A reseller's guide to getting Wi-Fi right

ZyXEL’s Kevin Drinkall discusses how resellers can plan a commercial Wi-Fi deployment
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ZyXEL’s technical consultant, Kevin Drinkall, takes a look at the common questions resellers have when planning a commercial Wi-Fi deployment and how they can make sure they get it right.

Any reseller planning a commercial Wi-Fi deployment is inevitably faced with a bewildering array of choices, but it is critical that these are addressed to ensure a successful installation. Key questions include: What is the right technology to use? What type, and how many, access points (APs) should be deployed? How should the customer manage the resulting Wi-Fi network?

To help answer these questions, all resellers should undertake a comprehensive site survey at the customer’s premises. Site surveys can take the following three basic forms and we would recommend that at least two of these are carried out prior to any large deployment:

This is performed using software tools such as those from Ekahau, in which detailed plans of the deployment site are constructed and then different WLAN configurations simulated to predict the optimal number and location of APs of your chosen brand and model. Although not as accurate as some paid solutions, our free software can assist with getting a basic understanding of layout and coverage.

This is a physical survey performed on-site using one or more test APs, together with hardware or PC-based software tools, allowing you to test various AP placements and then, by walking through the building with the laptop or tablet, record and map the resulting signal strength at surrounding points. The resulting map correlating signal strength with a detailed plan of the site, is often referred to as a ‘heat map’. Another useful tool at this stage is a spectrum analyzer, which can help to identify potential sources of interference.

This is a survey performed after full installation of the WLAN, where actual coverage and signal strength are verified at all necessary locations within the building, typically using the same PC-based software tools as in a pre-deployment survey. This type of survey can also be useful when planning an upgrade to an existing WLAN.

Armed with the above information, the results of a pre-deployment survey, and some of the aforementioned software tools, resellers will be able to predict with a high degree of accuracy how many of any given type of access point will be required and where they should be positioned for maximum coverage. This will help ensure the Wi-Fi network can stand up to the demands of its users and ultimately keep your customers happy.

Kevin Drinkall is the technical consultant at ZyXEL.