Our Top Ten Wi-Fi Blogs of 2019

The festivities are increasing by the day as we hurtle closer to Christmas and the end of another year. With the New Year looming large, we thought we’d take a look back over the past year and what happened in the Wi-Fi world.

It’s popular at this time of year to round everything up into a Top 10 so here is our annual round up of our top blogs of 2019. Which articles got the most hits and what was trending in 2019’s world of Wi-Fi? Let’s find out…

 

#10

In at a respectable number ten was ‘Wi-Fi For Your Start Up Office.’ Some of the most common questions that our team of Wi-Fi experts often get asked are about Wi-Fi connectivity for start-up offices, so in this blog we jotted down some of our thoughts for anyone in a similar position to bear in mind when setting up Wi-Fi.

https://geekabit.co.uk/2019/01/24/wi-fi-start-office/

 

#9

Next up was ‘Why Site Surveys are a Good Idea.’ This blog was prompted by a client visit to someone experiencing difficulties with their Wi-Fi signal. Turns out, their router was placed right next to a very thick, hundred-year-old castle wall. The signal just isn’t going to get through that – Placement of Wi-Fi kit is key, hence why site surveys are a good idea for buildings old and new.

https://geekabit.co.uk/2019/04/03/site-surveys-good-idea/

 

#8

Not far ahead was ‘#NewYearNewWiFi.’ When we wrote this blog for the New Year we were inspired by the ‘New Year Same Me’ hashtags circulating in the first week of January. The New Year brings with it all sorts of resolutions, but last year many influencers were purporting almost the opposite – No crazy diets, no impossible exercise expectations, no ‘be more this’ or ‘become less that.’ And almost all of them said to get offline We’re all about being positive in your skin, but we’re an ambitious bunch over at Geekabit and we love a realistic goal to be working towards! And if you’re going to be switching to offline for some time out, then at least make sure that when you are online you have a good, reliable connection. And that’s where #NewYearNewWiFI was born!  If this sounds similar to your resolutions for 2020, click the link and have a read.

https://geekabit.co.uk/2019/01/09/newyearnewwifi/

 

#7

In at lucky number 7 was ‘Capacity, Interference and Roaming – 3 Wi-Fi Myths.’ There are many myths out there about Wi-Fi (including the infamous ‘Don’t let your Christmas lights ruin your Wi-Fi’ articles that circulate this time of year – We’ve blogged on that too!). This one however focused on electromagnetism and how the same laws that govern mobile phones and radio waves also govern Wi-Fi – meaning that there are particular elements that are predictable. Throw in a pub analogy to make all the physics make sense and you’re onto a winner!

https://geekabit.co.uk/2019/03/14/capacity-interference-roaming-3-wi-fi-myths/

 

#6

Narrowly missing the top 5, this blog asked ‘Which Wi-Fi Antenna Do I Need?’ Blogs on Wi-Fi kit and placement of Wi-Fi devices seem to be popular reads. This blog featured a brief overview of Wi-Fi antennas with the aim of helping you identify which one would work for your network. If this is something you’re wondering about right now, then click the link below!

https://geekabit.co.uk/2019/05/29/wi-fi-antenna-need/

 

#5

‘Do I Need a Car with a Wi-Fi Hotspot?’ Apparently that’s one of the burning questions from this year. Last year many of our readers must have been considering a new car for the new year – And with that, the thought of needing a Wi-Fi hotspot too. In this blog we looked at the Wi-Fi hotspot options for vehicles, and whether it’s really needed or just a bit of an added luxury. If a new car is on your January sales shopping list then you might want to re-visit this one!

https://geekabit.co.uk/2019/01/02/need-car-wi-fi-hotspot/

 

#4

‘What is 802.11ax Wi-Fi, and what will it mean for 802.11ac?’ If you’ve heard (or even muttered yourself!) the whines of ‘Why is the internet so ssssslllllooooowwwww?’ in airports, hotels, stadiums or even offices and homes where multiple people are trying to use various wireless devices, then this blog might explain things for you. You may 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 so not surprising this blog came in at number 4!

https://geekabit.co.uk/2019/04/25/802-11ax-wi-fi-will-mean-802-11ac/

 

#3

We’re back to kit and devices once again with the third most read blog of 2019. ‘What’s The Difference Between Wi-Fi Bridges and Wi-Fi Mesh?’ we heard you ask – So this blog delivered the answers, and it seems it was well received! If you’re sat there wondering what these things are then the quick answer is they’re both alternatives to physical cabling. For more info click the link!

https://geekabit.co.uk/2019/03/21/whats-difference-wi-fi-bridges-wi-fi-mesh/

 

#2

Getting close now! Missing the top spot was our blog on ‘Cat5 vs Cat5e vs Cat6 Cables – What’s the difference?’ More kit questions that we willingly answered for all you Wi-Fi expert wannabe’s. All we hear about when it comes to Wi-Fi is wireless, wireless, wireless. Everything nowadays seems to be wireless! But there are instances and situations where cables might be better or necessary, so this blog was to provide info on the types of cable you might require.

https://geekabit.co.uk/2019/02/06/cat5-vs-cat5e-vs-cat6-cables-whats-difference/

 

#1

And finally, *drum roll please* in at number one; the most popular article we shared in 2019 was ‘How Many Access Points Do I Need?’ And by quite a long way! It seems you know what you like, and similar to last year, what you like is technical information about Wi-Fi and how to get it working to the best of its ability in your homes and businesses.

https://geekabit.co.uk/2019/04/05/many-access-points-need/

We’ve rather enjoyed taking a look back at what’s made Wi-Fi news this past year – From Wi-Fi related new years resolutions to the technical aspects of Wi-Fi in your office and how best to set it up with the appropriate devices.

