The Fundamentals of a Wireless LAN

We were going to call this blog ‘WLANs for Dummies’ but that seemed a bit harsh so we settled on the fundamentals of a wireless LAN instead.

A wireless LAN, or WLAN, might seem complicated on the surface but actually it really just follows simple laws of physics. If you can understand these and follow them, then there shouldn’t be any reason why you can’t achieve high performance and scalability for your WLAN.

If you can understand the basics of wireless physics, then you can start to plan your WLAN for a successful deployment. It will also help you to troubleshoot an existing WLAN exhibiting issues.

How Does Data Travel Through a WLAN?

First things first – Let’s look at wave properties.

Data transmits, or travels, from one point to another – e.g. between wireless access points – via electromagnetic waves. This energy travels at the speed of light and operate at different frequencies.

The frequencies of these electromagnetic waves are defined by how many periodic cycles are completed by second.

For example:

How is Frequency Measured?

As we said above, frequency is how many wave cycles are completed per second. This is measured in Hertz. A 2Hz waveform is 2 completed wave cycles in a period of 1 second.

How Does Frequency Affect a WLAN?

A phenomenon called Free Space Path Loss is something that causes signal loss when a waveform travels from one point to another. This is what affects how well data travels across a wireless network.

Different wavelengths (frequencies) experience difference signal loss. The lower the frequency, the longer the wavelength, and the longer the wavelength, the further it can travel before signal gets lost.

For example, 2.4GHz have longer wavelengths than higher frequencies like 5GHz.

How is Wi-Fi Signal Loss Measured?

We measure the energy that is associated with received wireless signals in Decibels (dB). We can also measure loss of signal in this way.

Decibels are logarithmic. On the linear domain, when you add decibels it grows exponentially and when you subtract decibels it reduces exponentially.

The 3dB rule

Every 3dB change, there is a doubling of energy (if increasing) or a halving of energy (if decreasing).

As a ratio, this would look like:

If we had the wireless signal energy at
1:10dB

Then doubling it would be
2:13dB

Remembering this rule can help with both analysing the energy associated with wireless signals as well as predicting it.
Similarly, if you add or subract 10dB, it changes by a factor of 10.

The Relationship Between Frequency and Wireless Signal

Let’s take a look at 2.4Ghz and 5GHz frequencies or waveforms. 5GHz is a higher frequency, so has more wavelengths in a given time period. 5GHz has more wireless signal loss (attenuation) than 2.4GHz, and thus is better for high-density areas. 2.4GHz has less wavelengths in a given time period and is better suited for wider coverage. Bear this in mind when you are planning or troubleshooting a wireless network.

How is Wireless Signal Affected by Different Materials?

In an ideal world, you would have a clear line of sight between your wireless points. In reality, this is rarely the case and you will often find things that get in the way and stop the wireless signal from traversing effectively across your network.

Different materials will affect wireless signals and attenuation in different ways.

Materials such as concrete will cause more attenuation of wireless signal than wood.

In scenarios where wireless signals can propagate (the action of spreading) normally, there is no interference from other materials. However, there are some things that can alter the propagation of a wireless signal, causing it to behave differently and potentially become unreliable.

For example, a WLAN environment with metal surfaces may encounter unpredictability with wireless signal due to it reflecting off the metal.
Wireless signal can also be absorbed by certain materials like water or people, causing the signal to falter.

Being mindful of materials during the WLAN planning stage can help ensure the environment doesn’t hinder your wireless network and you have reliable connectivity results.

Co-Channel Interference

Different materials aren’t the only thing that can interfer with wireless signals.

Due to the 2.4GHz and 5GHz frewuency bands being unlicensed, there are no restrictions on people when extending wireless networks with access points.

This means that they can become crowded as well as channels not being assigned efficiently. Both of these issues can cause co-channel interference.

When planning your WLAN it’s important to take these issues nito consideration and plan your wireless network accordingly so as not to risk problems with wireless signal later down the line.

You want your WLAN to be as effective and efficient as it can possible be, which takes planning and wireless network knowledge.

Whilst the 2.4GHz is popular due to its propagation qualities due its waveforms passing through materials like walls more easily and reaching end users at a long distance. This however has meant that its become crowded with competing devices such as cordless telephones, baby monitors and bluetooth devices. This saturation can cause problems with your wireless signal.

In comparison, the 5GHz spectrum has greater availability and relaxed transmission power giving it more flexibility when it comes to wireless networks.

The 2.4GHz band has only 3 channels without any overlap, whereas the 5GHz has 24. This is another reason why the 5GHz band is favoured for high-density WLAN environments.

Understanding Frequency Channels

To ensure you can maximise the performance and scalability of your WLAN, you need to understand how these channels operate and use that knowledge to avoid co-channel interference.

Let’s take an Access Point as an example. An AP will have a specific bandwidth through which it will transmit and receive signals to and from other points. The channel assigned to the AP will be appropriate for the centre frequency of the first 20MHz channel used by the AP.

This bandwidth is specifically the frequency range over which the data signals are transmitted. Peak transmission and power is spread over the range of that bandwidth, with it dropping off at the edges.

These edges are then at risk of meeting other nearby wireless networks and are prone to interference from the ‘noise’ of these other networks.

It’s important to use what you know about channels to prevent the reduction of wireless signal speed and loss of scalability of your wireless network.

