How to monitor bandwidth in WiFi Networks

How to Monitor Bandwidth of WiFi Networks?

How to monitor bandwidth in WiFi Networks

When building a WLAN infrastructure, you need to make a precise analysis of the bandwidth requirements to balance performance and cost correctly. Bandwidth plays a fundamental role in the design and maintenance of a functional network.

In this article, we will present why it is important to consider and appropriately monitor the bandwidth requirements of the WiFi network you are going to deploy, to perform the most reliable network experience.

 

What is the bandwidth? And, the network bandwidth?

Bandwidth is the capacity of a channel to transmit data. During the transmission, the information is sent in a binary system, a language that encodes data using only two symbols (often defined as “1” and “0”, or “on” and “off”), each of which is called a bit.

The basic unit of this language, the byte, is composed of 8 bits. The bandwidth determines, therefore, the number of bytes that can be transmitted on the connection. The unit of measurement is the bits per second (bps). For example, a low definition video lasting 15 seconds, weighing 1 Megabyte, can be downloaded from an Internet site on your computer in 3-5 minutes if the connection is made via modem (56 kbps) or ISDN line (from 64 to 128 kbps). The same action takes a few seconds instead if the connection is broadband, like the one with the optical fibers (over 1000 Gbps).

Network bandwidth is the capacity of a network communications link to transmit the maximum volume of data from one point to another over a computer network or Internet connection in a given amount of time, usually one second. Bandwidth has the same meaning of capacity, and defines the data transfer rate.

Bandwidth, though, is not a measure of network speed.

As a matter of fact, the words “bandwidth” and “speed” are often misused as synonymous. The explanation of this misunderstanding can be, in part, due to their use in advertisements by ISPs that refer to speeds when they mean bandwidth. Indeed, speed refers to the rate at which data can be sent, while the definition of bandwidth is the capacity for that speed.

Why is it so important to check network bandwidth requirements before deploying a network?

Bandwidth can be compared to the volume of water that can flow through a water pipe. If the pipe is bigger, the water can flow in a massive quantity through it at one time. Bandwidth functions in the same way. So, the more bandwidth a data connection has, the more data it can send and receive at one time.

Consider that in any kind of deployment location, there are bandwidth limits. This means that there is a constraint to space for the data to flow. Therefore, multiple devices in a single area must share the bandwidth. Some devices request much more bandwidth than others. Greater bandwidth is absolutely necessary if proper speed must be maintained on different devices.

When do you need to calculate bandwidth?

Streaming, gaming, and other high usage activities demand a certain amount of bandwidth speed to get the best experience without buffering or lag. And the more bandwidth your network can deliver, the faster your devices will run.

Before you start designing your WiFi network, you should follow some steps to achieve your bandwidth goal.

1. Estimate how many devices will be connected to your WiFi network simultaneously

The majority of mid-high end wireless access points and wireless routers can have 255 devices connected at a time. Nevertheless, just because you can hypothetically connect 255 devices to a single WiFi router/access point doesn’t mean you should.
Each computer or device added to your network will degrade the bandwidth available to the other devices using the same connection. All those devices share the same wireless network and the same Internet connection from your broadband service provider. In this case, the congestion isn’t necessarily with the wireless connections. Still, it is with the amount of traffic or bandwidth that can pass through the Internet router to your broadband service provider.

Example
If you want to estimate how many concurrent devices will be connected, consider, for example, a hotel with 18 rooms for 2 people each. The hotel has 36 guests if it is fully-booked. If each guest has 1.2 devices, you have around 43 devices in total. We can assume that only 20 of 43 can be connected or generate significant traffic at the same time.

2. Calculate the application bandwidth requirement

Your bandwidth requirements also depend on the usage of the Internet your guests perform while being connected to your WiFi network. Some Internet applications, such as web browsing and instant messaging require low bandwidth, whereas other applications, such as video streaming and VoIP calls, require high-level bandwidth usage.

To implement a high-performance WLAN, network designers must consider external variables, such as the applications’ requirements in bandwidth and throughput networks.
Tanaza offers a useful way to calculate the bandwidth requirement of a network. We have created the tool “Access Point Selector” to suggest the ideal access point per location and application type. However, it’s also helpful to estimate the required bandwidth per-user connection. You can try it here.

In the image below, you can check the bandwidth needed and the throughput required for the mainstream applications, such as messaging, e-mails, social media, video calls, VoIP calls, web browsing, file sharing, and video streaming.

Network Bandwidth Need

Or if you want to go more specific, the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) provides a set of guidelines for Mbps needed based on digital activity.