2020 is tipped to be the year we start to see some real digital transformation and technology that has been quietly moving along in the sidelines is set to become centre stage. Keep your eyes peeled for our New Year blog detailing what we’re expecting to see in 2020!

 

Top Tips to Improve Wi-Fi Speed at Christmas

75% of adults in the UK will be spending an average of 4 hours on the internet on Christmas day. Broadband providers such as BT and Sky have seen an unprecedented surge in online usage over the festive period in recent years, with streaming platforms taking a huge leap in popularity.

Christmas morning seemed to be peak time for internet usage, probably with people opening their new gifts like smartphones and tablets and immediately connecting them. Sharing snippets of their Christmas on social media was also a popular pastime up until early afternoon when everyone was likely munching on their turkey and then falling asleep in front of the tv full of Christmas dinner.

A third of people will use the internet via Skype or WhatsApp to make voice and video calls to loved ones, and 22% plan to use apps to play family games such as Trivial Pursuit.

And let’s not forget those who will be streaming festive films on Christmas Day – A quarter of you are likely to be using streaming services and downloads to watch Christmas TV.

Or maybe you are the one in five who seek out the January sales and want to grab an early bargain.

With smartphones, tablets, smartwatches, laptops and other internet-enables devices being the top of many Christmas lists, it’s no wonder that households welcome multiple new devices on the 25th – All of which will be connecting to the home Wi-Fi.

It’s obvious that people are relying more on reliable Wi-Fi on Christmas day and throughout the festive period – And not to avoid family time, but to enhance it. Whether that’s keeping in touch with people you can’t see face to face, Googling a new brussel sprout recipe (fried with Pancetta, anyone?) or choosing a festive film to watch together after dinner, the need for Wi-Fi is there.

Here are some top tips to keep your Wi-Fi connected this Christmas:

  1. Check the location of your router. Make sure it’s located away from thick walls and windows. Also try not to place it next to a shared wall in case your neighbour has theirs in a similar location (this could cause interference with yours).
  2. Avoid signal interference. Make sure your router is placed away from electrical devices, such as baby monitors, cordless phones and even your Christmas lights! Other things such as the water in fish tanks can make for weaker Wi-FI signal.
  3. Do you have privacy settings? Ensure your Wi-Fi network is password protected. Not only will it mean you are in control of whether your guests can connect to your internet, you will also stop anyone else (e.g. neighbours) from using your Wi-Fi and subsequently slowing it down.
  4. Stay up-to-date. Did you know that download speeds can be improved simply by making sure you have the latest update of your browser? It may even be worth checking other providers and versions to see which one is best.
  5. Do you need everything to be connected? If you have multiple devices all connected at once then you might see some issues with speed. If there are any devices connected that don’t need to be, then consider switching them off until you need them.

If you have a house hold full of online gamers desperate to try out their new game, or are trying to stream The Holiday for the 10th time this month whilst 3 other family members are uploading photos to Facebook, watching Instagram TV and downloading the latest software onto their latest device then you might be putting an unlimited DSL or fibre package at the top of your Christmas list.

 

Tis the season to be… Terrified of failing Wi-Fi!?

Wait, what?

A new survey has found that 28% of UK adult respondents were having concerns about their connectivity over Christmas and whether their Wi-Fi would be reliable enough for the multiple devices being used over the festive period.

Obviously here at Geekabit, we’re extremely passionate about all things Wi-Fi. But among Wi-Fi worries are thoughts about getting our presents bought (standard Christmas eve rush, probably) and whether or not the turkey has been ordered.

Perhaps the fearful 28% are relying on superfast, reliable Wi-Fi so they can Google ‘how to cook a turkey’ on Christmas morning, or to test out their brand new smartphone that they’ve ‘accidentally’ found hidden in the bottom of the wardrobe.

Whatever the reason, if this is causing a concern for you then let’s get technical for a minute. Most homes will have a broadband router that will be able to manage a reasonable amount of connected devices. Routers and devices on the cheaper side may encounter difficulties, but this is probably only going to cause problems if you are having a huge family gathering where everyone will be using multiple devices. We’re talking tens of devices here.

The same survey found that the average home will invite 3 people over for Christmas, with 19% planning to host a party of guests of 6+. This would imply that actually, many people’s Christmas Day will not be drastically different to having family or friends over on any ‘normal day’.

The biggest difference will probably be the likelihood on Christmas Day of several family members trying to activate a new internet connection on a device they’ve received that day.

It’s predicted that the most popular 4 Internet of Things items likely to be given as gifts this Christmas will be:

  • Tablets
  • Smartphones
  • Smart toys
  • Smart Watches

If everyone at your Christmas gathering are opening a gift containing one of those, firstly, how lucky are you?! And secondly, if you all rip the package open and try to connect them all at the same time, the user demand might saturate the download and upstream capacity and cause a broadband issue. However, this is only really a risk for those who are unable to upgrade to a faster package.

One of the reasons for this is that the device will attempt to initialise the download of the latest software / firmware updates which can be quite hefty in size.

So if you are one of the 34% of households that will be adding another IoT device to your homes this Christmas, you may like to consider looking at your broadband service. But as we said above, the likelihood of encountering issues is actually rather low.

Christmas time for many is more about a connection with loved ones than it is about online presence. But for 41.8 million Brits, this family connection comes with a Wi-Fi one as well, using it for online calls.

And did you know, 6% of those calls are done in the bathroom? No comment on that one; we’re hoping they don’t include video. Bathrooms seem to be a popular location for those hiding out from family for a secret scroll through social media, and even for a spot of online shopping in the Boxing Day sales!

Personally, we’re leaning towards switching off for a bit over Christmas and being connected more with those around us than with our phones; long Wintery walks, board games, good food and Christmas re-runs on the TV.

But it’s important to remember that not everyone has a Christmas like that. Some may spend the day binge-watching seasons of their favourite show on Netflix for a bit of company, or video-calling family on the other side of the world that they can’t see in person this year.