In order to minimise interference between neighbouring access points, choose to assign them with non-adjacent channels. Following this will make it easier to scale your network. If you don’t follow this principle, you will likely encounter problems with latency and throughput.

The best way of reducing interference when assigning WLAN channels is to carry out a Wi-Fi site survey. This involves analysing the noise levels across the spectrum so you can make informed decisions for your wireless network.

Call The Experts

If this all sounds a bit complicated, then why not give us a call here at Geekabit? We have Wi-Fi expert engineers working out of Hampshire, Cardiff and London who can take care of all your Wi-Fi woes.

From Wi-Fi site surveys, to planning and installation, we’ve got your WLAN covered. GIve us a call or drop us an email to see how we can help keep you and your business connected.

Ubiquiti Wi-Fi Expert Help

Here at Geekabit, we love Ubiquiti – It’s no secret. We’re often asked what bits of Wi-Fi kit are our favourites, and Ubiquiti is definitely one of them. We use Ubiquiti wireless devices so much that we consider ourselves a bit of an expert when it comes to Ubiquiti Wi-Fi installations. We’ve done quite a few blogs sharing our expert knowledge of Ubiquiti Wi-Fi devices, so this week we thought we’d do a quick round-up on some of the things we’ve touched on.

Let’s start with how Ubiquiti UniFi could help your business. This blog was the first in a series of three looking at the benefits of Ubiquiti UniFi in a business setting. If excellent, reliable Wi-Fi is critical to your business operations, then this is well worth a read.

[Part 1] What is Ubiquiti UniFi and How Could It Help Your Business?

In the above blog, we looked at what Ubiquiti UniFi actually was and how it could function as a network in your business. This next one focuses in on the Controller and UniFi Cloud Key and their expert Wi-Fi function within an effective wireless network.

[Part 2] Ubiquiti UniFi – The Brains

The third in that series of blogs looked at the elements that complete the Ubiquiti UniFi network and how they could provide you with a better connected business. After the last 18 months, we’ve all seen how vital it is to have a reliable connection. This series of 3 blogs on Ubiquiti UniFi highlights how these interconnected devices could be the ideal solution for keeping your business well connected.

[Part 3] Ubiquiti UniFi – The Elements

Ubiquiti Access Points are a staple in our Wi-Fi toolkit. We’re confident that their selection of access points are straightforward to match to our clients needs and satisfy your end users. For a blog that takes you through choosing the right Ubiquiti access point for your business, check out the link below.

How Do I Choose The Right Ubiquiti UniFi Access Point?

Of course, Ubiquiti isn’t the only provider out there. How does it compare to some other top options on the wireless device market? See how it stacks up against popular choices from Meraki and Aruba.

UniFi vs Meraki vs Aruba

With all the Wi-Fi 6 hype, you might be wondering what the choices are in terms of Ubiquiti Wi-Fi 6 products. In that case, you’ll probably want to have a read about the Amplifi Alien – The new Wi-Fi 6 router from Ubiquiti.

Amplifi Alien – The New Wi-Fi 6 Router from Ubiquiti

If you have a large area to cover with your network range, then mesh could be the right option for you. Mesh is essentially like a interconnected grid or net of access points that all communicate with each other, ensuring that even if one goes down you don’t drop your connection. If this sounds like something that could work for your business Wi-Fi network, have a read of the blog below explaining Ubiquiti UniFi Mesh models.

Ubiquiti UniFi – What are Mesh and Mesh Pro Models?

The latest from our Ubiquiti blogs is the range of Ubiquiti airMAX products. With something to match every business Wi-Fi need – from a functional perspective to design aesthetics – This blog will take you through the Ubiquiti airMAX device choices.

Which Ubiquiti airMAX product should I choose?

If you need Ubiquiti Wi-Fi expert help then give us a call here at Geekabit. Our Wi-Fi experts operate out of London, Hampshire and Cardiff and are all competent in Ubiquiti wireless devices.

To get in touch, give us a call or drop us a message.

 

Which Ubiquiti airMAX product should I choose?

It’s no secret that we’re big fans of Ubiquiti products here at Geekabit. We often recommend their devices and bits of kit for our clients and business Wi-Fi installations.

This blog is going to look at some of the different Ubiquiti airMAX products there are and which ones might be suited to your business and Wi-Fi needs. There are lots of different options that cover various outdoor wireless scenarios.

 

Point-to-Point or Point-to-Multipoint?

Let’s start at the beginning. First you need to ascertain whether your outdoor Wi-Fi would be best suited to a Point-to-Point (PtP) or Point-to-Multipoint (PtMP) network. These are the two primary deployment methods for distributing any fixed outdoor wireless communications.

Point-to-Point (PtP) – This method connects two locations, usually at a distance of multiple km, and essentially forms an Ethernet bridge.

Point-to-Multipoint links (PtMP): This method can connect three or more locations, via one Base Station (or Access Point) and multiple CPE devices (Stations) connected to the Access Point.

 

Point-to-Point (PtP) Links

Here are some of the Ubiquiti airMAX products with specifications on what wireless environment they would cater for. Whilst there are distances listed below, these are meant as a reference. It’s important to bear in mind that all real-life results have influencing environmental factors, for example, interference and Line of Sight.

Short distance (0-5 km)

NanoBeam 5AC-G2: This is recommended for short links, and exhibits superior performance which is due to the latest airMAX AC technology. It is able to deliver up to 450Mbps of throughput.

