

The idea is to discover and rectify any problems with the network before a user detects the problem, thus providing seamless Wi-Fi. Due to the fact that wireless networks are largely made up of wireless devices (the clue is in the name…) it means that there is a lack of physical interfaces that would alert network managers to any issues, which is why it is so important to constantly monitor these networks to avoid outages and downtime.


How does WNM work?

The WNM equipment continuously tracks and assesses devices within a network and then sends the data through to network manages. The areas that this equipment monitors includes: evaluating connection rates, connection quality, client throughput, and data rates, packet latency, voice quality (MOS), utilization, signal strength, and RF interference.

The tools available will engage in WNM from any device and operating system, including Windows, Android, Mac OS, or IOS. The tool can alert network managers within minutes as to whether an issue is related to a wireless or wired device, or if it’s even device-related. It also works in the most remote locations of any facility.

You can also get equipment that focuses on the end-user experience and uses a Wi-Fi sensor to measure connectivity whilst simultaneously monitoring the quality of the experience that end users are receiving.


What are the benefits of wireless network monitoring?

1. Ensure business continuity and increase productivity

As we said at the beginning of this blog, most businesses rely on dependable wireless internet to keep things running efficiently. Wi-Fi massively benefits employees, enabling them to stay connected wherever they are on the premises. Using WNM effectively means that network managers can detect issues in good time to reduce outages and disruption to business practises.
It goes without saying that this goes a long way towards improving employee productivity and satisfaction. Not only will they be working more efficiently, they also won’t need to make support calls, saving time and money.

2. Avoid network downtime

Today, most people will have wireless, wearable technology on their person at all times, which means more wireless devices in a network than wired. The great thing about WNM is that monitors all these devices and gives network managers the chance to address any issues quickly and accurately.

3. Solve WLAN problems before they reach users

One of the biggest benefits of WNM is the ability to diagnose and solve a problem efore it’s even detected by an end user. This reduces complaints, possibly even eliminating them altogether. End users can’t complain about a problem that they’re not aware of!

4. Easy access through cloud hosting

What’s really great is that cloud hosting can be used. This means that access can be gained from anywhere, instantly. Another big plus for businesses is that it helps avoid maintenance like software updates or lengthy backup processes, as they are done automatically. This means there is also no disruption to the network’s performance or user experience.

5. Total visibility into Wi-Fi performance

The network manager, or other permitted users, are able to view the WNM system from anywhere in the network, meaning they have visibility of the entire organisation’s Wi-Fi performance. This also means that any configuration changes can be made immediately and with ease by network managers.


For more information on how WNM can help your business operations, give one of our Geekabit Wi-Fi experts a call. You get in touch on 0203 322 2443 (London), 01962 657 390 (Hampshire) or 02920 676712 (Cardiff).

Which Wi-Fi Antenna Do I Need?

This blog is a brief overview of Wi-Fi antennas to help you choose the right one for your application.

Are you trying to boost your office or warehouse Wi-Fi signal? Perhaps you’re trying to provide Wi-Fi across your B&B or on a campsite? Or maybe you’re trying extend your Wi-Fi signal to an outbuilding, or connect to a public Wi-Fi network? All of these scenarios and more would require and benefit from a Wi-Fi antenna.

The main purpose of a Wi-Fi antenna is to send and receive wireless signal waves over different frequencies and is a very important component of any wireless network.

The signal strength of an antenna is decided by the power gain which is measured in dB (decibels).

One of the most common problems with wireless networks is when the right antenna hasn’t been selected during the installation process.

So, here is some information on the types of antennas that are available and the scenarios they are suitable for, to help you choose the right one and get your wireless network up and running successfully.

1. Directional Narrow Beam

This type of antenna is the best option if you are trying to extend your Wi-Fi network to an outbuilding.

For this to work, you need to have a clear line of sight.

Directional Narrow Beam antennas are mostly used for long range point to point networks.

2. Directional Wide Beam

This antenna is similar to the Directional Narrow Beam, but instead covers a shorter range thus being useful for covering a building yard or similar environment.

You still require a clear line of sight for this antenna to work.

3. Omnidirectional

The omnidirectional antenna is a great choice for covering a broad range of 360 degrees.

It’s a great choice for environments where users are connecting from different directions, like offices, warehouses and even campsites.

You could also use the omnidirectional antenna to create a persona Wi-Fi hotspot.

4. Sector

Another antenna used for hotspots, but professional ones this time.

They have a 120 degrees pick up range and are typically set up in threes to give a total of 360 degrees coverage.

This type of antenna is ideal for us in shops and open spaces.

If you’re still feeling insure about which antenna would be best for your network, give our Wi-Fi experts a call and see how we can help. You can call us on 0203 322 2443 (London), 01962 657 390 (Hampshire) or 02920 676712 (Cardiff).

Why Do You Need a UniFi Guest Network?

Do you run a business where you need to give your clients or guests Wi-Fi access, but don’t want to give them access to your whole network? Maybe you own a cafe, manage a gym or run a B&B – Your guests would all benefit from Wi-Fi access, and you would benefit from keeping it safe and secure for your business.


Not only could you isolate them on your network, but you could also control how long they have access, and how much bandwidth they use.


One solution to enable you to put all this in place would be a UniFi Guest Network.


Through your UniFI controller, you can creating, edit and manage UniFI Guest Networks.


Through the controller, you can edit your Guest Network to reflect your business by choosing a name – This is what users will see when they try to connect to your Wi-Fi network.


If you want to leave the Guest Network open then you can, but you can also make it exclusive to your guests by using a security key.


The great thing about this is that you can enable and disable Guest Networks, so if for any reason you want to temporarily take it down, you can do so without deleting the whole thing.


It’s super simple to get things up and running to this point, but there are further advantages to using this UniFi tool.


You have control over what Guests can and cannot access, before and after authorisation. Your administrator will be able to configure exactly the custom settings you require.


When you are at the stage of configuring your Guest Portal, you have 2 options. You can choose Legacy JSP which will provide a basic landing page for your guests when they login, or you can use AngularJS where you can make adjustments and preview the Portal Customisation options.


Customising your portal is great because it keeps everything on brand with your business and looks super professional. Of course, you can customise as much or as little as you like, that’s the joy of the UniFi Guest Network. If you do decide to customise your portal, then you can choose a background image (jpg files 920px wide and 640px high are recommended) and a logo image (PNG format, 400px width and height).


Another great feature of UniFi Guest Networks is being able to control how much bandwith particular user groups are allowed. For example, you don’t want the activity of your guests to negatively impact your other permanent users or affect critical applications. So being able to limit guest bandwidth is a big plus.


The last thing we wanted to mention in this list of UniFi Guest Network perks is the ability to manage and print vouchers.
Through the UniFi Hotspot System, a separate guest management platform, trusted employees can be granted access to be able to perform actions on the Guest Users. Through this, you can create, customise and even revoke vouchers for internet access on certain Guest Users.


There really are so many pros to this amazing tool as a part of a business Wi-Fi network.


For more information on how UniFi could benefit your business, give us a call here at Geekabit. We’ve got Wi-Fi experts working out of London, Hampshire and Wales who are on hand for all your business Wi-Fi needs.


You can call us on 0203 322 2443 (London), 01962 657 390 (Hampshire) or 02920 676712 (Cardiff).

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.