When implementing a highly-reliable wireless and wired network at a live meeting, many factors must be considered. This series talks about some of the most common gotchas that cause poorly implemented wireless networks to fail, and questions you can ask to ensure your meeting doesn't fall victim to an under-performing network.
Gotcha #2 Choosing the Correct Frequency
Most of today's newer wireless devices can operate in either the 2.4GHz or 5GHz frequency, however there are still manufacturers that create laptops, phones or tablets that can only operate in the 2.4 GHz band. All iPads can operate in both frequencies.
There is a significant difference between the two frequencies. The 2.4 GHz band is much more crowded and has much less "operating space" than the 5GHz band. For high-density meetings, this is critically important. In the 2.4 GHz band, Wi-Fi has to compete with "Mi-Fi" type personal wireless access points, Bluetooth, cordless phones, microwave ovens, wireless video cameras and much more. The 5 GHz band generally only competes against other wireless access points.
Additionally, because of the greater number of non-overlapping channels in the 5GHz band, there are more ways to configure a wireless access point without interfering with another device in the same physical area.
If you put it in terms of driving down a highway, 2.4 GHz would be like driving during rush hour on a two-lane road, while 5 GHz would be like driving late at night on a six-lane road.
One challenge when using a device such as an iPad that can operate in either frequency is that it will usually choose the 2.4 GHz band over the 5 GHz band if given the choice. This can be overcome by configuring a custom wireless network to only operate in the 5 GHz band, or using a technology such as band-steering to encourage the client device to choose the 5 GHz network whenever possible. Keep in mind that if you need to support devices that only operate in the 2.4 GHz band it can cause confusion it you are not careful with your network design.
Many venues still have older wireless infrastructure that only supports oeprating in the 2.4 GHz band. If you choose to use this type of system for a high-density meeting, expect to have numerous performance issues.
As part of a site visit, always verify what type of system the venue provides, and if it can be custom configure to meet your needs.
Anyone can claim they do wireless site surveys, including those that walk around using free utilities that check for basic signal strength, without any training or understanding of how wireless works. That may be fine if you only need basic Internet connectivity, but if your network supports mission-critical applications, you need a professional-grade solution.
Our methodologies are what differentiate us from our competition. We start with the belief that combining the best tools and training with years of experience leads to the best wireless solutions available. Our formula for success includes the following:
Expert Certified Personnel
We start with a commitment to having the best trained personnel possible. We only employ or contract with Certified Wireless Network Professionals (CWNP).
We are proud to be a member of the prestigious CWNE roundtable, an exclusive committee of wireless experts dedicated to developing the highest level and most respect vendor-neutral certification in the wireless industry, as well as writing technical whitepapers.
Predictive models, also known as virtual site surveys allow us to efficiently and accurately identify the number of access points required, as well as their initial placement and configuration. Modeling is ideal for creating "what if" scenarios that show us the effects of changes in real time. Our designs always start with a model which we then validate.
RF Spectrum Analysis
Because wireless networks operate in unlicensed frequencies, potential interference from numerous devices such as microwaves, cordless phones, Bluetooth devices, video cameras, etc. can have a significant negative impact. RF spectrum analyzers are the only devices that can identify physical-layer interference, and no onsite wireless site survey is complete without this service.
Onsite Site Surveys / Validation
When the highest degree of accuracy is required for your mission-critical applications, there is no substitute for a professional-grade manual site survey.
Our surveys start with temporarily mounting the same access points and antennas that will be permanently installed. We then use professional-grade software to test not only for signal strength, but Signal-to-Noise ratio (SNR) to test the signal's viability, interference and data rates. Our thorough approach is the most accurate solution available.
Our reports spell out the facts, and leave no doubt in the customer's mind as to what the wireless network does or will look like.