PCI: What Is The Difference Between 4G LTE and 5G NR

In this blog we are going to look at the difference between 4G LTE and 5G-NR, specifically in terms of PCI. 

 

What is PCI when it comes to 4G / 5G?

 

PCI is the Physical Cell ID and is one of the most important ways a cell identifies itself in a 4G or 5G wireless network.

The physical layer (or PHY-layer) Cell ID is what determines the Cell ID Group and Cell ID Sector, and it is this that is needed for DL synchronisation. 

DL (Downlink) Synchronisation is the process in which a UE (phone) detects the radio boundary and OFDM symbol boundary. In other words, the exact timing of when a radio frame or OFDM starts. (In telecommunications, orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM) is a type of digital transmission and a method of encoding digital data on multiple carrier frequencies.) 

This DL synchronisation process is done by detecting and analysing the SS Block. From a UE’s (phone’s) point of view, Downlink is the ‘receiving’ transmitting direction. The SS Block (SSB) stands for Synchronisation Signal Block and refers to the synchronisation signal and Physical Broadcast Channel (PBCH) as a single block that always moves together.

 

Why is PCI Planning important? 

 

If you are planning, designing and deploying a 4G / 5G network, then PCI Planning will be one of your most important steps. 

Making sure your network is properly designed with PCI in mind will ensure your network works efficiently and increases how your resources are utilised. 

Excellent PCI planning ensures QoS for those who are subscribed to your 4G / 5G network.

QoS (Quality of Service) is the use of technologies to control traffic on your network, ensuring that the performance of critical applications meets requirements.

The key goal here is to use QoS and PCI Planning to enable your network to prioritise traffic, offering dedicated bandwidth and lower latency.

PCI is one of the technologies used to enhance performance of business applications, WANs and service provider networks. 

Poor planning in this area can result in PCI collisions and conflicts – Which in turn, negatively impact the overall performance of your network.

 

How is the PCI value created?

 

The PCI value is created from two components – PSS (Primary Synchronisation Signal) and SSS (Secondary Synchronisation Signal). 

The PSS is used to obtain the slot, ub-frame and half-frame boundary as well as providing the cell identity within the cell identity group. 

The SSS is used to obtain the radio frame boundary (10ms) as well as enabling the UE (phone) to determine the cell identity group.

After your UE (phone) has successfully decoded the PSS and SSS, it will be able to calculate the PCI. It uses the following formula:

PCI = (3 × SSS) + PSS

 

How is PCI calculated for 4G?

 

PSS has 3 values (0,1 and 2) and is created using the Zad-off Chu sequence.The PSS helps to accomplish slot and symbol synchronisation in the time domain.

SSS has 168 values (0 to 167) and is produced using concatenation (linking together in a series) of 2 m-sequences (max length sequence). The SSS helps to achieve radio frame synchronisation.

The formula to work out PCI for 4G is therefore:

PCI = (3 * 167) + 2 = 503

This means that there are PCI values varying from 0 to 503 LTE, which in turn supports 504 unique PCIs for 4G. 

 

How is PCI calculated for 5G?

 

PSS has 3 values (0,1 and 2) and created using m-sequence. 

SSS has 336 values (0 to 335) and is generated using the product of 2 m-sequences.

In 5G-NR (a new radio access technology developed by 3GPP for the 5G (fifth generation) mobile network), the basic structure of PSS is the same but the number of SSS is increased.

The formula to work out PCI for 4G is therefore:

PCI = (3 * 335) + 2 = 1007

So the PCI values will vary from 0 to 1007. This means that 5G-NR can support 1008 unique PCIs.

 

What does this difference in PCI between 4G and 5G actually mean? 

 

In the simplest terms, 5G-NR has double the number of PCI’s, compared to LTE 4G. 

5G has more Physical Cell IDs (the actual area that the cell antenna on a cell site is covering). Each 5G NR cell has a Physical Cel lD. 5G has 1008 unique possible Physical Cell ID’s, whereas 4G has only 504. 

So if we’re connected to Vodafone on Physical Cell ID No.1, but we could also see Vodafone signals being broadcast out of that cell tower on different cell antennas using Physical Cell ID No,2 and No3, then our mobile device would know to connect to No1. It would get confused if it connected to No.2 or No.3 and impact the quality of service.

The user device connects to the one physically nearest. So for example, a Vodafone tower has two cell antennas out the top broadcasting the Vodafone signal across an area, which will overlap to a small degree. A user’s device will always want to make sure it is connecting to the same one. You don’t want to connect to one antenna and back to another – It’s this that ruins the quality of service. So you will always try and connect back to the one you were talking to, which is normally geographically the one closest to you. 

The Physical Cell ID is used to identify each space. We don’t want those numbers to overlap too often, or our devices get confused and don’t know which to connect to. If a device can see a Physical Cell ID of 2, and there’s another cell antenna using an ID of 2, it wouldn’t know which one to communicate with.

It is beneficial to know that 5G-NR has more PCI’s available in the planning stages, to enable a higher quality of service (QoS) for end user devices.



What is 6GHz Wi-Fi?

Did you know that following the historic decision by USA’s FCC in April 2020 to release 1200 MHz of bandwidth in 6 GHz space for unlicensed use, UK regulators cleared unlicensed wireless usage in the 6 GHz spectrum to give 6GHz WiFi a huge boost back in July 2020. 

 

This regulatory go-ahead enables your router to broadcast over the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. What does this mean in real life terms? Simply, it means there are now a lot more open airwaves that routers can use to broadcast Wi-Fi signals. This in turn means faster, more reliable connections from the next generation of devices.

 

This is the biggest spectrum addition in over 30 years – In fact, since the FCC cleared the way for Wi-Fi back in 1989. Pretty huge right? It means the space available for routers and other devices have quadruple the amount in this new spectrum. This means a lot more bandwidth for the user and less interference for their devices. 

 

For the past 20 years we’ve had the Wi-Fi Alliance that oversees the implementation of Wi-Fi. This change in the spectrum is the most ‘monumental decision’ during their existence. You’ll be seeing this implementation as Wi-Fi 6E, with more and more enabled devices becoming available. 

 

Will Wi-Fi 6E fix my bad Wi-Fi? 