NanoStation 5AC Loco: Another good option for short distance links, this is the lowest cost PtP solution that has airMAX AC technology.

NanoStation 5AC: This one is a popular choice when it comes to short link Wi-Fi, and is commonly chosen for video surveillance due to its dual-Ethernet port capability. It also has airMAX AC technology.

Medium distance (5-15 km)

LiteBeam 5AC-23-G2: This is recommended as Customer Premises Equipment (CPE – any device accessing the internet) for most cases. Thanks to the latest airMAX AC technology, it has superior performance and can to deliver up to 450Mbps of throughput.

PowerBeam 5AC-G2: Recommended as CPE for medium or long distance links. Once again it has superior performance thanks to the latest airMAX AC technology. It can to deliver up to 450Mbps of throughput.

PowerBeam 5AC ISO:  This one is very similar to PowerBeam 5AC but offers an alternative for high-noise environments.

 

Point-to-Multipoint (PtMP) Links

When it comes to PtMP outdoor wireless networks, it’s really important to remember that the performance is dependent on both sides of the link. If you are trying to get across long distances, you’ll need to make good choices when it comes to the Base Station and CPE for each case. We’ll be looking at these options below.

The release of Ubiquiti operating systems airOS 6 (for M devices) and airOS 8 (for AC devices) provides backwards compatibility and means that you can upgrade your M sector by simply swapping the M AP for an airMAX AC radio as the AP.

 

Base Stations

You will usually find the location of a base station on the top of a tower, building or mast. Your maximum coverage will be determined by the height of that tower.

Low Capacity and Short distance Base Stations

For short distance base stations with low capacity, take a look at the following Ubiquiti airMAX products. These are ideal for areas with low interference.

Rocket M + airMAX OMNI antenna: This could be a great option for more rural Wi-Fi needs, particularly as it is susceptible to interference. It can support up to 60+ concurrent stations when all devices are airMAX capable.

High Capacity & High-Performance Base Stations

Rocket 5AC PRISM G1/G2 + airMAX AC Sector Antenna: This one’s for the highest performance base stations with carrier-grade system. Eight 45° antennas give 360° coverage. Co-adjacent noise is significantly reduces with airPRISM technology.

Rocket 5AC Lite + Titanium Sector Antennas: For medium-high density areas, this is a high-performance solution. It uses the latest airMAX AC technology plus variable beamwidth (60-120°) antennas for scalable growth.

LiteAP AC: This one is an ultra-lightweight airMAX AC sector + radio. It has incredible performance and disruptive pricing, plus 120° coverage.

 

Customer Premise Equipment (CPE)

One of the great things about Ubiquiti is the range of products and how they can work together to support your wireless network as a whole. If you go for the airMAX CPE to support your Ubiquiti products, you’re also getting centralised SDN management, hotspot/guest portal, advanced SSID/WLAN configuration, routing, switching and more. It’s well worth looking at the whole range available. Or call the experts (that’s us) to see whether Ubiquiti wireless devices could help with your wireless network.

Short distance (0-3 km)  

NanoBeam 5AC-G2: This has slightly greater range than the NanoBeam 5AC-19 M and is more directive.

Medium distance (3-7 km)

LiteBeam 5AC-23-G2: This low-cost CPE has very narrow beamwidth, and MIMO technology. This one is the new industry-standard for airMAX AC CPEs.

PowerBeam 5AC-G2: This option is a highly directive CPE, with better range and lower noise.

Long distance (7+ km)

PowerBeam 5AC-500/620: This one is a higher power device, with a super directive antenna, better range and lower noise. If you’re a design buff then you might also like how it’s more aesthetically pleasing compared to bulky dishes.

Rocket 5AC-Lite + RocketDish LW: You’ll likely find this one the best performing option. It’s higher cost than integrated designs, and can be unsightly as a CPE. It supports IsoBeam accessory for better isolation, which comes with RF chokes.

 

Frequency Options

Let’s talk about frequency. Due to physics and utilisation, each frequency has different characteristics.

Lower frequencies have better propagation characteristics than higher frequencies. You may find that they work better in environments where the Line of Sight is obstructed (for example, by trees). However, these bands may also have higher levels of noise and interference, so it’s very important to select the frequency that works best for your wireless environment.

Let’s have a look at the pros and cons of some frequency bands.

900MHz (M900) – Pros and Cons

  • Better tolerance for trees and small obstacles in comparison to higher frequencies
  • Tends to have higher noise levels
  • Only has a 26MHz bandwidth

2.4GHz (M2) – Pros and Cons

  • It is unlicensed worldwide
  • It only has 3 over-lapping 20MHz channels (1, 6, 11)
  • It tends to be a very crowded band with interference from other devices such as cordless phones
  • 40MHz channelse are not recommended

3.x GHz (M3-M365) – Pros and Cons

  • 300MHz bandwidth in countries where 3.4-3.7GHz band is available
  • It is noise free in most areas
  • Only 25MHz bandwidth in countries where 3.65GHz can be used
  • It requires a license

5 GHz (5AC/AF5/AF5X) – Pros and Cons

  • It is unlicensed worldwide
  • Higher EIRP limits allow higher gain antennas, and long distance links
  • Large amounts of spectrum available, easier to co-locate nearby devices
  • Weaker propagation in comparison to lower frequencies when there are obstacles like trees or walls are present

10 GHz (M10) – Pros and Cons

  • It is noise-free in most cases and is very useful when the 5.8GHz band is crowded
  • It has a very small Fresnel zone
  • It is only available in a few areas
  • It is a licensed band
  • It needs a perfectly clear Line of Sight

11 GHz (AF11FX) – Pros and Cons

  • It is noise-free in most cases and is very useful when the 5.8GHz band is crowded
  • It has a very small Fresnel zone
  • It is only available in a few areas
  • It is a licensed band
  • It needs a perfectly clear Line of Sight

 

Antenna Types

We spoke about the important of each side of the link being effective to ensure the highest performance possible. Now it’s time to talk about the antennas.

