When combined with the tips listed in this WiFi design guide, anyone can successfully implement robust WiFi in a cost-effective fashion.
There are two fundamentally different approaches to WiFi design: coverage-based WiFi design and capacity-based WiFi design.
This type of WiFi design focuses on covering a certain area with a strong WiFi signal. In most coverage-based scenarios, the number of WiFi devices is relatively small in proportion to the size of the covered area. Examples include factories, warehouses, hospitals, and some offices.
Because of the relatively small number of connected WiFi devices, it’s assumed that the capacity of each access point will always be sufficient, so the number of access points is determined by their signal strength.
This type of WiFi design focuses on providing good quality wireless service to a large number of WiFi devices concentrated in a relatively small area. Examples include stadiums, busy offices, libraries, lecture halls, and campuses. In addition to signal coverage, several other factors must be considered to provide good quality wireless services to all WiFi devices, including the number of connected devices per access point, types of applications, and required throughput.
More and more data is carried over WiFi networks, and users now expect seamless WiFi access even outside, near office buildings, schools, and in parks and other public venues.
In the past, coverage-based WiFi design was the default approach when providing WiFi coverage outdoors, because WiFi equipment used to be far more expensive than it is today, and because the number of WiFi devices in use was much lower.
An access point was installed on a suitable roof or pole to cover the largest area possible. The same approach no longer works today because a single access point designed to provide the greatest coverage possible is unable to satisfy current capacity requirements.
As such, most outdoor WiFi network designs now maximize capacity by implementing a larger number of smaller 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz access points with multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) antennas. Such access points are easier to conceal and install thanks to their low-profile enclosures, which means they can meet even the strictest aesthetic requirements.
Now that we’ve explained the basic WiFi design approaches, it’s time to take a closer look at our selection of the top 5 tips for a stronger signal and better coverage.
Every WiFi design should be supported by a comprehensive site survey. The purpose of a WiFi site survey is to determine the ideal number, placement, and configuration of access points. You can easily conduct a WiFi site survey using a site survey software tool such as NetSpot.
All you need to do is load a map of the surveyed area or create a new one from scratch using the map creator feature that comes with NetSpot and follow NetSpot’s instructions until you’ve collected enough data. NetSpot will instantly analyze the collected data and display interactive heatmap visualizations, providing you with all the information you need to come up with a great WiFi design.
You can export the collected data in PDF or CSV for archiving purposes or share them with stakeholders.
An effective WiFi design tries to minimize wireless roaming as much as possible by keeping the number of SSIDs to a minimum. Ideally, you want to have just one main SSID for regular users and a guest SSID for temporary users. That way, regular users can remain connected to the same WiFi network regardless of their location, and guests don’t need to know the password for the main network.
This WiFi design can be easily achieved with a wireless mesh network (WMN), a communications network made up of radio nodes organized in a mesh topology. One huge advantage of mesh WiFi networks is how easy it is to add additional nodes and extend coverage and/or capacity.
Modern WiFi devices are not limited to just the 2.4 GHz band. Support for the 5 GHz band has become very common in recent years, and there are numerous benefits of using both bands at the same time.
For example, dual-band routers can provide up to 100x the wireless bandwidth of single-band routers. They also decrease the likelihood of congestion because there are far more channels available in the 5 GHz band than in the 2.4 GHz band.
Dual-band routers can broadcast simultaneously on both frequencies to combine the advantages of the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz band, giving you the best of both worlds, so there’s really no reason not to take advantage of them.
Load balancing is an essential technique for ensuring that the load of data is equally distributed among multiple access points so that each of them can be utilized as effectively and efficiently as possible. For example, an access point can be configured to serve a maximum of 25 clients with good reception and not one client more.
For load balancing to work as intended, two or more access points must partially overlap so that clients can always switch to a different access point, one that’s less busy. The degree of access point overlap can be controlled by setting AP power either up or down.
Security should be a top priority in every WiFi design. A poorly secured WiFi network instantly becomes a target for cybercriminals, who don’t hesitate to exploit its vulnerabilities for their gain.
The most fundamental element of WiFi security is encryption. Today, it’s paramount to use WPA2-AES (personal or enterprise) encryption because even regular WPA isn’t safe anymore. In addition to encryption, it’s highly recommended to implement role-based access control, profiling, firewall, traffic inspection, and advanced threat protection.
WiFi connectivity has become the way of life both indoors, in offices, schools, and government buildings, and outdoors, in parks and city streets. Designing a WiFi network is no longer a simple matter of ensuring sufficient coverage because the number of users in a specific area covered by a single access point tends to be much higher than it was just a few years ago.
But despite the growing complexity of WiFi networks, our tips and modern WiFi design tools such as NetSpot can help you ensure successful WiFi deployment regardless of how many devices you need to connect.