 

There’s a good chance that spectrum congestion has interfered with your ability to connect to your Wi-Fi network in the past. When there are a lot of devices all trying to connect over the same band of frequencies, some devices will drop out. Have a look at your local area for Wi-Fi networks – If there is a long list, that could be why you’re struggling with a slow connection and less than favourable reliability. This is because there are too many competing signals, which stops your device getting through. It’s hoped that gains in 6GHz performance will last, even when they are more widely used than they are now. 

 

Not only does Wi-Fi 6E offer new airwaves for routers to use, they are also more spacious airwaves that have less overlapping signals which can cause problems on some other Wi-Fi channels. 

 

The new spectrum doesn’t use any of the previous spectrum, yet offers space for up to 7 maximum-capacity Wi-Fi streams which can all be broadcast simultaneously without causing interference with each other. 

 

Here’s the geeky bit… The UK telecoms regulator, Ofcom, made it possible for home Wi-Fi networks to harness 500MHz of radio spectrum frequency in the new 6GHz band, which will significantly boost the speed of licence-exempt indoor home wireless networks via Wi-Fi 6/6E. 

 

What is 6GHz? 

 

Basically, Wi-Fi works by broadcasting over airwaves that are open for anyone to use. Previously, this was over two bands: 2.4GHz and 5GHz. This third band, 6GHz, is quadrupling the available space for traditional Wi-Fi. 

 

What do the numbers mean? 2.4GHz can travel further, but 6GHz travels faster. The main thing however is that the number of airwaves available on the6GHz band is quadruple what has been available before. Exciting stuff! 

 

On a personal ‘how will this affect me’ level, it means that if you live in a block of flats, and you are the first person to get a 6GHz router, then you won’t be competing with anyone for a connection. The great thing is that even as 6GHz routers become more popular, it’s likely that signals will stay faster and stronger than previously as it’s a more spacious spectrum.  

 

Will Wi-Fi 6E be faster?

 

It’s not quite as straight forward as that, but Wi-Fi 6E will sort of be faster. Theoretically, 6GHz Wi-Fi has the same top speed as 5GHz Wi-Fi. The maximum Wi-Fi 6 standard speed is 9.6 Gbps. Now, you’re not going to actuall get that speed in real life, however having access to the new airwaves could well increase your speed. 

 

The available spectrum at 5GHz means that Wi-Fi signals aren’t as large as they could be. Whereas, it’s thought that routers at 6GHz will broadcast at the current maximum allowable channel size. That in itself, means a faster connection. 

 

These new networks could see smartphone Wi-Fi connections hit 1–2 Gbps. You might be wondering how this compares to 5G – Indeed, these are the speeds expected from millimetre-wave 5G. However, that has very limited availability. 

 

Remember that your internet speeds will also always depend on / be limited by your provider. But it could still be a huge jump for connectivity.  

 

Can I buy Wi-Fi 6 devices?

 

Here in the UK we started to see Wi-Fi 6 devices creep onto the market in the last year or so, once the Wi-Fi Alliance started offering certification for Wi-Fi 6E. Deployment has been slow and steady, with more Wi-Fi 6 enables devices appearing bit by bit. We’re on course for the next generation of Wi-Fi networks.

 

Wi-Fi 6E enabled devices are most seen in smartphones and then tablets, with TV’s likely to follow suit. We use our phones for almost everything, so it’s no surprise that it’s this device that will be top of the list for Wi-Fi 6E. 

 

How do I know if a device supports Wi-Fi 6E?

 

The most widely used Wi-Fi standard on current devices is probably still Wi-Fi 6, the standard previous to Wi-Fi 6E, which you could still see on the box of a new device. This isn’t such a bad thing – It means that the device supports that Wi-Fi standard and offers efficient Wi-Fi performance. 

 

What you should probably start looking out for when buying a new device is Wi-Fi 6E – It’s this one that is extended into the 6GHz band. All devices, like smartphones, tablets, laptops and routers should have backward compatibility – Meaning they will work with any previous Wi-Fi standard to the one that’s stated on the box. This means that you can enjoy available connections even when Wi-Fi 6E isn’t available. 

 

Be aware that even if you buy a Wi-Fi 6E compatible device, you will enjoy the benefits of that when you use it with a Wi-Fi 6E router. 

 

6GHz will become an integral part of Wi-Fi 6 and future generations of Wi-Fi. This means that at some point, you will have to replace your devices with ones that are Wi-Fi 6E compatible to be able to enjoy all the benefits the extra spectrum has to offer. 

 

Due to the Wi-Fi Alliance certification programme, only efficient Wi-Fi 6 devices will be certificated. 

 

It’s worth bearing in mind that the 6GHz spectrum does have some existing licensed users. This means that particularly in outdoor spaces,  Wi-Fi will have to work around them. Outside, routers will need to use something called an “automated frequency control” system. This ensure that they don’t interfere with these existing 6GHz users. Because that means less space to broadcast, there could be degradation of overall performance in some areas.

 

Does Wi-Fi 6E have anything to do with 5G? 

 

We touched on this earlier, but no, they don’t have anything to do with each other really. It just happens that both of these networks are being spoken about a lot, simultaneously. 5G is everywhere, is it not!

 

We keep saying about Wi-Fi 6E being a new spectrum, but really it’s not new, it’s always been there, it’s just been unlicensed. Now, people can use the 6GHz spectrum without a license in their homes. 

 

This also means that other technologies could try to make use of the 6GHz band, which could in turn take up some of the space that Wi-Fi wants to use. 5G is one of the technologies that could be a rival for the space on the 6GHz band. 

 

There is a possibility that 5G could overlap on the new Wi-Fi 6E spectrum through mobile network carriers. This could in turn lead to interference issues, but it’s a bit early to say. If you’re wondering whether 5G will become dominant and replace Wi-Fi altogether, then we think probably not. There doesn’t need to be a winner or a loser when it comes to Wi-Fi 6E vs 5G – They dont necessarily have to be in competition with one another. The spacious nature of this spectrum means there should be enough room for both. 

 

6GHz Wi-Fi is certainly being revered by the tech industry, so we’re pretty hopeful that Wi-Fi will be the main beneficiary of the newly opened 6GHz spectrum. 

 

Which is best for my business – FTTP or a Leased Line?

 

Let’s face it – These days, business flow depends on connectivity. 

 

With remote working now more prevalent than ever before, there is a significant business need for straightforward online collaboration. Not to mention business critical operations and organisational efficiency. 