So whether you’re relying on your Wi-Fi connection for a Christmas skype call with family or faraway friends, or whether you’re one of the sneaky few who are escaping family fesitivites by scrolling social media on the sly in the bathroom, we hope your connection is strong – Both online and with your people.

 

Geekabit Update Santa’s Sleigh!

You may or may not know that we recently opened up our Wi-Fi expertise to homes as well as businesses, but we were very surprised to get a call out to the North Pole this week to take a look at Santa’s Sleigh.

Okay, not quite the North Pole… More like Winchester. And while the big man in red himself was rather elusive when we visited, we did still get to grips with his sleigh and get it set up with 4G ready for the festive season.

Every year Winchester Round Table take Santa and his sleigh on a tour of the estates surrounding the city centre to spread festive cheer to all and raise vital funds for charitable causes from all over the city.

You might remember that we helped out with Winchester Round Table’s big firework event last month, and were more than happy to team up with them again to help get their sleigh ready for its first outing tonight.

Beginning life as an old milk float from Leicester, Winchester Santa Sleigh was the brainchild of some of the guys (or should we say elves) at Winchester Round Table. They upcycled it and with a bit of help from local companies, 6 months later it was made into the sleigh it is today.

Instead of delivering milk, it now transports Father Christmas around the city of Winchester throughout the festive season, spreading cheer and raising money for many local charitable causes. It’s a wonderful community project, with volunteers from all over the city and the local children get so excited when they hear him coming down their street.

But why does Santa’s sleigh need 4G we hear you ask?

Well, our Wi-Fi experts came to the rescue to update Santa’s sleigh with the latest 4G technology for 2 main reasons.

The Santa Tracker

As you can imagine, families from all over Winchester are desperate to know whereabouts Santa is and when he’ll be going past their house. Giving the sleigh 4G means that it can be tracked and it’s location updated every 5 minutes on the website, making everyone aware of when he leaves the North Pole and which road he’s currently on. The tracker has proved hugely popular and is a great addition to the sleigh.

Mobile Payment Technology

As we’ve mentioned, Winchester Santa Sleigh is not only an opportunity to spread festive cheer but also to raise money for local charities.    As Santa makes his way around the roads of Winchester, his elves are busy knocking on doors letting them know that Santa is coming. These elves have charity buckets to take any donations that people may wish to make, and new for this year they will be utilising the 4G from the sleigh to enable mobile payment technology.

As we all well know we are quickly becoming a cashless society, so using iZettle’s repeat payment feature on an iPhone, WRT, Santa and his elves will be able to take card payments for the first time. This means that they will be able to take donations via card as well as using the traditional bucket shaking method.

We’re now feeling ever so festive – You just never know where you’ll be setting up mobile internet next!

For more information on Winchester Santa Sleigh, head to their website https://www.winchestersantasleigh.co.uk/ and look out for Santa making his first trip out in the city tonight!

 

Inflight Wi-Fi – How Does It Work?

Are you one of the 94% of people that travel around the globe thinking that inflight internet would enhance your travel experience? Maybe you’re even one of the 30% of those people that look for this very feature when booking your flights. Or perhaps you don’t want internet during flights at all and you actually look forward to having a break from the aimless scrolling and email bombardment. What it comes down to is that the majority of people now expect to be able to access the internet at 35,000 feet.

And it’s not just beneficial to us as customers – By 2035 it’s estimated that it will be making the airlines an additional £15 million in revenue.

It’s not very surprising then, that more airlines are rushing to update their amenities with inflight Wi-Fi. But how are they doing it? Just how does Wi-Fi work 6 miles above sea level, going 560 mph?

It works one of two ways; Internet can either reach planes via Air to Ground systems or Satellite.

 

Air to Ground (ATG) system

ATG was the first system to be developed to provide internet on planes. It works just like the way ground-based mobile data networks do – But instead of focusing signal downwards, the mobile towers project them upward towards the planes. The planes have antennas fitted to the underneath of them which receive the signal and then send it on to the onboard server. There are Wi-Fi access points installed inside the plane which provide access to the passengers via a server which has a modem converting radio frequency signals into computer signals (and vice versa). On the ground, there are towers along the flight path enabling information to be exchanged between the ground and the aircraft. Similar to how your broadband internet services providers operate, the towers are connected to control centres run by service providers.

An example of the devices used in an ATG system on a plane would be 2 main antennas under the belly, 2 side antennas, an onboard server and a number of Wi-Fi router antennas inside the plane.

It sounds pretty straightforward but there are 2 main drawbacks to the ATG systems.

  1. Peak data speed per flight is limited to 10 Mbps as they operate on a lower frequency (800 MHz) in comparison to 24 Mbps which is the average fixed line internet speed in the UK, with 50% of houses having access to 100 Mbps or higher. If multiple users on the flight log in, the speed per user would barely be enough to check emails, and even if they could check them it would take a long time.
  2. Coverage of course depends on the network towers, so in areas where there are fewer (or no) network towers, for example the desert or the sea, the coverage is going to be patchy at best. This means that ATG systems are not the obvious choice for international travel.

 

Satellite System

This is more complicated, but inflight Wi-Fi using satellites is faster and more reliable and largely works in the way you would secure an internet connection in a rural location.

Rather than having the antennas on the underneath of the aircraft, they are installed on top of the plane. Satellites that are orbiting the earth send a signal that is then received by these antennas. In order to successfully receive the signals, the antennas in this scenario have to constantly adjust their position as both the satellite and the plane are moving at such high speeds and are so far apart (approximately 22,000 miles). Instead of under the belly of the aircraft, antennas are installed on the top of the plane. This system still has an onboard server and Wi-Fi access points, but in addition also has a device that controls the movement of the antenna based on the flight location and speed. Similar to the ATG system, the satellites are linked to ground stations which are then connected to operation centres run bu service providers.