Alternatively, you can measure the bandwidth requirements by usage. The chart below compares minimum download speed (Mbps) needs for light, moderate, and high household use with one, two, three, or four devices at a time (such as a laptop, tablet, or game console).

Network Bandwidth Need by Usage

So, let’s keep the hotel’s example fully booked with a maximum capacity of 36 guests. Assuming each guest has 1.2 devices, you have around 43 devices, of which 35 are connected to the network simultaneously. All of them are browsing different applications.

If you are using our Access Point Selector tool, in a hotel with 35 concurrent users employing chatting/messenger services, e-mail, social media, web browsing, and video streaming, you will have, as a result, an estimated bandwidth per user of 3.33 Mbit/s. This means that the hotel would need at minimum: Location bandwidth – 117 Mbit/s.

3. Calculate network bandwidth requirements

As previously said, the measurement unit for bandwidth is bits per second (bps). But, modern networks have greater capacity. They are mostly measured in millions of bits per second (megabits per second, or Mbps) or billions of bits per second (gigabits per second, or Gbps).

Furthermore, bandwidth connections can be symmetrical when the data capacity is the same in uploading or downloading data, and asymmetrical when download and upload capacity are not the same. In asymmetrical connections, upload capacity is usually smaller than the download capacity.

In addition to testing, you have to calculate how much bandwidth is needed to run all your networks’ applications. To understand how much capacity you need, you must calculate the maximum number of users who might be using the network connection simultaneously and multiply that number times the bandwidth capacity required by each application.

To calculate the bandwidth need required you can use the following formula:

(Application Throughput) x (Number of concurrent Users) = Aggregate Application Throughput

Going back to the hotel example,

(3.33 Mbps) x 35 concurrent users = 117 Mbps

Note: the result you get here might exceed the bandwidth that the internet service providers offer.

When calculating your bandwidth needs, it’s a theoretical demand upper bound estimate that can help you to calculate the number of access points needed to support the bandwidth demands in a specific location.

If you want to calculate the number of access points needed in a deployment, check our latest article Network Capacity Planning – Wireless Capacity vs Coverage.

If you are deploying wireless networks, read also WiFi network design – What to take into consideration when designing WLANs, there are many factors to consider to plan out your network deployments thoroughly.​

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Tanaza is partnering with Edgecore Networks to offer a joint Cloud-Managed Wi-Fi solution

Edgecore Networks and Tanaza

Tanaza is partnering with Edgecore Networks to offer a joint Cloud-Managed Wi-Fi solution

We are proud to announce that Tanaza and Edgecore Networks are partnering to provide unprecedented progress in the open networking industry by integrating the Linux-based Tanaza Operating System, TanazaOS, to run atop Edgecore Networks open Wi-Fi access points.

Tanaza the WiFi Cloud-Managed Solution

Tanaza developed an intuitive and responsive WiFi cloud management platform for IT professionals to operate networks remotely. The vendor-agnostic platform makes the deployment, configuration, and management of WiFi networks straightforward. It allows customers to control and monitor multiple WiFi devices from a single dashboard in the cloud. 

We create value for our partners and users by allowing unprecedented efficiency in network management. Furthermore, Tanaza frees users from locked-in vertical solutions that impose a software and hardware bundle. Also, by leveraging the software and hardware disaggregation paradigm it allows users to upgrade to TanazaOS, access points from different vendors.

Edgecore Networks, the leader in Open Networking

Edgecore Networks Corporation is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Accton Technology Corporation, the leading network ODM. Edgecore is the leader in Open Networking. They offer scalable, converged networking solutions that meet different customer needs targeting Data Centers, Telecommunication Service Providers, MSPs, and Enterprises. 

Their underlying philosophy is to provide professional wired and wireless solutions from the edge to the core. The company delivers wired and wireless networking products and solutions through channel partners and system integrators worldwide.

Tanaza partners with Edgecore Networks to deliver a joint cloud-managed WiFi solution

The cutting-edge partnership between Tanaza and Edgecore Networks will allow all MSPs and Service Providers to combine the powerful flexibility of Tanaza’s software with a solid and high-performing Edgecore device. 

Over time most of Edgecore Networks’ devices will join the family of Tanaza Powered Devices™— a curated selection of performing WiFi access points that come with the Tanaza Operating System already pre-installed to provide users with an out-of-the-box, plug&play experience. 

The first Edgecore open access points models to be supported are:

Currently, Tanaza is developing compatibility with more Edge-core devices. Stay tuned and visit our Support portal to learn more about upcoming devices compatible with Tanaza. 