 

For a successful business, you need a reliable, strong connection that doesn’t buffer or drop out during vital video calls and digital team meetings. 

 

What’s the point in having top of the range tech and dedicated employees if you don’t have the broadband speed to keep up with their communications or computers?

 

There is nothing less motivating than slow internet – Lagging video, audio that’s out of sync, calls that drop out, pages that load slowly. It makes us feel frustrated just thinking about it! 

 

And whilst it might not sound like much – That 30 seconds of delay here and there throughout the day could actually add up to a lot of lost productivity across an organisation in just one week. 

 

So what’s the solution? For any small business, it’s really down to two options – FTTP (Fibre to the Premises) or a leased line. But which one is best for your business?

 

What is FTTP and how does it work?

 

As we said above, FTTP is Fibre to the Premises. It means an internet connection that is designed for small businesses and consumer use.  

 

FTTP works by sending data over a fibre optic cable from the exchange to the user’s premises. FTTP relies on already existing broadband infrastructure, which means that users share the bandwidth. This could lead to slower connection speeds and unreliability during peak times. 

 

An FTTP service is asymmetrical, meaning that the upload and download speeds are not the same. 

 

What is a leased line and how does it work?

 

A leased line, or fibre leased line, is a dedicated fibre optic service. It has a fixed bandwidth and is provided directly to the premises. Unlike FTTP, a leased line connects directly to the public internet. This means there is no shared infrastructure – thus the data’s journey is very different. 

 

Due to leased lines being dedicated, it won’t be affected at peak times because the bandwidth is reserved exclusively for that user. A leased line also uploads data at the same time as it downloads – Useful for sending large files or if you use VoIP telephones throughout the business. 

 

How do FTTP and Leased Line compare? 

 

Let’s take a look at how FTTP and Leased Line compare to each other in terms of use and functionality. Depending on how these fit with your business, you should hopefully be able to identify which would work better for you and your business operations. 

 

Speed and Bandwidth for FTTP vs Leased Line

 

Using an FTTp service, your highest download speed will be in the range of 300mbps and 1Gbps. Remember, in this scenario you share the infrastructure with other users, which means that during busy periods your bandwidth is likely to be compromised. Generally speaking you are looking at about 32 customers on an FTTP service. 

 

On a Leased Line, all of the bandwidth is there for you to use. The connection speeds on a Leased Line could be up to 10Gbps, with the same upload and download speeds. This is particularly useful for high-demand users, who could struggle on an asymmetrical FTTP. 

 

Traffic on a FTTP vs Leased Line

FTTP services can have a monthly data transfer quote which means it would be important for you to stay on top of your data usage. 

 

A leased line has availability 24/7 all year round, which means you have unlimited data transfers. 

 

Price of FTTP vs Leased Line

There is a significant difference in price when it comes to FTTP and Leased Line. 

 

The cheaper option is FTTP. This is because it’s a shared service, and more specifically aimed at residential properties and small businesses. You would likely be looking between £30 and £60 per month, which of course depends on the provider and the speed of the broadband you choose. For a new FTTP installation, it would take about 10-15 days. 

 

For Leased Lines, you would be looking at a cost of about £150 per month for lower bandwidths. Not only is it up to 5 times the cost of some FTTP, you may also incur additional charges (construction charges) which can push the price up more. Installation wise you would be looking at about 60-90 days to get things set up. 

 

Service Level Agreements for FTTP vs Leased Lines 

 

Whichever service you go for, you will have an SLA. The SLA for a Leased Line will be more thorough – For example, any fault on the line that needs fixing will be repaired within 5 hours. In comparison, a fault on FTTP could take 2 days to fix. 

 

An SLA will also lay out the speed of a Leased Line, which you can then be compensated for if it is consistently slower. This isn’t something you can do with FTTP. 

 

A Leased Line also comes with 24/7 support, whereas support for a FTTP line will be within business hours. 

 

Reliability of FTTP vs Leased Lines

 

As we mentioned above, when using an FTTP line, you could notice an adverse chane in connection during peak times. Leased Lines will never experience this problem (unless there is a fault) so you are less likely to have the connection drop out. This means that a Leased Line is the more reliable connection of the two. 

 

Availability

 

Leased Lines are available throughout the UK, but of course their accessibility depends on whether you can afford the cost. 

 

Whilst FTTP is a cheaper option, it is only available to approximately 94% of the UK.

 

Contracts

 

Contract options for these lines are as follows:

  • FTTP – 12 months, 18 months or 24 months, 
  • Leased Line – 12 months, 36 months, or 60 months 

 

It’s worth noting that if you choose a 12 month Leased Line contract, you’ll be paying more each month to spread the installation cost. 

 

So Which One is Best – Leased Line or FTTP?

 

If you own a small business, run a charity or are a residential consumer, then FTTP will likely meet your needs. 

 

Generally speaking, if you are one of these types of consumer then you won’t be needing service 24/7 all year round. You are also less likely to be transferring huge amounts of data too. And it’s the cheaper option! 

 

For larger businesses and organisations that rely more on a reliable connection, then a dedicated Leased Line service with a thorough SLA could be the better choice. You will then have peace of mind that your broadband is sturdy, and should something go wrong with it you’re backed up by a speedy resolution. Keeping disruption to your organisation to a minimum! 

 

Get In Touch

 

If you are feeling unsure about what could be the best internet service for your business and would like to discuss your connectivity needs, then get in touch with one of our Wi-Fi Experts today. We operate out of Hampshire, London and Cardiff and can help you to make sure that your connectivity meets your business or residential needs – Both in terms of connection but cost too. 

 

How do I get reliable Wi-Fi in my garden? 

Hello Spring heatwave! Hampshire, as well as other parts of the UK, have been treated to a bit of a March heatwave this week with sunny days that are feeling really warm. Finally! And now that many more of us find ourselves working from home more often, we wouldn’t be surprised if you’re trying to figure out a way to get all your gear out into the garden and Wi-Fi working well. 

 

Whether you’re soaking up the sun during Zoom meetings or attempting to escape the same 4 walls with some fresh air whilst answering emails – You’re going to need a strong, reliable Wi-Fi connection in your sun-soaked Hampshire garden. 

 

And no, it’s not okay to steal your neighbour’s Wi-Fi – Even if you know their password!

 

So, if you’re trying to make the most of the sunshine that Hampshire currently has on offer, then here are our top tips for getting strong, reliable Wi-Fi in your garden. 

