Wireless networks have become an integral part of modern communication systems, providing connectivity for various devices and applications. However, designing and maintaining wireless networks can be more complex compared to wired networks. Changes in the physical environment, such as the movement of objects or the addition of new equipment, can significantly impact signal strength and overall network performance.
To ensure optimal network performance and coverage, network teams need to conduct wireless site surveys. These surveys involve analyzing the radio frequency environment of an area where a Wi-Fi network is deployed and provide valuable insights into signal propagation and coverage. By conducting wireless site surveys, network teams can make informed decisions about the placement of access points (APs) and optimize network performance.
There are three main types of wireless site surveys: predictive surveys, passive surveys, and active surveys. Each type serves a specific purpose and contributes to the overall evaluation of network performance.
Predictive Site Surveys
Predictive site surveys are performed before moving into a new space. The objective of conducting a predictive site survey is to identify the optimal locations for placing access points (APs) in order to achieve optimal performance across the entire area.
This type of survey relies on network tools that use detailed blueprints and information about the wireless equipment to predict how signals will propagate through the space.
The newest updates to IEEE standards, such as Wi-Fi 4 (802.11n), Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac), Wi-Fi 6, and 6E, have introduced improvements that impact AP placement. These updates have introduced features like multiple input, multiple output (MIMO) and beamforming, which enhance data rates and transmission distance.
In a predictive site survey, the survey software carefully examines the blueprint and employs advanced algorithms to simulate signal strength, considering the behavior of signals as they traverse walls and other physical barriers.
Additionally, the software factors in the specific applications utilized within the area to accurately determine the necessary throughput and performance levels. This survey methodology offers the flexibility of placing virtual access points (APs) either automatically or manually, empowering network managers to precisely select locations and specify the ideal AP model for each designated area.
Passive Site Surveys
Passive site surveys are typically carried out once the site construction is completed and the network is operational. The primary objective of a passive survey is to comprehensively gather data regarding the various signals present in the environment. This includes analyzing the signals emitted by the installed network as well as signals originating from neighboring sites or devices that may introduce interference or noise at wireless frequencies.
By conducting a passive site survey, network teams obtain valuable insights into the overall wireless landscape in the area. This includes information on the characteristics of access points (APs), signal strength measurements, signal-to-noise ratios, and potential sources of interference. The survey results provide a comprehensive overview of the wireless environment, enabling network teams to proactively identify and address any performance issues or potential sources of degradation before they become noticeable to end-users.
Regularly performing passive site surveys is essential for maintaining optimal network performance and ensuring a reliable wireless experience. By periodically assessing the wireless signals and environmental factors, network teams can promptly detect and mitigate any changes that may impact signal quality, ensuring that the network continues to deliver consistent and seamless connectivity.
Active Site Surveys
Active site surveys are conducted while the network is fully operational and focus on analyzing specific signals or sets of signals. This type of survey involves an extensive range of measurements for each access point (AP) that emits the signals under investigation. These measurements include signal strength, throughput, round-trip time, packet loss, retransmission rate, and data rates. Moreover, active site surveys also encompass the evaluation of upstream and downstream data rates, providing a comprehensive view of the network’s performance.
The primary purpose of active surveys is to delve into specific performance issues or assess the need for AP repositioning, addition, or removal. By conducting these surveys, network teams gain valuable insights into the network’s current performance levels and can pinpoint areas that require optimization.
For example, if a particular signal is experiencing performance degradation, an active site survey can help identify the root cause, whether it be interference, signal congestion, or other factors. This information enables network teams to take appropriate actions to rectify the issues and improve overall network performance.
Additionally, active site surveys play a crucial role in ensuring that the network meets the desired performance standards. By actively monitoring signal strength, throughput, and other key metrics, network teams can make necessary adjustments to optimize performance and guarantee a seamless user experience. This may involve relocating APs to areas with better signal coverage, adding additional APs in high-demand areas, or removing unnecessary APs that may be causing interference.
In summary, active site surveys serve as a proactive approach to network management, enabling network teams to identify and address performance problems promptly. Through the comprehensive measurements obtained during these surveys, network teams can optimize the network’s performance, enhance user satisfaction, and ensure that the network meets the required performance levels.
Why are Wireless Site Surveys so Important?
Wireless site surveys are crucial for several reasons. Firstly, they help network teams ensure excellent network performance from the beginning of deployment. By identifying optimal AP placement and considering factors like signal propagation and interference, network teams can avoid signal coverage issues and deliver consistent and reliable wireless connectivity.
Secondly, wireless site surveys play a vital role in maintaining network performance over time. Changes in the physical environment or the addition of new equipment can impact signal strength and coverage. By periodically conducting site surveys, network teams can detect any necessary adjustments or optimizations and ensure that the network continues to provide the same level of service.
Moreover, wireless site surveys help avoid unnecessary costs. Estimating the number of APs based on rule-of-thumb guidelines may result in an inadequate number of APs or an oversupply of APs. Conducting a site survey ensures that the right number of APs is installed in the right locations, preventing potential performance issues and the need for costly adjustments later on.
Wireless site surveys are an essential part of designing, deploying, and maintaining wireless networks. By analyzing the radio frequency environment and considering factors like signal propagation, interference, and throughput requirements, network teams can optimize the placement of APs and ensure excellent network performance. Predictive, passive, and active site surveys each serve a specific function in evaluating network performance and contribute to the overall success of a wireless network deployment.