High gain antennas also play an important role when deploying a high performance outdoor wireless network. There are two main reasons:

  • They provide high gain amplification of the signal power resulting in higher signals and better link quality.
  • They are highly directional, which gives them spatial filtering characteristics that can help to block noise. This is especially important in noisy environments.

When thinking about the antenna for the base station, you might think it’s best to go for the one that offers the largest coverage area. However, it’s actually better to choose the antenna that covers the smallest amount of coverage that covers your range area. An antenna covering a larger area than needed could be more susceptible to interference due to a wider beamwidth, causing a decrease in scalability and performance.

Here are the categories of antenna.

Yagi: Directive, used for PTP and CPE applications. Frequently used in low frequencies, such as 900MHz, due to size

Grid: Directive, used for PTP and CPE applications. Great wind-loading properties. However, this type only works in one polarity (1×1), so lower performance than 2×2 antennas (Dish, Panel, etc.)

Panel: Directive, used for PTP and CPE applications. Compact design is very attractive in situations where dishes are not preferred.

Dish: Most Directive, highest performing airMAX antennas for PTP applications. Usually larger and heavier.

Omni: Provides 360 degrees of horizontal coverage (omni-directional). Ideal for low capacity and wide-coverage AP / Base Station applications)

Sector: Ideal choice for high performance Base Stations. Offer higher gain and directivity than omnidirectional antennas. Usually offered in 45, 60, 90, or 120 degree options.

This list is not conclusive. You can find all of the current airMAX antennas here by looking at the antenna section.

For more information in general about Ubiquiti airMAX options, head to their website.

 

No idea where to start?

Here at Geekabit, our expert wireless network engineers have the knowledge and experience to help you deploy a high performing outdoor wireless network in Hampshire, London and Wales. If you would like to discuss your Wi-Fi network requirements, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. Our Wi-Fi experts are only a phone call away!

 

What’s Different About Wi-Fi 6?

Wondering what all the fuss is about when it comes to Wi-Fi 6? If you’re questioning what the differences are and whether it’s worth making hardware device changes, then read on.

The next generation of wireless standard is here (actually, it’s been here since the end of 2019). Wi-Fi 6, or 802.11ax has the following main differences:

  • It’s faster
  • It provides better performance in congested areas (think anything from your own device-packed home, to stadiums)

We know it informally as Wi-Fi 6 – Wi-Fi versions have now been assigned simple numbers to replace the more complicated code-like names that we saw before.

What are the Wi-Fi Version Numbers?

The new Wi-Fi version numbers are much more user friendly, but for the fellow geeks among us, here are what the new version numbers correspond to, plus (whilst not being officially branded) what all of the old versions would have been.

Wi-Fi 1 – 802.11b (released in 1999)

Wi-Fi 2 – 802.11a (also released in 1999)

Wi-Fi 3 – 802.11g (released in 2003)

Wi-Fi 4 – 802.11n (released in 2009)

Wi-Fi 5 – 802.11ac (released in 2014)

Wi-Fi 6 – 802.11ax (released in 2019)

You might start to see these newer version numbers appear in software when connecting your smartphone, tablet or laptop, to enable you to see which Wi-Fi networks are newer and faster. This is what the Wi-Fi Alliance announced that they would like to be seeing across networks. It’s worth noting that it isn’t mandatory for manufacturers to label their products with Wi-Fi 6 instead of 802.11ax, but we’re hopeful that most will. Re-naming products from 802.11ac to Wi-Fi 5 might be another matter though!

Wi-Fi That’s Faster

As with most technological advances, the latest development in Wi-Fi standard is faster in terms of data transfer speeds. In comparison to Wi-Fi 5, a Wi-Fi 6 router would provide one device with up to 40% higher speeds.

What Makes Wi-Fi 6 Faster?

The reason Wi-Fi 6 can achieve such faster speeds is due to more efficient data coding which thus results in higher throughput. Basically, the radio waves are packed with more data. With each Wi-Fi standard, the ability for the chips to encode and decode the data gets more powerful, hence why Wi-Fi 6 is faster than Wi-Fi 5, and can handle extra work.

You may be aware that we have 2 frequenceis used for networks – 5GHz and 2.4GHz. 5GHz is more commonly used as it is subject to less interference, however 2.4GHz is still a good option for being able to penetrate solid objects. Wi-Fi 6, the new standard, even increases speeds on these 2.4GHz networks.

How Will Wi-Fi 6 Affect the Battery Life on my Device?

Many Wi-Fi 6 enabled devices will have a new ‘target wake time’ feature. This means that an access point can define a specific set of times when devices connected to the internet need to have access to the wireless network. This new efficiency should mean that your Wi-Fi enables devices should have a longer battery life.

Let’s take your smartphone, for example. When the AP is talking to your phone, it can tell it when to put it’s Wi-Fi radio to sleep and when to wave it up to receive the next transmission. Because your device can spend more time in sleep mode, you should find your battery lasts longer.