 

Use an Access Point


Our first recommendation would be to run an ethernet cable out to the garden area and install a new access point. 

 

Many of our Hampshire based clients have homes where this option has worked really effectively. There are other options (see below) but this would always be our preference and recommendation when being asked how to get Wi-Fi in your garden. 


Where is your router? 

 

Is your router in the best place? You could try moving your existing router to see if a change of location improves the signal you get in your garden. 

 

We’ve visited many Hampshire homes where the router has been situated at the front of the house, most commonly in the front room next to the smart TV or telephone. This location makes it unlikely for the signal to be able to reach your back garden. 

 

Consider where you access the internet the most, and whether you could move your router to a different location that would work for both the house and the garden.

 

Extend your Wi-Fi range with a repeater 

 

If the range of your router won’t reach the garden from a suitable location inside the house, then there are ways you can extend it. A repeater is one possible solution, and works particularly well in larger homes. Some of our Hampshire based clients have found that a repeater has solved their Wi-Fi woes when it comes to getting a reliable signal in the garden. 

 

The pros – By placing a repeater in range of the garden, you can make your Wi-Fi go further. It’s cost effective and easy to configure. 

 

The cons – It works by mimicking your existing network and creating a new one. You would have to manually change the connection on your device when you move between the garden and the house. This option can also half your bandwidth, resulting in slower internet speeds.

 

Extend your Wi-Fi range with an extender

 

By using an extender, you can extend the range of your router by plugging it in at a position where it will provide coverage to your garden. 

 

An extender is cabled and takes internet signal directly from the router and emits it from a better location. Despite being slightly more expensive and a bit more complicated to configure than the repeater, our resident Wi-Fi expert says, 

 

One of the biggest benefits of an extender is that it is connected using a wired connection, so there is no need for a wireless signal to operate it. This also means that the bandwidth stays at its full potential.

 

We’d recommend that you consider calling in the experts if you’re considering this option – And we reckon our clients that are currently enjoying Geekabit installed Wi-Fi extenders in their sunny Hampshire hotspot would say the same! 

 

Mobile Tethering

If your smartphone has good reception outside, then you can use its Wi-Fi hotspot and tether that to your laptop or other device to use its connection. 

 

However, it’s worth bearing in mind that the data you use will come off your monthly allowance, and if you go over it can be rather a costly mistake.

 

This option is probably more suited to those ‘one-off’ moments – Perhaps to tide you over while you wait for one of Geekabit’s Wi-Fi experts to come and sort out a more long-term Wi-Fi connection in your garden. 

 

Get in touch

 

So there you go, some of our top tips on how to get Wi-Fi in your garden so you can enjoy the Spring sunshine whilst working from home!

 

If you’ve tried the options above and still no joy, don’t be afraid to call in the experts! Our Wi-Fi experts are on the other end of a phone call or email and are happy to help get your Wi-Fi working as it should. 

 

We work out of Hampshire, London and Cardiff and are really passionate about getting people the Wi-Fi connection they deserve. 

 

How to Give Your Wi-Fi Network a Health Check

You might think that once you’ve got your Wi-Fi network all set up and running, then that’s it done. But it’s not! Having a reliable wireless network involves ongoing maintenance and health checks to make sure that it’s performing at its optimum level.

There are plenty of variables in a wireless network that could change. Things like user demand or changes in the radio frequency that could have an impact. Seemingly simple things like rearranging your office furniture, onboarding new employees or using more applications requiring bigger bandwidth can all be negative factors affecting your Wi-Fi network.

Ongoing, regular surveys can help you catch these changes before they start to cause you too many problems.

So what do you need to do to keep your wireless networking functioning effectively?

 

Monitor New Client Devices

Just as when you are in the design and planning stages, it’s vital to know the number of users that are connected at any one time, and what devices they are connecting to the network with. Your network performance depends on this!

This could likely change with company growth or if your business has seasonal staff where connections peak and trough.

It’s also worth bearing in mind how old the devices are. Older laptops, for example, won’t work so well with today’s modern networks. And vice versa!

You can counteract this by semi-regularly updating your devices to align with your network.

Likewise, if your network was originally deployed a while ago, without being monitored or updated it will fail to work with modern devices to their potential.

You need to also monitor the applications being used and ensure that the bandwidth matches the demand. Organisations like schools that now have a plethora of laptops connecting wirelessly to the school network need to have strong, reliable Wi-Fi. Hospitals also have high bandwidth demand with the ‘workstations on wheels’ that are now prevalent.

The more end users you add to your network, the more bandwidth you will need.

In simple terms – Make sure you are monitoring new client devices. Make it your business to keep track of how many devices are connecting to your network and make sure you can meet the Wi-Fi demand consistently. Your business operations depend on it.

App Usage and Progression

As we all know, technology is constantly evolving. Device manufacturers are always striving for the fastest, most powerful offering to stay ahead of their competitors.

This means that apps and software also move fast to keep up. This constant evolution means that you need more and more data with every update. Thus, the requirements of your Wi-Fi network are likely to change and be modified accordingly.

Wireless is often the first choice – If not the only choice! So you need to make sure your business Wi-Fi offering is up to scratch.

 

Physical Changes in the Office Landscape

You might not think too much about rearranging the office, but this could have a significant impact on your coverage area and how your access points function.

Tweaks like going from open plan to individual offices (or the other way around) will change the way your AP’s perform in your office space.

Interior walls (or lack of them) will affect the radio frequency and how it attenuates. You might be thinking, surely removing partition walls to make an open plan office couldn’t cause Wi-Fi problems. Ut actually it could! The RF will be able to travel further without any attenuating interior walls, meaning it could start contending with other channels and cause interference.

Any physical changes in your office environment need to be surveyed to see if and how it will affect how your Wi-Fi network functions. This means you can make the necessary adjustments before problems arise.

 

Identify Common Causes of RF Interference

Following on from physical changes in your office environment, you need to also be aware of other possible causes of RF interference.

Once possible source of interference on your Wi-Fi network could be noise from neighbouring networks. Other AP’s in range of your coverage area could cause RF interference, especially if their power levels are turned up.

Wi-Fi interference is when you have AP’s that are operating on the same or adjacent frequencies. This can cause interference or contention on these channels, or Overlapping Basic Service Set (OBSS). If your network is experiencing this type of interference, you could see your ability to send or receive data significantly reduce or even completely disabled.

