“Wi-Fi’s terrible again”. Ever heard those words at work? It’s a common scenario in workplaces everywhere and will become more common as the popularity of Wi-Fi enabled staff mobility devices, and processes that depend on Wi-Fi access, such as industrial automation and robotics, continue to grow in popularity.
IDC reports double-digit growth in the use of Wireless Network devices in Australian enterprises. But only is there continued growth in the numbers of devices on Wi-Fi networks, there is also a more than proportional increase in issues such as interference, overcrowding and loss of connectivity for companies that are using Wi-Fi to expand staff mobility and underpin industrial processes.
The issues that enterprises experience typically stem from the fact that Wi-Fi uses unlicensed radio frequencies which are open to any user. Any neighbouring business (or an internal user) can enable a new Wi-Fi device, and with limitations in available Wi-Fi frequencies, clashes will occur. And in an enterprise context, Wi-Fi networks get commissioned regularly with little regard to what’s around or how to best work with existing networks.
And when Wi-Fi networks clash, invariably connections are compromised, processes fail, and productivity suffers. Not a great outcome for the business and users become quickly discouraged.
Awareness – The First Step
The number one piece of free advice we offer enterprises is to get a view of what you don’t know and can’t see. A Wi-Fi Radio Frequency (RF) study is critical to understand what you have in place, what else is around and any potential impacts that new upgrades or changes may have.
Farhatullah Mohammad, one of Aqura’s in-house wireless specialists shared the benefit a study provides.
“You’d be amazed at the insights that a Wi-Fi study has provided in the past.”
“We’ve had customers who were totally frustrated with the performance of their Wi-Fi and were at a total loss to explain why. Once we completed the RF study, we could see what the issues were and create a proper Wi-Fi network management process in place which better support the use of Wi-Fi.”
Work around the issues
Once our customers are aware of what is already in use, the solutions can be quite easy.
“Increasingly we are putting together Wi-Fi plans for customers so they can get heatmaps of coverage, identify weak points where additional access points need to be installed, and have some level of control over what channels and frequencies to focus usage across defined purposes,” says Farhat.
“Ideally it could be as simple as 2.4 Ghz for BYOD and guest use, and then higher frequencies like 5 or 6 Ghz for faster throughput and more enterprise focused applications and processes. But it’s probably going to be more complicated with VLANs and Channel Assignments. It depends on the end use case.”
Wi-Fi is a great technology, but like any network connection requires planning and strategy to ensure it works best for all users.
Our top 3 tips
- Get a specialist to do an RF/Wi-Fi survey of your site
- Understand what you are trying to do with Wireless and the processes that it supports
- Plan the network with the right Wireless Access Points, Frequency/Channel usage and align it to business use-cases
And here’s a free one –
Communicate the Wi-Fi management plan through your business so other teams are aware of the consequences of connecting new Wi-Fi networks.