3 WLAN Design Tips that Will Improve the Campus Wi-Fi Experience

Written by Danny Mareco Danny Mareco | October 10, 2016 | Read Time: 3 mins

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Colleges and universities over the last 5-10 years have grown to be some of the most complex environments to support a reliable, high performing Wi-Fi experience. With increasing numbers of connected devices ( mobile, the IoT ) and rising student and faculty expectations, delivering the required Wi-Fi experience today is not easy to do, but essential for everyone involved.

Your campus's WLAN design is at the heart of getting the experience right, that's why it's shocking to see so many outdated wireless network designs still in use.

With technology evolving so rapidly, your wireless network should be updated or refreshed every three to four years, max.

Students, faculty, administrators, even your guests need and expect a certain level of connectivity at today's colleges and universities

In order to properly support your end-users and deliver the type of campus Wi-Fi experience everyone is looking for, here are three significant wireless network design tips that every college or university needs to implement.

The Physical Environment

As we stated above today's colleges and universities have become extremely complex to successfully deliver the kind of Wi-Fi experience everyone is expecting.

There are many physical challenges that have to be taken into account that will impact your RF design and consequently your end-users Wi-Fi experience, including:

  • Building size
  • Building type (auditorium, dorm, small classroom, cafeteria, student center, library etc.)
  • Building materials
  • Outdoor areas
  • Obstacles (trees, other buildings, walls, etc)
  • High density areas (stadiums, student center etc.)

From predictive wifi heat maps to your final WLAN design, your physical environment plays a critical role in how you design your network in order to deliver a positive wifi experience.

Device Capabilities and Device Mix

These are two fairly straight forward concepts, however, it's important to understand that both will directly influence how you design your wireless network in order to maximize performance and reliability.

It comes down to knowing what types of devices are accessing your network, and what limitations those devices have.

Not all laptops are the same, not all smartphones are the same and they all require different resources to perform at their best. At the same time it's important to understand the mixture of these devices and applications in any given location at any given time.

For instance, do you have a classroom where only the same type of laptop will be accessing the network? Or perhaps its actually a large lecture hall where you'll have a mixture of laptops A, laptops B, smartphones A,B and C, applications A, C, and D?

In order to deliver the best possible Wi-Fi experience to your end-users your WLAN design has to understand and incorporate this data to effectively support everything and everyone.

How many access points do you need and where should they be deployed?

The number of access points needed is a loaded question because the answer is it depends. There are a lot of variables at play that will dictate how many APs are needed in a given location or environment.

What we tend to run into are poor designs that were (usually) based on free predictive RF design software and as a result are either over-engineered or under-engineered.

Each scenario will negatively impact your wifi performance and reliability; either you have too many APs or you have too few. From a financial perspective you either purchased too many access points or you didn't purchase enough and in both cases is a tough spot to be in.

Where you place your APs and how many you'll need are an obvious critical part of every wireless network design, but it's easy to get into trouble with both the layout, the number and the type of AP used.

Starting with a predictive wireless site survey will produce not only the optimal number of access points required, but it will also accurately determine where to place those APs (AP layout) and what type of access points you will need.

Next Steps

At the end of the day, every college and university wants to deliver a robust, reliable and safe Wi-Fi experience for everyone, on or off campus. With expectations increasing along with the number of connected devices your campus wifi network can't be based on an out of date design, or even worse a new design done incorrectly.

Supporting today's college environment can be a complex process, at SecurEdge Networks, we know we can't be all things to all people, but what we do know is how to design and implement, robust, affordable, safe and easy to support wireless platforms. If you need any help with your next WLAN design, or would like to discuss and upcoming project, please contact us here.

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