You can also get non–Wi-Fi Interference from devices that use other radio networks. Things like microwaves, monitors, blue tooth or surveillance cameras could all cause interference problems.

 

Your Business Depends on your Wi-Fi Network

If you’ve gone to the effort of designing and planning the optimum network for your business, then don’t waste that work by not monitoring and maintaining it.

Even the best networks will need tweaks and changes over time, to make sure it can keep up with the demands of new users and modern devices.

Regular monitoring or ‘Wi-Fi health checks’ can help identify problems while they’re still small – Allowing you to get them sorted out before they start causing your business serious issues. Don’t wait until the IT department are inundated with calls from frustrated, unproductive employees.

If you think your wireless network is in need of a health check, why not give us a call here at Geekabit? Our wireless experts have the knowledge and expertise to diagnose and solve your Wi-Fi problems, improving the reliability and functionality of your business Wi-Fi.

Why Is Network Design So Important for Reliable Business Wi-Fi?

Wi-Fi is no longer a ‘like to have’ when it comes to successful business planning. It’s vital for businesses to have strong, reliable Wi-Fi in order to business processes to run smoothly.

No matter what industry your business is in – Wi-Fi is crucial. Gone are the days when everything could be wired and cabled. Whether you run a warehouse, a hospital or operate out of an office; Your business needs to run wirelessly.

Organisations tend to have an armada of laptops, tablets, smartphones and other IoT devices that require effective Wi-Fi.

So if the need for a good Wi-Fi connection is so prevalent, why are we still seeing so many businesses struggle with their Wi-Fi network?

The requirements can be demanding, and to be successful a network needs to meet those demands. Plug-in-and-go routers aren’t going to cut it unfortunately. Your business network needs more!

So how can you ensure that your network can be relied upon by your employees every day, so they can do their job productively and efficiently?

It all comes down to the design.

What do you need to consider when designing a Wi-Fi network?

Designing your wireless network gives you the chance to translate your business needs into a Wi-Fi network that will work for you and meet those needs.

So what do you need to consider?

Capacity

You need to think about how many devices will require a Wi-Fi connection. You need to be asking questions like how many employees you have, are there people in addition to employees that will need to connect, how many devices are each of these people likely to have and what type of device are they.

Getting to know how much traffic you will likely have will help you to determine how much bandwidth you need in order to meet consumption needs.

If you don’t get the capacity planning right, you could end up with very unhappy employees suffering with slow internet speeds and an intermittent connection. Neither are conducive to a productive work environment!

Something else to consider is how the capacity changes as you move around your site. Do some locations have a higher capacity demand than others? This information will help you to design a network where access points are distributed according to requirements.

Capacity isn’t just important during the planning stage either. It’s something you will need to monitor so that you can identify when more devices are trying to connect and adapt the network accordingly.

 

Coverage

We’ve talked about capacity and how many devices are likely to connect. Now it’s time to talk about where those users need that connection.

Identifying your coverage area allows you to optimise the distance between your wireless transmitters. Getting this right means that you’ll have the right signal strength for the Wi-Fi enables devices trying to connect.

Coverage is split into two – Primary coverage and Secondary coverage. Interweaving the primary coverage area of your transmitters with the secondary coverage of necessary overlaps means that your end users will be able to roam throughout your site without their connection dropping out on their device.

The idea is to find the perfect balance in the number of AP’s you deploy. Too many AP’s not only costs you more money on installation but can also cause interference. Not enough AP’s and you won’t be able to meet your coverage needs.

 

What is the Least Capable, Most Important Device?

It’s important to identify what device is most business critical – And whether that device poses a risk to the rest of your network. You might find that a warehouse scanner, or even an employees laptop, is critical to the needs of the business, but is also the oldest and least technologically advanced device on the network.

You need to identify this device (or devices) and make sure that your network will ensure the device(s) stay online. You can do this by checking the manufacturer specifications and make sure these align with your network offering.

 

Are there any Obstacles on site?

It’s a good idea to walk around your site and identify any potential obstacles to your wireless signal. Sometimes having an actual walk-around sheds more light on potential problems than just looking at a simple floor plan. You need to know exactly how the radio frequency will behave in your specific environment.

Consider things like high or exposed ceilings, columns, large items of furniture, lift shafts, stairwells and even signage.

You should also look to see where access points could be easily installed, and any areas where this would not be possible. This also goes for cabling.

Mitigating the Effects of Wall/ Door Material on Signal Attenuation

In order to mitigate the risks of attenuation, you need to understand what materials could pose a problem to your Wi-Fi signal.

When you are designing your Wi-Fi network, it’s imperative that you identify the physical characteristics of your environment and understand how this can impact your wireless signal.

The amount of signal strength absorbed by walls or doors depends on what they are made from. A rough guide to this would be:

  • Bookshelf – 2dB
  • Drywall – 3dB
  • Exterior Glass – 3dB
  • Solid Wood Door – 6dB
  • Marble – 6dB
  • Brick – 10dB

Having this information specific to your site means you can design a wireless network that works really well.

Call the Experts

If this all seems a bit overwhelming, then call in the experts. That’s what we’re here for! We have all the necessary technology to survey your site and then design and plan a wireless network specific to your business needs. Give our Wi-Fi experts a call today to see how Geekabit can help.

 

How Do Wireless Directional Antennas Work?

This week we’re going to take a look at wireless directional antennas and how they work. By understanding this, you can ensure that your Wi-Fi network provides the coverage you need for reliable, strong Wi-Fi links.

To create a wireless bridge or point-to-point link, you would use a directional antenna. Your coverage requirements will determine the size and shape of the directional antenna needed, as well as whether you are using them inside or outdoors.

First things first – What do we need in order to establish a long-range wi-Fi link? There are a few main requirements that we need in order to achieve this.

Remote Wi-Fi Links – 3 Requirements

We need to satisfy 3 requirements in order to set up a long-range Wi-Fi link. Whether your signal is indoors or outdoors, the basic needs remain the same. For example, the signal could likely navigate and pass through a thin wall indoors, or one tree outdoors. However, navigating an entire building of walls or a forest of trees would be more difficult.

When a wireless signal is traversing over longer distances, packets of data can be lost. Adding in other complexities (like many walls or trees) can cause problems with the signal.