An example of the devices used in a satellite system are a satellite antenna, on-board server, a device to control antenna movements, a device to convert signals and multiple Wi-Fi access points within the plane.

There are 2 major advantages of using satellite-based inflight internet which are:

  1. Unlike ATG systems that can’t provide coverage over desert or sea, internet through satellite systems is available everywhere except the North and South Poles. Even during long-haul flights the antennas are unlikely to have to reposition themselves to a different satellite more than once. For international travel a satellite-based system is the obvious choice.
  2. The bandwidth is significantly higher than ATG systems due to it operating on higher frequencies, allowing more speed. The two main frequenciesallocated for satellite internet are Ku-band (12–18 GHz) and Ka-band (26–40 GHz). These two bands allow peak bandwidth between 30 to 100 Mbps per aircraft.

As with most things, it’s not all plain sailing (or flying) and there a few drawbacks to this system as well.

  1. It’s not pragmatic for smaller airlines or those flying regional routes as it is more expensive. The equipment, maintenance, and bandwidth costs are rather higher than the simple ATG system.
  2. Whilst the internet speed is faster, there is an increased latency due to the distance the data has to travel being extremely high. (Latency is the time it takes data to travel between its source and destination in milliseconds, so even though the overall speed is faster with a satellite system, there will be a delay between when you click on a link and when the page starts to load. Once it starts to load however, it will be almost immediate). The difference between this and ATG systems is that an ATG system will start to load straight away (because of the lower latency) but will take significantly longer to completely load (slower internet speed).
  3. There is also a hidden cost (in addition to equipment, installation, and maintenance costs) – it also impacts fuel costs. The placement of an antenna on the outside of the aircraft might sound like just a small difference, but the change in shape actually puts the plane at a aerodynamic disadvantage. Thus, there is an increase in drag which increases fuel consumption. There is work going on by service providers to decrease the size of the antenna to lessen the impact of this.

 

Economics of inflight Wi-Fi

Some service providers will set the price, handle customer experience, and collect the revenue, sharing a portion of it with the airline. Then there are some airlines who collect the revenue and pay the service provider wholesale prices for the bandwidth used.

As we’ve outlined above, there are significant costs involved with providing Wi-Fi on planes, hence there are very few that offer this as a complimentary service. Most not only see this as needing to be a chargeable service, but see it as an additional revenue generating opportunity. The costs of providing this service are high, but airlines are savvy and know that they can get away with adding their own margin on top as well. Generally, it’s going to be business customers who are utilising this service, keeping up with emails whilst in the air and landing without being behind. This means that they are not personally paying for it, and it will be the actual employers who pay the bill, hence they are more likely to subscribe to the service. It can also be used as a means to give higher tier customers an additional perk to their experience by offering free Wi-Fi.

It might all sound quite complicated, but it’s actually pretty straightforward to get a plane equipped for offering inflight Wi-Fi. For an ATG system, it can be installed overnight, and for satellite-based systems it can take just a few days.

 

So What’s Next?

As with most technological advances, the future is looking faster and more reliable for inflight Wi-Fi. High throughput satellites will use the given satellite frequencies more efficiently and by employing a new antenna technology that relies on spot beams rather than wide beams. Traditional satellites use a wide beam that can cover areas as large as a country with just a single beam. This might sound good but it’s actually not – the disadvantage of this is that all flights within this beam have to share the bandwidth. With spot beam, HTS satellites can focus on a single aircraft and multiple such beams can be broadcast by the satellite, enabling much higher bandwidth per aircraft.

Soon enough, through better satellites, better antennas, and more service providers, you’ll be enjoying the same internet freedom in the air as you do in your home. For 94% of you that’ll be great news! Not so great for the remaining 6% though that will no longer be able to use ‘Sorry I was on a flight’ as an excuse for not replying to all those emails.

 

Event Wi-Fi at Winchester Bonfire and Fireworks

We started off November working with our sister company Sprechen on Winchester’s largest one-day annual charity event, Winchester Round Table’s Bonfire and Fireworks. Sprechen have been heavily involved with this event for many years volunteering their time, and this has enabled us to join the team of volunteers and lend our Wi-Fi expertise to help make the event a success.

 

This year the event raised in excess of £60K – A phenomenal community effort, and one everyone involved should be immensely proud of. There are so many great causes and vital work that this money will go towards in the local community of Winchester and we couldn’t be more thrilled to have volunteered our time and expertise to be a small part of that.

 

You might be thinking; what does a Bonfire and Firework event need Wi-Fi for anyway? Well, this is no ordinary bonfire and fireworks night. Every year, Winchester Round Table host around 20,000 people for an evening of entertainment, food, drinks, and of course the legendary bonfire and fireworks spectacular.

 

An event of this scale calls for reliable Wi-Fi, and that’s where Geekabit came in. We have a  wealth of experience and expertise in this area that we were more than happy to volunteer to this great cause.

 

We put in a temporary 4G network with point to point links. This allowed us to install wireless access points on all the important parts of the field. As you can imagine, having 20K people in a field can create some issues in terms of network coverage, but when mobile phone networks became unavailable our wireless network overcame the issues. This also meant that that the Wi-Fi we provided aided the event control room on the night as well.

 

The event also offers ticket pick-up on the day from a Ticket Booth based in an outside location in the city centre. Due to the volume of people that need to pick-up tickets, it’s not possible to borrow a building or utilise a shop as the crowds and the queue would be too big.

 

This therefore makes it necessary for the booth to be in a location that will cause as little disruption as possible. Due to outside location of the ticket booth, and the nature of the service it is providing, it’s necessary for there to be reliable Wi-Fi. Geekabit made this possible, which enabled access to live spreadsheets, order information and incoming emails and social messages throughout the day of the event.