It also means that devices that connect via Wi-Fi with lower power can benefit from longer battery life.

Wi-Fi That Performs Better in Crowded Areas

We know there hasn’t been much opportunity for it as late, but picture trying to get online at an airport, hotel or live event at a stadium. When an area is as congested with devices as these, you can suffer with slow Wi-Fi and even struggle to connect.

Wi-Fi 6 tackles just this problem. With new technology, superior to previous Wi-Fi standards, it’s purported that Wi-Fi 6 will improve the average speed of each user by at least 4 times. Even in crowded areas with lots of devices.

This isn’t just something that will benefit you when out in public places – It could be a huge help in your home as well. If you have a large family all with multiple devices connected to Wi-Fi, then this could be just the solution to stop the slow-down. Or perhaps if you live in a densely populated place, like a block of flats.

How Does Wi-Fi 6 Tackle Congestion from Multiple Devices?

There are various features that help Wi-Fi 6 better tackle the problem of heavily crowded networks. Just knowing that a Wi-Fi 6 device connected to a Wi-Fi 6 access point will work better may well be enough for you!

For those who want all the geeky details, here’s what’s going on to make Wi-Fi 6 better for networks with multiple or many devices.

Wi-Fi 6 technology is able to create a large number of sub-channels within one wireless channel. Date intended for each individual device can be carried by each sub-channel. This technology is called Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access (OFDMA). Essentially this means that a Wi-Fi 6 enabled access point can talk to more devices at once.

Wi-Fi 6 also has improved MultipleIn/Multiple Out (MIMO). Again, this lets the access point talk to multiple devices at once through multiple antennas. The difference between this and Wi-Fi 5, is that while the latter enabled an access point to talk to multiple devices at the same time, it couldn’t allow the devices to respond at the same time, thus slowing things down. The new improved MIMO on Wi-Fi 6 is a multi-user version (MU-MIMO) which enables devices to respond to the access point at the same time.

Let’s look at another potential scenario. Wireless access points that are locating close to one another may transmit on the same channel. This means that the radio needs to listen and wait for a clear signal before it can reply. Wi-Fi 6 uses spatial frequency re-use which allows you to configure Wi-Fi 6 wireless access points with different Basic Service Set (BSS) colours, which consists of a number between 0 and 7. The device can then determine whether a particular channel has a weaker signal, and thus ignore it and transmit without waiting. This is another way in which Wi-Fi 6 will improve wireless performance in congested areas.

These are just a couple of the improvements to be seen from the new Wi-Fi 6 standard. There are many more, smaller enhancements which will improve the speed and performance with Wi-Fi 6.

How Do I Know If Something has Wi-Fi 6?

Luckily, thanks to this handy article, you’re now familiar with all the technical names of the different Wi-Fi standards, so you’ll know exactly what to look for. Right? Don’t panic! We’re only kidding. Thanks to the new versions, it’ll be easy for you to find devices that are certified Wi-Fi 6 (rather than hunting around for 802.11ax!). Device manufacturers are able to say whether their product is Wi-Fi 6 or Wi-Fi 5.

You may also start to see a logo saying ‘Wi-Fi 6 Certified’ on relevant devices. This means that the product has gone through the Wi-Fi Alliance’s certification process. The old Wi-Fi Certified logo simply told you it was Wi-Fi Certified, rather than what generation of Wi-Fi a product was. The new logo will make it clear if it is Wi-Fi 6. So there will be no need for trawling through product specifications!

When Can I Get Wi-Fi 6 Enabled Devices?

The new Wi-Fi 6 standard was finalised in 2019, with hardware being released in the latter part of the same year and into 2020. So you should be seeing Wi-Fi 6 enabled products in the market now. It’s shouldn’t be something you need to put too much thought into – As new routers, smartphones, tables and laptops are released into the market, they will just start to come with this new Wi-Fi 6 technology.

It’s worth remembering that to benefit from the improvements on the new Wi-Fi 6 standard, you need both the sender and receiver devices to support this latest generation of Wi-Fi 6. Whatever the connection, it will only operate in the mode that your device supports. For example, you may have a Wi-Fi 6 enabled router, a Wi-Fi 6 enabled smartphone, but a laptop that only supports Wi-Fi 5. You’ll see the advantages of Wi-Fi 6 on your smartphone, but the laptop will only work at Wi-Fi 5 capacity.

The Wi-Fi Lifecycle: How to Boost Wireless Performance at Every Stage

Managing a wireless network is a non-stop task. A wireless network is a lifecycle – It is constantly moving through the processes, and every stage gives you the chance to troubleshoot and optimise your Wi-Fi.

What is the Wi-Fi Lifecycle?

If you are responsible for deploying a Wi-Fi network and then doing the ongoing management, then you will likely be familiar with the stages you see throughout this process. It starts with the wireless network design, and then continuing maintenance, optimisation and troubleshooting, which can lead you back to those design stages. To ensure that your wireless network reliably performs at its optimum levels, you need to understand these stages and equip yourselves with the right tools.

Let’s have a look at each stage of the Wi-Fi Cycle.

Wi-Fi Design

First up, it’s design. Do not skip this step. It’s so important for your wireless network to carry out surveys and design according to the results. You likely won’t get a high-performing, reliable Wi-Fi network without doing this stage properly!