So in order to establish and maintain a strong connection over a long distance we need to fulfil these 3 requirements:

  1. There must be a direct line of sight between the antenna and the receiver. This means no obstacles in the way, like buildings, walls or forests.
  2. The antenna must be elevated and be horizontal with the point that is receiving the signal ready to transmit it. For the connection to be strong, the antenna and the router for example, need to be on a level – Not one higher or lower than the other.
  3. The antenna must be directed towards the router or Wi-Fi transmitter. The directional antennas only emit and receive Wi-Fi signal in one single direction, so it needs to be positioned on that side. The accuracy needed for the position depends on the angle opening on the antenna. For example, the smaller the angle, the more accurate the position must be. More on that next!

Antenna Angles

How far a directional antenna can transmit a Wi-Fi signal depends partly on the size of its angle. For example, a directional antenna with a wide angle could transmit to a wider area around it, but not as long a range. A directional antenna with a small angle is a more focused transmission and will provide further coverage.

A good analogy to explain this is a light bulb. A bulb without a lampshade will emit light at an angle of 360 degrees. It works well to illuminate the area in close proximity, but doesn’t have great range in terms of distance. For example, lighting up one room.

In comparison, a bulb inside a torch operates at an angle of approximately 30 degrees. The light is much more directed, and thus has a further coverage range – But we don’t see light outside of the ‘sides’. The smaller the angle, the further the reach.

The same premise applies to wireless signal and directional antennas, as you can see from the diagram below.

Types of Wireless Directional Antenna and Their Uses

There are 4 main models of directional Wi-Fi antennas. They are designed to provide a Wi-Fi connection over long distances. They direct an entire frequency pattern in one direction to reach from point-to-point. A directional antenna receives the Wi-Fi signal and emits it forward; the distance it can cover depends on the angle it uses.

  1. Wireless Directional Antenna for Indoor Use – The 60° angle antenna

    A wireless directional antenna with an opening angle of 60 degrees is most practical for indoor use. The open angle of this directional antenna enables it to see all the Wi-Fi networks in it’s environment. It provides good quality signal over a range of up to approximately 300m.

  2. Wireless Directional Antenna for Long-Range outdoor Use – the 35° angle antenna

    This wireless directional antenna uses an opening angle of 35° which enables it to locate all the AP’s in a mesh Wi-Fi network outside the premises, covering a distance of up to around 800m. For this reason, it’s commonly used for long range networks. They are generally easy to install, are a manageable size and tend to come weatherproof so they can be used outdoors come rain or shine!

  3. Wireless Directional Antenna for Distant Networks – the 30° angle antenna

    These wireless directional antenna models have a closed angle. Their installation is a little more complex to the previous two models, and therefore is better suited to professional networks that need to cover very distant networks. Due to the closed angle, it is extremely important to get the positioning accurate.
  4. Wireless Directional Antenna for Professional Installers – the 7° angle antenna

    Due to these models of wireless directional antennas having a very narrow beam, it’s necessary to have them professionally installed. They are a favourite among professional Wi-Fi installers as they have a very high gain so provide a high wireless broadband casting range. High gain antenna can provide a strong Wi-Fi connection in all parts of your property from a single router. This type of directional antenna will have a parabolic reflector – basically a curved surface like a dish which direct the radio waves. This type of wireless directional antenna is ideal for long range networks.

If all this talk about wireless antennas has got you confused about which direction to go in, then why not give our Wi-Fi experts a call?

Working out of Hampshire, London and Cardiff, we can plan, design and install a Wi-Fi network that’s tailored to your home or business requirements. Get in touch with us today and we’ll have you better connected in no time.

 

 

Wi-Fi Woes at Home: Could it be your Router?

Wi-Fi is one of those things that we don’t tend to take much notice of – Until it breaks.

Just like when a power-cut stops our electric, or cloudy water comes out the tap – When our Wi-Fi goes down, we notice! Slow or faulty internet might be one of the most frustrating things of all time. There’s nothing quite as annoying – Whether you’re in the middle of a Netflix binge or an important Zoom meeting.

The last time you thought about your internet probably coincided with one of those moments. Maybe it was back when the first lockdown came in and you were suddenly thrust into a world of remote working. Or when schools were closed and you abruptly and unexpectedly became a teacher and had to navigate an online classroom with your children.

Never have we had to rely on our home Wi-Fi networks like we have the last 2 years. The world still looks like a bit of a scary place right now – Don’t let your home network be an added source of stress.

We might have electricians to sort out our electrics and plumbers to sort out our plumbing – But who sorts out our Wi-Fi in our homes? Here at Geekabit, our Wi-Fi experts are here to help you. Most people get sent a router from their broaband provider, plug it in and hope for the best (no judgement here!). But what about when that’s not enough to provide you with a reliable home Wi-Fi network?

We’re going to take you through the basics of Wi-Fi so you can make sure your router is providing your home with the network you need.

So let’s start from the beginning.

Wi-Fi Standards – What are they?

What we understand as Wi-Fi was only named that after the ability for us to connect to other computers and the internet has long been around.

It started out as 802.11 (The first Wi-Fi standard). Not quite the description you’d expect for such a transformative piece of technology! And certainly not a word that lends itself to the general population of internet users.

So what came next? Along came 802.11b (there was a 802.11a but we won’t go into that). Catchy huh! This was the first major revision of 802.11 which came in 1999 alongside the name Wi-Fi. These numbered standards come from the Wi-Fi Alliance – A global group of technology companies who ensure that anything labelled as a Wi-Fi product has been adequately tested as such.

This means that if you buy a product with Wi-Fi, such as a laptop, and you have a functioning Wi-Fi network, then the 2 will be able to connect. That’s the rule!

In the 20 years since we’ve had more revisions and improvements, taking us through more standards: 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n, 802.11ac and 802.11ax. They don’t exactly roll off your tongue do they?

What they have done however, is:

  • Increase the maximum speed
  • Minimise congestion in built-up areas
  • Improve connections when multiple users on different devices are accessing the same network

Wi-Fi Standards and Compatibility

What these complicated names also mean is that even the most technological savvy people don’t have much knowledge about how their home Wi-Fi network actually works. Again no judgement – It’s not your fault!

Without Googling or hunting down hardware – Do you know which of the standards above your home network supports? How about your laptop, tablet or smartphone?

Without also knowing what standard your router runs on, how could you know whether the standard your devices are running on is compatible?