 

On the night itself, we also helped power the social media screen which is hugely popular with attendees, and great to encourage posts on social media channels giving the charity event even more exposure. Thanks to the Wi-Fi we provided, attendees could share photos live at the event and see their photographs on the big screen.

 

Having Wi-Fi on site also meant that new mobile donation technology could be tested with a reliable connection, helping to improve it’s use ready for next year’s event.

 

Reliable Wi-Fi throughout the day of this event was vital for production purposes and the smooth running of critical processes.

 

Working with Winchester Round Table Bonfire and Fireworks was a privilege and a pleasure. Year on year there are more things that require a wireless connection to ensure the smooth running of an event, and we hope to be on hand again in the future to help this to happen.

 

For more information on our Event W-Fi services get in touch with one of our Wi-Fi experts and we can show you how we can help make your event a success.

 

Get in touch here.

 

Photo credit to Joe Lillywhite Photography.

Wi-Fi Interference – The Top 5 Myths

Wi-Fi Interference – The Top 5 Myths

In order to monitor and address Radio Frequency interference, you need to understand what causes it – And what doesn’t.

Technology is ever-evolving and moving forward. Year on year, the number of wireless devices grows with a prediction of more than a trillion networked devices being in use by the year 2025. This also means that more wireless networks are being created, and thus, the need for understanding RF interference grows. RF interference is a common network problem, and one that network managers need to address – It’s imperative that they understand the causes of it, the impact it has and how to solve the issue

So when does RF interference happen?

RF interference occurs when the performance of an electronic device is impacted by picking up other electromagnetic radiation emissions. When the wrong signals are picked up it can result in service loss or delays – potentially big problems for a network connection.

It’s important that you or your network manager are in a position to take the right action at the right time. Unfortunately, there are some misconceptions about interference which could knock you off course, so below are the top 5 myths about interference.

 

Myth #1 – Interference is all man-made

Devices and networks themselves cause interference problems, and are generally the biggest cause of interference in a network. However, not all interference is man-made. Natural occurrences can also affect how electronic devices operate, and there’s not a lot your network manager can do about lightning or solar flares!

Myth #2 – Having many access points will protect against interference

Often, access points are deployed in high numbers to try and protect against RF interference. While this is good for network capacity (it will be greater with more AP’s), it doesn’t actually guarantee protection against interference. In some cases, each access point can interfere with one another causing co-channel interference. To try and avoid this issue, in a dense area the power of each access point should be reduced.

Myth #3 – If the network is working, there is no interference

It is a common misconception among Network Managers that as long as the Wi-Fi is working, successfully making transmissions, then there must be little to no interference. However, the even though transmissions are going through, the throughout and capacity of the Wi-Fi can be impacted. This is because if a device detects interference before starting a transmission, it puts it on hold until it’s gone. Similarly, the packed will be resent if interference happens during a transmission. So yes, the wireless devices generally do get the transmissions but any interference problems can cause underlying fundamental issues that can often go undetected at first.

Myth #4 – Your Access Points will always detect interference

You may think that interference is a bit of a non-issue as it’s now possible to deploy testing equipment to help manage interference within your network. Access points can automatically change channels to respond to any detected signals outside of 802.11. But, in some cases such as where broadband devices cannot be improved with a channel change, this wouldn’t solve the problem. In order to properly deal with any interference, it’s important to locate the actual source. While automated interference responses can be helpful, they don’t always solve the issue where it originates. This means that the underlying problem would never be addressed.

Myth #5 – Interference is only caused by other Wi-Fi networks

Similarly to myth #1, all interference does not come from one source. While other networks can indeed cause interference on your network, that’s not going to be the only source of it. Devices themselves, co-channel and adjacent-channel interference can create significant problems.

To limit issues caused by this, you could try reducing the number of devices you have on the 2.4GHz band. This is used by many Wi-Fi devices, but most access points can use both 2.4 and 5GHz. So by connecting them to 5 GHz instead, you would be moving them away from a more interference0prone 2.4 GHz band.

 

If you’re worried that your network could be experiencing interference but you’re unsure of the source, get in touch with one of our Geekabit Wi-Fi experts here.

Improve Your Wi-Fi With Clever AP Placement

At the risk of sounding rather dramatic, getting the placement of wireless Access Points right can really make or break a business’ Wi-Fi network. The top things you want from your Wi-Fi in your business (or home) are:

  • Good connectivity
  • Seamless roaming
  • Minimal interference
  • Efficiency
  • Speed
  • Adaptability

And you can get all of this from properly planning where your AP’s are going to go. Without the planning and forward thinking, you could be doomed to an inefficient network with poor connectivity, dead zones and interference. Cue lag time and frustration – Nobody wants that.

You may be wondering when the best time is to sort all this out, or worrying that you’ve missed the boat. You could be moving into new premises and starting from nothing, or perhaps you are expanding your organisation and need to cover a wider area, or maybe you’re just looking to upgrade your wireless network. Whichever situation you find yourself in, in order to optimise your network you need to properly consider where to place your access points. You don’t want one corner of the office to be a thriving hub of activity, and the other side struggling to load anything

So what exactly do you need to think about when designing the placement of your AP’s?

Functionality

What’s the first thing you do when you start the design process something? You identify what it’s being used for, by whom and where it’s being used. This is especially true for AP placement, so here are some things to think about to ensure seamless connectivity.

What are the demands on your network?

Think about the needs of your network – How fast does the internet need to be? What will the internet be used for? Downloads/ uploads? File size? How many employees will be using it? Imagine 2 very different businesses: A small accountancy firm with 5 employees, and an international architecture firm with hundreds of employees. The number of staff, the type and size of files, the size of the offices are all very different and thus the demands on their networks very different

How many users will you have?

How many users will be connected to the network at any given time? And how many devices will each user be using? These are important questions to consider. A general rule of thumb is one AP per 25-30 users. You also need to bear in mind that each user will have a few different devices – Those connected to the network will likely be using a smartphone, a laptop and maybe a tablet.

