WiFi Best Practices For Quality Assurance

Today's WiFi networks require a more strategic approach than just dropping APs everywhere in order to ensure quality of service.

Chris Spain

July 24, 2015

3 Min Read
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From smart watches to smartphones, tablets and sensors, more and more devices within your organization are clamoring for Internet access every day. Many of these products support multiple radios for access to both WiFi and cellular LTE. This forces users to choose between them, weighing factors such as the benefits of cost, quality of service, and ease of use.

The increased proliferation of new communication methods in the workplace, such as Voice over WiFi and video calling and messaging, has spurred the jump to fixed WiFi networks when available rather than relying on LTE. If employees used cellular LTE for these applications, monthly data costs would skyrocket along with complaints about poor performance and reliability. This is especially true for bandwidth-sensitive needs such as video.

In fact, 46% of global mobile data traffic is being offloaded to WiFi today. This is effective for people like me who travel internationally and use video calling from the office, hotel or airport over WiFi to keep in touch with coworkers and family.

However, unless network managers properly prioritize traffic and understand the impact of new standards and infrastructure on mobile traffic management, the move to WiFi can cause congestion and competition for bandwidth that harms the user experience.

Doing WiFi right in this new environment requires a more strategic approach than simply slapping wireless access points in every conference room and in other locations where users are congregating. Here are some suggested best practices:

Proper AP density and placement: As a rule of thumb, you should deploy one access point for every 2,500 to 3,000 square feet of office space to provide more reliable and consistent connectivity. If location-based services are important to your organization, additional access points may be required and should be placed close to the edge of the building to improve accuracy.

Beef up your wireless management: Network managers need visibility into users, devices and applications running over the network, and the ability to troubleshoot and manage application performance. Through today’s policy management and mobility services platforms, the network becomes a goldmine of information that can lead to improved user experiences. For example, the network can ascertain which users connected to the network with what device, as well as their location within a few meters. Analyzing such trends can help admins tweak network design and configuration to boost network performance.

Migrate to 5 GHz: Migrate as quickly as possible to a 5 GHz-centric wireless architecture and move as much of the traffic as you can to 5 GHz. This requires a higher density of access-points compared to 2.4 GHZ, but provides greater spectrum availability, more non-overlapping channels, and lower levels of interference. It can achieve speeds as fast as 1.3 Gbps with 802.11ac Wave 1, projected speeds as high as 6.9 Gbps with 802.11ac Wave 2, and even faster with future technologies such as 802.11ax.

Build for the next wave of mobile devices now: The number of mobile devices continues to grow, outpacing the population of the world. This means your typical user will bring more than two or three mobile devices to work, and an increasing number of them will ship with 802.11ac Wave 2 capabilities. Supporting these new standards in your network infrastructure will lead to fewer headaches when onboarding and managing these devices, and provide a better experience for your users sooner. Plus, upgrading early in the product lifecycle will help you prepare for the future wave of devices to hit your network, and potentially minimize costs and planning/installation cycles as you expand your WiFi support to more users and more devices.

New waves of mobile devices and increased adoption of bandwidth-intensive applications in the workplace will only drive greater demands and expectations for Internet connectivity, increasing our reliance on WiFi. Moving aggressively to emerging WiFi standards, and applying best practices in network management, can help you assure the higher quality of WiFi service at the lowest possible cost. Most importantly, it also helps to secure IT’s position as a champion for meeting organizational expectations and ushering in the future of the workplace.

About the Author(s)

Chris Spain

TechnologistChris Spain is currently working on a stealth mode start-up. Prior to this Chris was VP of enterprise networking within Cisco’s Enterprise infrastructure and Solutions Group. Chris has held executive positions at Cisco Systems, Aruba Networks and Juniper Networks. Chris has extensive experience with multiple networking technologies spanning routing, switching and WLAN and has a passion for developing and introducing industry and market leading products and taking them mainstream. In addition to organic product development Chris has identified and championed multiple acquisitions during his career. Chris is an inspirational spokesperson, technology blogger and evangelist.Chris is married with three children and is an avid photographer, scuba diver (who was once lost at sea), hiker and cyclist (Lands End to John O’Groats). Chris also has a passion for English cars and Motorcycles whose daily commutes are a Jaguar F-Type and Triumph Bonneville.

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