If you intend to design an Enterprise Wireless Network that performs well, detailed planning is critical. Today I'm going to examine 5 key things to consider before moving forward with an Enterprise WiFi installation.
Site Survey Do I need to get a site survey? The answer depends on the expected use and performance of the WLAN. A site survey involves two different things - spectrum analysis and coverage mapping. The spectrum analysis checks to see if there is any interference with other frequencies. The coverage mapping simulates the access point placement to ensure proper coverage requirements. Can a wireless system be installed without a site survey? Yes, however proper coverage and optimal functionality can never be guaranteed. Imagine building a model car in a dark room, it is going to take longer and you really don’t know what it looks like until the light is turned on. A proper site survey allows you to see what you’re working with before, during and after the installation. Also, it is important that a site survey be conducted during a normal working environment - with machines, forklifts and or people moving around - to ensure the operation will be properly scrutinized.
Usage What type of data will be going through the wireless network: small data collection transactions, phone calls (VOIP/SIP), and or large file transfers? Will users require the use of the wireless network while moving from one area to another? Each of these types of questions corresponds to important design requirements. For instance, if users will be moving around then 100% coverage will be required to and from each of these areas and the system must be capable of roaming users between access points.
Coverage What are my coverage needs? Do I need to cover the entire building/facility? Can this change in the future? This will answer how large the wireless system needs to be initially and does it need to be scalable enough to facilitate the rest of the building or another building entirely in the future. Planning in the beginning will save future costs in time, performance and money.
Cabling Each access point will need a CAT5e/6 network cable run from it to the nearest IDF (Intermediate Distribution Frame). These are commonly referred to as wiring closets. The cable length is limited to 100 meters or roughly 330 ft. If an area cannot be reached via cable, it is possible to connect an access point to another access point via wireless, through the concept of meshing. Several manufacturers’ access points have this capability: Motorola’s AP-5131 and Cisco’s AP 1500 to mention a few.
Area Layout and Obstacles The thing to remember here is that metal is the enemy; it can completely block signals as well as create multipath, which can confuse access points. Special considerations need to be taken when looking to install wireless infrastructure in an environment that contains a lot of metal – including the building’s construction. Water and other liquids can present problems as well. Since the human body is composed of mostly water, people can also obstruct wireless signals and limit the utilization of a WLAN.
If you are looking for additional assistance, contact RACO's Advanced Solutions Group (ASG). RACO's team of network engineers are certified in both Motorola and Cisco wireless networking technologies and have integrated these components into a multitude of corporate networks.