How big is the space?

This is the main part of AP placement design. Not only is the square footage important, but also the shape of the space and what building materials have been used to construct it. It is important that knowledge of these elements is known ahead of time to ensure network optimisation. If the space is an odd shape, then there may be areas that could lose signal. Likewise, if certain construction materials have been used then they may cause interference in those areas.

Who will be responsible for installation?

You may be thinking that your IT team can deal with this, and they may well be able to. But it is important to ensure that whoever you instruct to install your wireless network has experience of AP placement and network design. The above suggestions are a great starting point to begin discussions – And may also expose any inexperience that could cause problems later down the line. This process can be straightforward, but also relies on experience of network design and proper AP placement. If you’re not confident that you have the expertise in house, consider outsourcing it to a Wi-Fi professional (like us here at Geekabit – But we would say that wouldn’t we…)

 

AP design and installation

So you’ve assessed the uses of your network and identified any potential challenges you may face from your users and the what they need the internet for. The next step before installation is to carry out a wireless Site Survey to provide a more extensive check of usage intentions, challenges, business needs and space. This is necessary whether it’s for new premises or just an upgrade – Better to identify potential problems before the design stage rather than during or, worst case, after installation.

In which rooms is Wi-Fi going to be used most?

Do you have conference rooms? Individual or communal offices? Anywhere like this where usage is likely to be high will need an AP. This will ensure adequate coverage in the areas that demand it the most.

You might be thinking why not place one in a hallway? This is actually quite a common mistake. Yes, it’s likely to be a central location so we do understand the thinking behind it, however contrary to the belief that the signal can reach multiple places at once, it can actually cause interference from walls and building materials. This would have the opposite effect by causing a significant reduction in signal and range. The best places for AP’s are where people actually need them – People don’t work in hallways, they work in offices or meeting rooms.

Where should I place AP’s – Walls or ceilings?

This really depends on the type of building. To avoid any interference from pipes or ducts, you’ll often find AP’s below the ceiling or mounted on walls just under ceilings. If you have tall ceilings like a warehouse, then you may need to consider mounting the AP’s on the walls instead to make sure that the signal can reach the floor. You could also use a directional antenna to overcome any problems with distance.

Don’t forget the cables!

It’s not just about finding the best location space wise – You also need to be able to run a cable from that location back to the telecom room. This means that construction materials within the walls and building design needs to support the installation and running of cables. It’s not as easy as just choosing a location and sticking an AP there – If the cables aren’t possible, then that location won’t work.

Interference

Certain materials, like brick, metal and concrete, can adversely affect signals by blocking them and reducing their range. Other materials can also cause problems, such as thick glass or drywall, so it really is important to identify the materials used for the construction of the building before designing your network and assigning AP locations.

Be careful with overlap

A bit of coverage overlap is necessary in the deign of a network, especially in areas of high use or places surrounded by the materials we’ve just mentioned. Too much overlap, however, and you could be looking at interference.

This is where the design process of mapping out where the AP’s will go helps to highlight how much overlap is needed and where. If you’re placing AP’s in multistorey buildings or in rooms next to each other, then make sure that they are strategically staggered to provide coverage optimisation and minimise overlap.

Do you need coverage in outdoor areas?

With the likes of Google offices offering business premises of dreams for employees, an outside area that could be used for working might be preferential .If you do require coverage outside, then make sure you choose weather-proof AP’s. These are also a handy little device if you need to provide a wireless network within an area of refrigeration, heat or condensation.

If you only need coverage indoors, then you generally place APs on interior walls. If you don’t need any coverage outside, then placing AP’s too close to exterior walls would just waste signal by pushing some of it outdoors. You also want to avoid any potential security risks – If your network is accessible from outside it could mean that someone outside your organisation can gain access without the proper safety in place.

 

Why does AP design matter so much?

Hopefully what we’ve written about above will have answered this question already. We were dramatic when we started so we’ll finish on a dramatic note too – Your business could be completely transformed with a well-designed network and properly thought out Access Point placement. Just think how much more efficient your employees could be if the internet coverage was seamless and fast with no interference? Your whole business could move faster. Placing AP’s with thought and clever wireless network design is such an important investment to make for your business – big or small.

Our Wi-Fi Experts from Geekabit offer assistance for the whole process; from Site Surveys, to Network Design, through to Installation. If you’re not confident that your in-house IT team can effectively take your organisation through this period of change, then get in touch for our expert advice. Contact us here.

Wi-Fi Dropping Out? Here’s a Guide to 5GHz  

Last week we had a call out to a customer reporting Wi-Fi dropping out on their 5GHz Frequency band only Wi-Fi network in central London’.

This got us to thinking that a quick guide to 5GHz in the UK would make a handy blog!

Before we start, here’s a bit of help with the lingo used.

Indoors – This means that the access point hardware may only operate using the channel in question if it remains inside a building.

DFS – Dynamic Frequency Selection. Units labelled with this must have DFS enable.

TPC – Transmit Power Control. Unit must be operating under these parameters.

 

The Usable 5GHz Channel Numbers Increase By 4 Each Time – Why?

Common question, and this is why. Each channel in the 5GHz spectrum is 5MHz wide, but only every 4th channel is usable. It’s important that there is no overlap between channels, which is why there are gaps – To ensure adequate spacing.

Let’s do an example. If we take the centre frequency of Channel 40 in the 5GHz spectrum, we have 5200MHz (or 5.2GHz). If we were to make this a 20MHz channel, we you would make this frequency the central point of the channel and extend 10MHz in either direction above and below this. This would give you the range of 5190MHz-5210MHz for the 20Mhz wide channel. We have used up 2 x 5MHz wide channels in each direction by extending the channel 10MHz in each direction. These would have been Channels 38, 39, 41, and 42). This is the reason why these channels are not considered usable. To avoid any potential overlap, most hardware won’t allow you to select them. You could very easily end up with co-channel interference if you were to go ahead and use them.