Designing your wireless network gives you the opportunity to translate the Wi-Fi needs of your business (or home) in a way that meets or exceeds all of your requirements. Do not just deploy and hope for the best – Wi-Fi is a vital first stage in any wireless network deployment.

If you’re not sure where to start, then get in touch with us here at Geekabit. Our Wi-Fi experts have all the knowledge needed to carry out a Wi-Fi survey and use the information identified to design a high-performance wireless network that provides reliable Wi-Fi for your business-critical applications. For more information on Wi-Fi surveys and what they entail, you might like to read this blog.

Network Validation

Once you’ve got your Wi-Fi network designed, taking things into consideration like walls, end user requirements, positioning, high footfall areas etc you need to validate it. The aim of this stage is to make sure that your Wi-Fi design behaves in the way you have predicted it to.

Using AP on a Stick technology, you can test out the locations for access points in your design and make sure that things like capacity and coverage are what you expected. This stage is also a bit of a safety net to catch any possible sources of interferences that didn’t pop up in your survey or design stage, for example differences in wall materials.

This stage is also vital if you want to make sure your network will be successful before complete deployment, saving you valuable time (and money) later on fixing problems. If you’re having to run new cabling, you really want to make sure that all your access points and antenna are in the best locations first.

You may find yourself returning to this stage multiple times. Perhaps you identify some potential issues with access point placing which sends you back to the design stage. You’ll find yourself re-validating those changes. Remember, this is a constant process and you will go through the Wi-Fi lifecycle time and again.

You don’t just validate post-design – You will also need to validate your network following its deployment. But hopefully, having done an initial design and validation stage, you will find your network running at its optimum performance for your end users.

Wi-Fi Optimisation

So you’ve designed your network, validated it and went ahead with deployment. Surely that’s it done? We’re afraid not! Even if your network seems to be working well and providing reliable Wi-Fi to your users, it’s something that needs constant monitoring and maintenance in order to optimise the Wi-Fi your business provides.

This isn’t a quick process or ‘box-ticked-next’ sort of stage. Continuously monitoring and tweaking your Wi-Fi network allows your to react in a timely manner to any changes. Perhaps you have an increase in staff members, or a rise in multiple device usage. Maybe there are physical changes made to the building, a reshuffle of office layout or a warehouse with wildly fluctuating inventory.

The Wi-Fi Optimsation stage allows for proactive wireless network improvements to be made for any known impending changes. Constant monitoring also enables a reactive approach to any adjustments that need to be made due to reported issues from end users.

Carrying out regular RF surveys of your Wi-Fi network will provide you with data that becomes invaluable when it comes to making adjustments and troubleshooting issues.

There may be times when a change of requirements is too large for just a few tweaks here and there, which will send you back to the design stage in order to create a new deployment.

Network Troubleshooting

No one wants Wi-Fi woes in their office if they can help it. Disgruntled employees that are complaining of slow Wi-Fi aren’t just demotivated and unproductive – They may not even be able to carry out business-critical tasks. If your business depends on reliable Wi-Fi, then you need to make sure your wireless network meets requirements by following the stages mentioned above.

But unfortunately, there will be times when issues slip through the net. Troubleshooting is probably the most stressful stage of the Wi-Fi Lifecycle. Everyone knows how frustrating it is to have dodgy Wi-Fi, and nobody wants to be on the receiving end of those complaints.

Thankfully, with the right tools you can keep these incidences to a minimum, ensure swift implementation of fixes and get straight back to the optimisation stage. Spectrum analysers are a big help during the troubleshooting process by helping identify Wi-Fi strength and interference.

 

Wi-Fi Design – Yes, we’ve gone full circle!

The nature of wireless networks is everchanging. Requirements change fairly regularly with the needs of the business. Sometimes these will be small, quick fixes and sometimes they will require complete re-design and deployment right from the beginning of the Wi-Fi lifecycle.

Luckily for you, you now know the process – Wi-Fi Design, Wi-Fi Validation, Network Optimisation and Troubleshooting.

 

Whichever stage your wireless network is currently in, Geekabit can help ensure your business Wi-Fi is high-performing and reliable for your end users. For more information or to discuss your requirements, get in touch with out one of our Wi-Fi experts today.

What is RF Design and Why Is It Important for my Wi-Fi Network?

Let’s face it – Our Wi-Fi expectations these days are pretty high. We want a strong, fast, reliable connection – And we want it all of the time. When we have good Wi-Fi, we barely notice it. But when it’s bad, it’s frustratingly apparent.

Unfortunately, what people don’t tend to realise is that a significant part of your wireless network is the RF environment. If you want your Wi-Fi network to perform to those high expectations, then you need to ensure you get this RF environment right.

Designing Your RF  Environment

It starts with the design. To create an effective RF design, you need to consider the environment that this Wi-Fi network is going to be functioning in. Are their neighbouring networks? What potential factors could cause interference?

You also need to consider how you need your Wi-Fi network to work. How many users are there? Will there be areas of higher density than others? These sorts of things define the requirements of the RF design. If you want good wireless network performance to meet those high expectations we mentioned above, then your RF environment needs to be correctly designed and managed.

The best way to identify what design would work well for your environment is to carry out a Wi-Fi survey. If you’re not confident in carrying this our yourself, then consider calling in the experts! We make it our business to provide comprehensive Wi-Fi surveys for any business or home environment. Our expert engineers can then design a Wi-Fi network tailored precisely to your needs, and then install it for you.