Backward compatibility has its costs. If you have a new router running on the latest standard of 802.11ax, but your laptop is 20 years old with 802.11b compatibility, the laptop can only go as fast as the old standard. It can’t access the benefits of the newer standard that the router supports. Unfortunately, having this laptop connected to the network can cause the whole Wi-Fi system down to its level. For this reason, the default settings on many networks automatically kick off any older devices to stop problems arising for other users.

For this reason, it’s wise to make sure that the Wi-Fi standard that is supported, is common amongst your router and the devices connected to it.

The re-branding of Wi-Fi Standards

Thankfully assessing compatibility will become a lot easier now that the Wi-Fi Alliance has rebranded the Wi-Fi standards.

You might be surprised to find that you are already acquainted with the latest Wi-Fi standards – Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E.

With the branding of these newest standards, comes the relabelling of the older ones. They become:

  • 11 – Wi-Fi 1
  • 11b – Wi-Fi 2
  • 11g – Wi-Fi 3
  • 11n – Wi-Fi 4
  • 11ac – Wi-Fi 5
  • 11ax – Wi-Fi 6

The ones we need to know about and look out for are Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6. Simply put – Your home Wi-Fi network will run better if use routers and devices that support the latest Wi-Fi standard.

We mentioned Wi-Fi 6E. This is the latest Wi-Fi standard which arrived this year. This standard, for the first time since the beginning of Wi-Fi, it uses 6GHz. This band is a new section of the radio spectrum which hasn’t been used by Wi-Fi before. This new standard will minimise interference with other networks and help achieve speeds we haven’t seen before.

Where do routers fit into all of this?

As you have seen, there has been a steady stream of Wi-Fi standards since the internet first emerged.

As with most things technological, improvements are constantly being made. We live in a world where there is always the newest device – Faster, more compact, better this, better that. Always competing with what came before it.

You probably replace your phone quite regularly, especially if you are on a contract or plan. Getting an upgrade is the norm! You may also do the same with laptops and tablets, TV’s and other smart devices around the home.

But do you do the same with your router?

Have you ever stopped to think that the router you’ve had since you moved in is stopping all your new devices from working to their optimum ability?

Your smartphone might support Wi-Fi 6, but that’s no good if your router is ten years old! Could your router be the cause of your home Wi-Fi problems? Slow internet speeds, bottlenecks, buffering?

What’s the point in spending thousands of pounds on the latest phone, tablet, laptop, smart TV etc if you haven’t invested in a router – And instead connect all your top-of-the-range devices to a box you got free from your provider when you moved in nearly a decade ago.

It seems pretty obvious now we’ve pointed it out, but so many of us do this very thing. We’re not trying to shame you – the majority of people don’t consider that their Wi-Fi woes could be a result of an older router.

‘I think my router could be causing my Wi-Fi problems – What do I do next?’

Assuming that the connection coming into your home is not ‘dodgy’ then a new router could be the answer to your Wi-Fi problems.

The majority of households have a pretty straightforward set of needs when it comes to Wi-Fi coverage. A simple change, such as a pair of Wi-Fi 6 ‘mesh routers’, could be just what you need to to provide a bit of extra bandwidth and even cover those annoying ‘black spots’. Esepcailly if one of those happens to be out in the garden where you desperately tried to catch a bit of sun whilst working from home during the summer!

For the cost of skipping the latest smartphone upgrade, you could fix the Wi-Fi problems for your entire household.

No more buffering mid Netflix binge. No more dropping out of video calls and online meetings. No more being ‘that colleague or friend’ that causes the tech problems.

This one small switch could be far more beneficial that upgrading your devices or doubling your monthly BT bill.

What if replacing your router could give all your Wi-Fi devices a new lease of life in your home?

 

What’s the difference between LTE and 5G?

There has been much hype surrounding 5G, relentlessly for years. Now as part of a global rollout we see 5G available in most major cities as well as some towns and more rural areas. Soon enough, we’ll be using 5G just as we use 4G as the standard.

But 5G is still new to the wireless scene. And for some, the question is – Do we really need 5G when we’ve got LTE?

Many of us are still depending on long-term evolution technology. Indeed, there are only a few areas in the UK that don’t have any LTE presence.

What is LTE?

LTE was first launched back in 2009, and whilst it took a number of years to become part of our national connectivity fabric, it is still now a standard for wireless communications.

The reason for its staying power is down to its reliability and stability – Leading many wireless users to wonder if they even need to move over to 5G.

What is the difference between 4G LTE and 5G?

It was necessary to identify LTE as an element of the 4G standard as many telecoms companies weren’t actually able to provide 4G speeds due to infrastructure. The regulator ITU-R (International Telegraph Union Radiocommunication) established LTE as a standard to show the progress being made towards true 4G.

The download/upload speeds of a particular standard can be different in theory and in practise. Whilst in theory, 4G LTE can achieve data transfer speeds of up to 150Mbps for downloading content and 50Mbps for upload speeds, in practise is is more likely to be 20Mbps and 10Mbps respectively.

These figures will vary depending on:

  • Location
  • Network deployment
  • Traffic

How does 5G compare to 4G LTE in terms of download speeds?

5G connectivity offers theoretical download speeds of up to 10Gbps. A pretty staggering difference! Of course in practise, it may not reach this, but even real-world examples seem to still be dwarfing the speeds of 4G LTE.

Why does 5G reach higher speeds?

5G uses a different spectrum to 4G – Called mmWave which are high-frequency bands. The higher speeds are mostly reached because these high frequency bands support more bandwidth than the ones that LTE uses. This means that more data can be transferred at once.

5G can also use frequencies above low-band but lower than 6GHz. Despite these not supporting the highest possible speeds, they will still outclass 4G LTE. It’s worth noting that 5G coverage could be further expanded by using connectivity below 6GHz, especially as walls and surfaces can block mmWave frequencies.

Basically, 5G uses a different spectrum to 4G LTE and thus:

  • Delivers stronger, faster connections
  • Has a higher capacity for traffic
  • Has low latency (1ms)

Sounds too good to be true doesn’t it! It’s worth remembering that the rollout of 5G is still in its infancy, and therefore coverage is still limited. Before the big networks like EE, Three and Vodafone can deliver the top scope of what 5G has to offer, more work needs to be done.

So should we be choosing LTE or 5G?