A Bit More Info on Band A (Channels 36 – 64)

Band A is 200MHz wide and offers 8 channels at 20MHz or 4 channels at 40MHz. However, Band A breaks down further into 2 bands. These are UNII-1 Lower and UNII-2 Middle.

Band A UNII-1 Lower (Channels 36 – 48)

Within this set of 4 channels there are 2 options – 4 non overlapping 20MHz channels or 2 non overlapping 40MHz channels. All will be well as long as you keep to the 200mW output limit.

Band A UNII-2 Middle (Channels 52 – 64)

This set of 4 channels also allows for 4 non overlapping 20MHz channels or 2 non overlapping 40MHz channels. The difference here however, is that DFS and TPC need to be switched on. This is to ensure you stay compliant with Ofcom regulations. This is important and thus many hardware vendors won’t give the option when using these channels other than to have these settings switched on within the firmware.

 

Dynamic Frequency Selection (DFS)

Radar such as military and weather uses frequency space. DFS allows 5GHz hardware to operate within the same frequency. If you have an access point, or a bridge unit in access point mode, with DFS enabled, it will listen for a short amount of time first, ensuring it doesn’t pick up any radar signals.

If it does detect radar, then a different channel will be used. If it deems the airwaves to be clear on that channel then it will stay put. If radar is detected later, it will also change to a different channel.

Any channel switching is kept as seamless as possible by the access point using protocols specified in 802.11h. This means it will broadcast to the attached stations that a channel switch is taking place which enables them to react without any hiccups. If a device has detected radar and moved away from it, it will avoid that channel for a defined period of time.

 

40MHz Wide Channels

Some devices only support a 20MHz channel, so 40MHz wide channels are created by bonding together 2 of these. These 2 channels must be adjacent channels, and are known as the Primary and Secondary channels. The secondary channel may be above or below the primary channel. Any devices that support 20MHz wide channels will connect to the primary channel. Within your hardware you will select this primary channel, with the secondary channel being above or below the primary. It’s worth noting however that the primary channel mustn’t be on the edge of the usable spectrum in this case. When the secondary channel is above the primary it is sometimes specified as “Channel 40 +1” or “40 -1” if below.

 

5GHz Is Your Friend in High Density Environments!

You may already be aware that 2.4GHz only allows for 3 channels with no overlap. These channels are 1, 6 and 11. In high density environments this can cause issues, as if you have any more than 3 access points transmitting 2.4GHz signals in a confined area you’re more than likely going to encounter some co-channel interference.

This occurs when you have 2 devices trying to transmit at the same time as each other. Only 1 device may use a channel space at any one time to do so reliably. It’s literally like a butting of heads. If they try to transmit at the same time, they collide and result in both devices having to try again after a random amount of time. Not conducive to a reliable wireless environment.

This is why 5GHz is really rather great. Picture 500 people all in one room, sitting together using various wireless devices. If you have an enterprise level access point capable of handling 50 clients on 2.4GHz radio reliably, and you have 3 of these access points in the room using 3 non- overlapping channels (1, 6 and 11) then you have the capacity to cope with 150 users.  But that leaves 350 other users wanting Wi-Fi too! So we change these 3 access points into dual radio 2.4/5GHz. This means that each of the 5GHz radios can take on 50 users as well. So now we’re up to 300 users catered for. 200 to go. We’ve used the 3 non-overlapping  2.4GHz channels ( we can’t use them again as it’s one room with no way of attenuating the signal) but we do have a larger number of 5GHz channels that we can use. We can add in 4 more access points, but these will only have their 5GHz radios switched on, which let’s you look after 50 more users per AP, taking us to the 500 users being able to use their wireless devices to their hearts content.  No channels have been reused with 3 access point radios on 2.4GHz and 7 radios on 5GHz.

This is a pretty no-frills example, and does assume that their wireless devices are dual band devices (ones that support both 2.4GHz and 5GHz). If you have the know-how, a bit of smart design and some trade-trickery then there is the possibility that you could re-use some of your 2.4ghz channels with the right power and directional access points whilst still avoiding issues. But this is a simple demonstration of how it works.

 

5GHz Is Your Friend Yet Again for Outdoor Point To Point Wireless

If you’re looking for a friend for outdoor point-to-point links then 5GHz is your man again. 5GHz is a great choice for this as is high output power (upto 4W) is allowed.

5GHz can be legally used to transmit up to 10db more than 2.4GHz in Band A or B and 16db more in band C.  In Band A and B the 5GHz signal is able to travel around 15x further than 2.4GHz and in Band C a massive amount further.

Most household networks are 2.4GHz and have a whole host of these signals being sent out all over place, so another benefit of using 5GHz for wireless bridges is that it is also less likely to suffer from interference. 5GHz in the home is less common and if it is present is going to be on the lower transmit power offered by band A or B leaving band C free to use.

5GHz also scatters and reflects better than 2.4GHz which can be useful for near lines of sight situations – Another benefit.

Hopefully you can see from this article that 5GHz is a very useful wireless tool.

Using our expert knowledge on the above we were able to quickly identify and fix last week’s clients issues quickly. Their problem was that one of their access points was broadcasting on a DFS channel and was turning off every time it could sense radar.

If you’re having some wireless issues and you’re not sure where to start or who to turn to, then give our Wi-Fi experts a call and see if we can get you back online.

Contact us here.

Which Should I choose, Ubiquiti or Cisco?

This is a question we get asked a lot. There are a handful of big players when it comes to professional-grade wireless hardware, 2 of which are Cisco and Ubiquiti.