Analysing Your Wi-Fi Network

If your Wi-Fi network is already up and running, but you suspect there may be issues somewhere then network monitoring tools can be a useful way of providing visibility of any problems.

If you’re in the Wi-Fi field, then this will be a fairly straightforward exercise for you if you know the tools and how to use them. More often than not though, Wi-Fi network problems need a more in-depth analysis to really get to the bottom of what’s causing issues.

This again is where it might be best to call in the experts. Our Wi-Fi engineers have the specialist tools and knowledge to look at your Wi-Fi network, analyse traffic flow and examine exactly how data is passing through.

Are you experiencing poor wireless network performance?

It’s important to remember that you have very little to no control over what type of devices enter your network. Your Wi-Fi network may be open to guests or maybe even the general public depending on your business. Even non-Wi-Fi devices can have a significant impact on your wireless network.

Are you experiencing poor performance on your Wi-Fi network? To identify the problem you need to analyse 3 main components of your wireless network.

  • The configuration
  • The RF environment
  • The devices / users in your network

Luckily for you you’ve landed in the right place! Here at Geekabit, our engineers are Wi-Fi experts and can carry out Wi-Fi surveys, Wi-Fi Design and Wi-Fi Installation all from our bases in Hampshire, London and Cardiff. For more information get in touch with us today.

 

How Does Capacity and Coverage affect Wi-Fi Interference?

This week’s blog is the last in our series on Wi-Fi interference and what you can do about it. So far we’ve covered physical causes of Wi-Fi interference, how electrical devices can affect Wi-Fi through frequency interference and today we’re talking about capacity and coverage.

How does capacity affect Wi-Fi interference?

Capacity problems are most commonplace in corporate environments like offices. A potential issue that these environments might face is having too many users per broadcast device. This causes a capacity overload and that’s when you start to run into Wi-Fi problems.

Each Wi-Fi broadcast device, e.g. a router or access point, has a finite amount of bandwidth. This bandwidth is divided by the number of wireless devices connecting to it. So if only 10 devices are connected, then the bandwidth for that router will be divided by 10. It’s almost irrelevant how fast the internet connection is – If 50 people try to connect then the bandwidth is going to split 50 ways.

Ways to avoid issues with capacity and bandwidth, is to make sure that you don’t have just one router or access point serving an area of high density. If you have a lot of users or users with multiple devices in a certain area, then make sure you have the necessary number of broadcast devices. You might find our blog on ‘How Many Access Points do I need?’ helpful for this.

How does coverage affect Wi-Fi interference?

It’s not just about the capacity in an area, you also need to consider the distance that people are needing to connect across. Getting Wi-Fi coverage right is just as important as capacity.

We all know that that closer we are to a broadcasting device, the stronger and more reliable the signal is going to be. If you know that there will be users in a particular area of your office or business that will need to connect, then make sure that there is a device close-by enough to transmit a strong signal.

Coverage isn’t all about distance, it’s also about whether your devices are installed effectively. For example, it’s pointless installing an access point in close range to users if it’s pointing in the wrong direction, or hidden behind something. Wireless broadcast devices like routers or access points emit their signal in certain directions. Obviously you can’t see what way the radio signals are going so make sure that devices are installed properly. Access points that are hidden behind shelves, or wedged in ceiling tiles are not going to work the way they were intended to. Always check the instructions and manufacturers guide when installing any hardware so that they work effectively and reach the maximum coverage possible. If you’re not sure, then ask the experts!

What can we conclude on the types of Wi-Fi interference and their resolutions?

Wi-Fi has come a long way since it first arrived in our lives, and while the gap between wireless internet and wired is certainly closing, there’s always going to be some inferiority for Wi-Fi when comparing the two.

Some of the resolutions we’ve covered in this series of blogs on Wi-Fi Interference are:

  • Check for physical obstruction risks such as metal and concrete, and place your broadcast devices strateigically to mitigate risks.
  • Check your kit and upgrade where necessary. Devices that can use the 802.11ac frequency with dual band functionality are really useful for scenarious where you need to swap from 2.5Ghz to 5Ghz.
  • Always check for firmware upgrades. A bit like how you update the apps on your smartphones, manufacturers are constantly trying to better their performance by enhancing the software that runs them so do keep a watch for updates which are often free.

It’s so important to take careful consideration when designing your Wi-Fi network. If you don’t feel confident assessing your environment for the potential issues in this series of Wi-Fi interference blogs, then consider calling in the experts. Our Wi-Fi engineers can carry out a Wi-Fi survey followed by planning and design and finished with expert installation for effective and reliable Wi-Fi.

It’s Business As Usual for Geekabit

We’re still here, and we’re not going anywhere.

We are lucky that much of our work is done remotely. And for situations where this isn’t possible, we are fortunately able to continue working within the government guidelines.

As the nation once again faces a period of lockdown, we thought we would link some previous blogs that might prove useful in the coming weeks.

Whether you’re in work or find yourself working from home again, you might well encounter some Wi-Fi problems. Thankfully, many of them are pretty common and are relatively easy to fix. The below blog will give you some top tips to keep you connected.

Common Wi-Fi Problems and How to Fix Them

Got yourself such good Wi-Fi that your neighbour’s sneaking on? You need to make your connection more secure. Here’s how.

Who is Stealing my Wi-Fi and How Can I Block Them?