As with most techy things, there are lots of factors, such as:

  • Your budget
  • Where you’re based
  • What your connectivity needs are – Personal or business

The more countries adopt and expand their 5G infrastructure, the more 5G-friendly hardware we will start to see. The best way to know whether to choose LTE or 5G is seeing what is on the market and whether it meets your needs.

You may find that some of the 5G devices available don’t have a 4G alternative. You may also find that they are rather on the pricey side! So definitely shop around.

Of course, the more 5G devices we see on the market, the more we will see the prices start to come down. So the time for adopting 5G over LTE may not be quite yet. Patience could also serve you more of the promises 5G has to offer – The more the 5G coverage continues to expand, the higher the speeds and the more consistent the connection to mmWave networks.

Since 2019, we’ve seen prices start to come down as competition in the market starts to heat up, but 5G is still costly. If you have a big budget then you could just go for it now, but we feel like the overall coverage, packages and prices will continue to rapidly improve. We’re inclined to hold out a bit longer and stick to LTE for the time being.

What about 5G for business?

If your business relies on heavily on connected sensors and other similar IoT networks then 5G may be the network you’ve been waiting for. The bandwidth and low latency that 5G could bring to your business cannot be easily ignored.

Think driverless cars navigation and smart sensors – 5G could well be the communications technology that will enable some great and creative deployments.

What are the health concerns associated with 5G?

With 5G comes questions about whether it could harm our health. Do you remember when mobile phones were beginning to emerge into mainstream use and there was much anxiety about what the radio waves were doing to our health? Mobile telephone has never been without concerns, but 5G seems to have evoked more than its fair share of health worries.

The installation of 5G masts have been banned in multiple UK locations. And it’s not just parts of the UK that are opposed to 5G – Back in 2017 180 scientists from 36 different countries made a public appea to the EU to pause their plans of 5G expansion whilst investigations were carried out looking at the long-term effects on human health.

Whilst both 4G and 5G use radio waves, 5G uses higher frequency waves. It’s these high frequency waves that provide better network capacity and speed.

Studies that have looked into any potential health risks from 5G haven’t seemed to identify any specific danger from 5G.

What is the future for LTE and 5G?

With the rise of 5G comes potentially society-changing connectivity – Like self-driving cars.

But technological advances can be slow if not steady. Whilst there is definitely potential for 5G to take over, it could take considerable time for 5G-enabled devices to really take hold of the market. Even from the likes of Apple!

There is still space for 4G LTE in our networks, and whilst it may be 5G’s predecessor, it’s not going anywhere just yet.

Research from Ericsson suggests that the dominant cellular network technology seen in most regions globally is still 4G LTE. 78% of mobile subscriptions in Western Europe in fact! Just because the 5G rollout is well underway, doesn’t mean that everyone will immediately jump ship and drop 4G LTE. It’s expected that 4G LTE will still be the dominant network even 5 years from now.

By 2026 Western Europe is predicted to be using 5G in 69% of all mobile subscriptions. However, Ericssons findings suggest that even as 5G usage surges, 4G LTE won’t automatically decline. It’s even predicted that 4G LTE availability will grow, with global coverage of 95% by 2026, with 5G only seeing 60% in those 5 years.

There is no denying that 5G is the future for telecoms. But by the time we are all accustomed to using it, 6G might well be on the way! Despite 5G becoming more prevalent as time passes, we still think there’s no need to be abandoning 4G just yet.

Can I Use DFS Channels on my Wi-Fi Network?

We’ve recently started to see a rise in customers using DFS channels when operating their Wi-Fi networks, so thought we would write an article all about it in case it’s also helpful for your own network.

What is DFS?

DFS is Dynamic Frequency Selection and is a type of Wi-Fi function that allows WLANs to use 5GHz frequencies (which are reserved for radar, for example, the military, satellite or weather).

What is the benefit of using DFS channels for Wi-Fi?

We’ve written before about how you can improve your Wi-Fi and prevent interference by utilising different channels. The main benefit of using DFS channels taps into this. You can increase the number of available Wi-Fi channels by using DFS channels to use these less-used frequencies.

How can I utilise DFS channels on my Wi-Fi network?

The first thing you need to do if you are wanting to use DFS channels, is to check that your wireless access points and wireless clients support the necessary functionality.

The 5GHz spectrum in the UK is broken into 3 different bands and runs from 5150MHz (5.15GHz) to 5850MHz (5.85GHz). The bands are as follows:

Band A

  • Channels 36 – 64
  • This is used only for Indoor wireless
  • Does not require a license

Band B

  • Channels 100 – 140
  • Can be used both inside and outside
  • Does not require a license
  • Hardware must conform to DFS standards and be DFS enabled

Band C

  • Channels 149 – 161
  • Can only be used outside
  • Requires a license from Ofcom
  • Hardware must conform to DFS standards and be DFS enabled

 

 

Checking DFS Channel Availability

When you enable DFS, the Wi-Fi access points will need to verify that any radar in the proximity is not using DFS frequencies. This is a process called Channel Availability Check and is carried out during the boot process of an AP as well as during normal operations.

Should an AP detect that a local radar is using a certain DFS channel, it will automatically exclude that channel for this list of available ones. This will last for 30 minutes after which time the AP will check again to see if the channel can be used for Wi-Fi transmissions. You’ll be pleased to know that this exclusion of unavailable channels has very little impact on Wi-Fi clients.

DFS channels are not immediately available when an AP boots. This is because the Channel Availability Check can take anywhere between 1 minute and 10 minutes during the boot process.

 

What happens if an AP detects radar use during normal operations?

We know what you’re thinking – What happens if the AP was to detect during normal operations that the channel you are using becomes in use by a proximal radar?

If this happens, then the AP may communicate to its Wi-Fi clients to stop transmitting on that particular channel. The AP will then switch to a different, available DFS channel within the Channel Move Time. This is usually about 10 seconds.

Unlike above, this could affect Wi-Fi clients. An AP won’t always announce that it is changing channels to connected devices. When it switches to the available channel, it will cause those Wi-Fi clients to disconnect from the network and then re-connect to the new channel.

 

Are DFS channels right for my Wi-Fi network?

If you are considering using DFS channels for your Wi-Fi, you need to think carefully about whether business critical operations rely on that connection. If the answer is yes, you might want to avoid enabling DFS and not risk the disconnections caused by DFS frequencies.