We don’t really have to introduce Cisco do we. If you know enterprise networking then you’ll know Cisco. So when you’re looking for highly configurable enterprise-level access points then Cisco might well the be way to go, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s just always the best choice.

Enter, Ubiquiti. For wireless aficionados who enjoy straightforward setup, Ubiquiti has become a household name itself. It may have previously been known for prosumer-grade equipment, but those days are gone – For the better.

Of course, both Cisco and Ubiquiti have their individual strengths and weaknesses and which is best for you will very much depend on your network set up. During this blog we’ll discuss access points from both Cisco and Ubiquiti, comparing them on their hardware, configuration, management and support.

Cisco Aironet 2800 Series vs Ubiquiti UniFi AP PRO-HD

Cisco has two wireless access point lines (Meraki and Aironet) in comparison to just the one line from Ubiquiti (UniFi). The Meraki units are probably some of the most powerful wireless units out there, but they are cloud based so in this article we will be comparing the Aironet with the closest equivalent from Ubiquiti which is the UniFi AP PRO-HD and commonly used in business networking environments.

Hardware

Obviously we’ve chosen 2 products to compare because they are similar to each other in many ways. When it comes to selecting hardware, there are many things to consider so this is what we’ll look at here.

Additional hardware options

The thing that could make Cisco take a step forward as the stronger choice is the add-ons that it has. These are the Smart Antenna and the Cisco Wireless Controller, which deliver the following capabilities.

Signal boosting. Perfection is hard to come by, and not every WAP placement can be the ideal one. For anyone that’s trying to place an AP and coming up against a brick wall, the Aironet Smart Antenna connectors are their new best friend. By boosting the gain, they give the users stuck behind a wall more of a chance of connection.

Controller. We’ve listed this as an add on, but actually it’s not really an optional extra if you need to manage 10 or 20 Aironets. Manually configuring each one individually would be a bit of a mammoth if not almost impossible task, so you would be needing the Controller which doesn’t come cheap.

So based on hardware, it’s a bit of a close call between the two. As we said, we’ve purposely chosen two products for their similarities so when comparing the AP specs, Ubiquiti and Cisco are pretty much even. We said at the start that it will come down to the network size, but it also depends on other factors like configuration, management, support and price.

Configuring and Managing Your Network

When you’re choosing AP’s, there are many factors to consider in terms of configuration and management. Whether you have a larger network or not, you don’t want to be manually configuring and managing every individual AP. The following comparisons will be based on a clean install.

Cisco: A Known Element

We mentioned the Controller above – An important part of the Aironet configuration and management. For finer control and configurability, Aironets might be the first choice. Additionally, Cisco has deep command line configuration. However, whether you need all those fine tuning details really depends on your network and environment. In which case, Ubiquiti UniFi might be the one for you.

Cisco might be the way to go if you have a large network with multiple SSIDs, disparate connectivity requirements, guest networks, and any other advanced features. However, this is taking into account the use of the wireless controller again rather than just an individual Aironet unit.

Ubiquiti: Price and Ease

So you might be wondering, what does Ubiquiti offer in place of the Controller? Well, they have a free web-based software that customers can use. This software enables you to manage and configure your wireless network. If you acquire any new units you can just plug them in and the software will detect them. If what you’re looking for is a good price and ease of use then you’ve probably found your winner – Ubiquiti.

Again it comes own to your network, environment and what you are needing to get from your hardware. In a mission critical role, Ubiquiti has been scoffed at by some networking professionals in the past. However, they have been refining their enterprise features. It may be more basic than Cisco, but that may not be a deal breaker for your network.

In hardware terms, things were pretty similar but when it comes to configuration they’re quite different. If you’ve got a large network which needs fine control in the management and configuration, then Cisco is going to be your best choice.

If what you need is something that won’t break the budget and which is easy to use, then Ubiquiti is going to be the way to go. Their software is straightforward and it’s easy to get going with their units.

Although it’s not quite an enterprise product yet, for 80 percent of small networks  Ubiquiti offers a great hassle-free product.

Support

Let’s face it, no one wants to be needing to turn to support. But if you do, then you can rest easy that Cisco support is thorough and so is their documentation. If you’re unable to find what you need through those means, then you can open a TAC Case online and also utilise a support email address and phone number. If you do need to call them, then you’ll reach a knowledgeable technician on the other end.

Ubiquiti support has a chat window within the controller software and for basic troubleshooting they’re responsive as well as having a good documentation library. Perhaps the best part of their support system is their helpful community. If you were to Google a problem, you would probably end up in their community and it would likely be very useful.

Cost vs. Value

You can pick up a Cisco Aironet 2800 Series access point for around £500 in the UK, compared to the Ubiquiti UniFi AP PRO-HD which you can get for around £150.

So which should you choose?

Well purely based on price, Ubiquiti is cheaper than Cisco, and rather considerably so. Even if you were to have a few dead spots, these would be easily rectified by putting up another UniFi AP or two, and would still end up cheaper than Cisco.

And not only are the WAP’s cheaper, the UniFi controller is also free. For a moderate install this could be shaving off 5 figures. For the price, Ubiquiti is great

Of course, there are fans in both corners. Those that are budget conscious and/or have a small to medium size network would be choosing Ubiquiti. On the other side you have those that don’t mind paying the premium price tag for an enterprise-grade product and enjoy the brilliant support you get with Cisco.

What it comes down to is priorities; existing infrastructure, technical requirements and price. Ubiquiti might lack some of the high-end features that come standard with Cisco, but it also doesn’t come with the high costs. If you’re looking for a straightforward, economical solution for your small- to medium-sized business then you could definitely do a lot worse than Ubiquiti products.

For more information on how Ubiquiti UniFi products could help your home or business Wi-Fi, give one of our Wi-Fi experts a call. We operate out of London, Hampshire and Cardiff and are on call to solve your Wi-Fi woes.

Contact us here.