Desperate for a bit of time out of the house? Bet you never thought you’d be longing for the office! The weather might be turning a bit too chilly to be enjoying the sunshine mentioned in this next blog, but it could help get your Wi-Fi set up in the garden shed. Don’t forget your hot water bottle and flask of coffee!

How do I get Wi-Fi in my garden?

A reliable, fast connection is once again going to be the thing to keep us connected – To colleagues, friends and family. Don’t let rubbish Wi-Fi be the thing that isolates you.

As we said, we’re still here for all your Wi-Fi needs. Perhaps you’re thinking that a business empty of employees and customers is the best time to finally get your patchy Wi-Fi sorted. In which case, do give our Wi-Fi experts a call. Operating out of London, Cardiff and Hampshire, our engineers can provide a Wi-Fi site survey, plan and design your new Wi-Fi network and then install it for you.

Maybe your home Wi-Fi network isn’t cutting it for all your zoom calls? Over the past couple of months we’ve installed a number of 4G broadband kits in place of intermittent Wi-Fi, especially in more rural areas.

To discuss any of the above, please get in touch with us today.

How to Measure RF Attenuation Through a Wall
Are you having problems with your Wi-Fi? Perhaps you didn’t carry out a Wi-Fi survey prior to designing and installing your network – Or maybe you skipped the design bit altogether!

 

Dodgy Wi-Fi can sometimes be put down to attenuation, or loss of signal. The main causes of this are the distance the signal is travelling from the transmitter, and objects in the way like walls.

It’s paramount that when you are designing a Wi-Fi network in a walled environment like an office, that you take into account things like walls and their attenuation values. These values can then be used in the design process, indicating where best to place devices and simulate any potential problems that may arise.

Not all walls are the same. Different materials will have a different attenuation value – Basically, some walls will block Wi-Fi signal more than others. Some may be plasterboard, or using plasterboard as a disguise over another material such as brick, concrete, or other materials.

Whatever the material, it’s important to identify what it is and how successfully a signal can get through. Here’s how you can go about measuring the attenuation of  a wall.

 

What you will need:
  • Something to generate Wi-Fi. This could be the hotspot function on your smartphone, a WLAN Pi in hotspot mode powered by a USB, or a battery pack powered Enterprise grade AP. You need to be able to control the transmitting power and the channel so that your measurements will be consistent.
  • A device with which you can measure Wi-Fi. This can also be done with a smartphone through AirPort Utility on iPhone or Aruba Utilities on Android. You could also use an AirCheck G2 or an Ekahau Sidekick. The device you choose will need to enable you to scan only the channel your Wi-Fi generating device is on.

 

What to do:
  1. Identify the wall you are wishing to test.
  2. Place the Wi-Fi generating device at least 4m from the wall, with nothing in-between the device and the wall.
  3. On the measuring device, set the channel to only the scan the channel that your generating device is using.
  4. Point the measuring device towards the generating device on the near side of the wall, making sure that there is a direct line of sight between the devices. Make sure you do not sit or stand between them.
  5. Take a few sets of measurements and make a note of the values. Identify the average for the near side of the wall. You could call this A.
  6. Next, move the measuring device to the other side of the wall, directly in line with where it was before. Again, point the measuring device towards the generating device.
  7. Just like before, take a few sets of measurements and make a note of the values. Identify the average measurement for the far side of the wall. You could call this B.
  8. Work out the wall attenuation: A – B. Make a note of this and document it.

 

Now you know how much the wall is (or isn’t) blocking the Wi-Fi signal. This can help you identify the best positions for devices like routers and access points when designing and installing your Wi-Fi network.

Thinking this all sounds a bit complicated? Luckily for you, our expert Wi-Fi engineers here at Geekabit are pros at carrying out this sort of investigation. We offer site surveys, Wi-Fi design & planning and Wi-Fi installation.

If you already have a Wi-Fi network set up, but have a sneaking suspicion that a particular wall might be causing you problems then we can also help diagnose any Wi-Fi issues in an already established network.

Get in touch with us today to see how our Wi-Fi experts can help you.

Three types of Wi-Fi wireless network
There are three main types of wireless network – How do you know which wireless network is right for you?

Here we’re going to talk about three wireless networks to help you identify which would work best for your business.

We’ll be looking at centralised deployment, converged deployment and cloud-based deployment to see which one suits different types of applications.

Centralised Deployment

The most common wireless network system is centralised deployment. These lend themselves well to environments where buildings and networks are all in close proximity. This type of deployment brings the wireless network together which helps to facilitate advanced wireless functionality. It also enables easier upgrades. Wi-Fi controllers in these networks are based on-site, installed in a location at the centre of the network.

Converged Deployment

This type of wireless network works well for smaller environments such as an office building. They offer a consistency for both wireless and wired connections due to combining them both onto one network device. This device is an access switch which acts as both a switch as well as a wireless controller.

Cloud-Based Deployment

This deployment is ideal for networks that cover multiple locations. Devices connected on the premises of these different locations are managed by cloud software which via a dashboard, enables full visibility and management of said devices.

Once you’ve identified which network your business needs, you can then go about designing it. A site survey is invaluable at this stage, and enables a theoretical map to show up any potential problems before installation goes ahead.

If you need some assistance with your wireless network at any stage – From Wi-Fi site surveys, wireless network design, Wi-Fi installation or help with a current Wi-Fi network – Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us today. Our expert Wi-Fi engineers are here to help, and are still working out of our Hampshire and London bases.