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Piano Scuola Digitale – Partita la consultazione per il piano di interventi

Piano Scuola Digitale 2020

Piano Scuola Digitale – Partita la consultazione per il piano di interventi

Come sarà il nuovo anno scolastico post pandemia da COVID-19?
Tra tante incertezze e poca chiarezza sulle regole da seguire, riguardo mascherine, distanziamento e trasporti pubblici, la scuola riparte in Italia ufficialmente il 14 settembre.
La previsione è di riprendere con le
lezioni in presenza, ma ancor prima dell’inizio, si prospettano notevoli difficoltà organizzative, ad esempio la mancanza di docenti, e strutturali, per cui le scuole non sembrano essere pronte alle esigenze tecnologiche che la didattica attuale richiede.

Il Piano Scuola digitale è stato ideato proprio con l’intento di potenziare la tecnologia a disposizione delle scuole e soprattutto la connettività, portando negli istituti la banda ultralarga.

Piano Scuola digitale

All’interno del più generale progetto Piano Scuola 2020-2021, trova posto il programma avviato dal Comitato per la diffusione della Banda Ultralarga, Piano Scuola digitale, a cui Tanaza aderisce come partner per la gestione software delle reti WiFi.

L’Italia è ancora in una condizione di forte ritardo per quanto riguarda la diffusione dell’utilizzo di reti WiFi. Il programma è stato avviato proprio con lo scopo di accelerare le tempistiche. Sono stati quindi stanziati oltre 400 milioni di euro come fondi destinati alla realizzazione di una rete Internet con caratteristiche adatte alle sedi scolastiche di tutto il territorio nazionale, potenziando la connettività grazie alla banda ultralarga.

Gli enti coinvolti stanno valutando tutte le possibili sinergie

Dopo l’incontro dello scorso 30 luglio, tra una delegazione di Assinter Italia, la rete delle società pubbliche nel settore ICT – Information & Communication Technology – per l’innovazione nella Pubblica Amministrazione, e Infratel Italia, si è cercato di fare il punto sulle possibili sinergie in vista dell’accelerazione del piano BUL.
Nel corso della discussione, si sono analizzati i progressi del piano BUL aree bianche, già affidato ad Open Fiber, e valutate possibili sinergie tra le società pubbliche rappresentate da Assinter Italia ed Infratel Italia.

Si è, inoltre, discusso proprio delle modalità operative del Piano Scuola che vedrà in prima linea alcune società regionali con Infratel Italia nella realizzazione delle infrastrutture.

La collaborazione con le società regionali sarà fondamentale per dare una spinta definitiva alla realizzazione delle opere affidate alla concessionaria Open Fiber.

Piano Scuola: partita la consultazione per il piano di interventi per la banda ultralarga

Su incarico del Ministero dello Sviluppo Economico è stato pubblicato sul sito di Infratel Italia, l’avviso di consultazione pubblica, degli Orientamenti dell’Unione europea per l’applicazione delle norme in materia di aiuti di Stato in relazione allo sviluppo rapido di reti a banda larga, come stabilito dal COBUL lo scorso 5 maggio 2020.

L’obiettivo è quello di dotare gli istituti scolastici di servizi di connettività con banda ultralarga fino a 1 Gbit/s e banda minima garantita pari a 100 Mbit/s per la durata di 5 anni. Il Piano Scuola digitale prevede di fornire servizi di connettività ad oltre 30.000 scuole medie e superiori pubbliche su tutto il territorio nazionale, nonché a tutte le scuole primarie e dell’infanzia pubbliche situate nelle aree già interessate da interventi infrastrutturali, nell’ambito del piano banda ultralarga che interessa le “aree bianche”. Questi interventi hanno lo scopo di supportare le esigenze di connettività funzionali all’erogazione e fruizione della didattica per studenti e docenti.

A conclusione della consultazione pubblica, il piano di intervento in esame sarà notificato alla Commissione europea, per poi essere disciplinato da un apposito decreto del Ministro dello Sviluppo Economico.

I soggetti interessati potranno presentare eventuali osservazioni, entro il 15 settembre 2020 alle ore 13, all’indirizzo e-mail consultazione@infratelitalia.it.

E’ possibile consultare il documento sul Piano di interventi infrastrutturali per la banda ultralarga nelle scuole e l’allegato con il dettaglio degli interventi.

Scopri la piattaforma Tanaza per gestire reti WiFi nelle scuole

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Tanaza aderisce al Piano Scuola come partner per la gestione software delle reti WiFi

https://www.tanaza.com/blog/wifi-nelle-scuole/

How to use the OSI Model to Troubleshoot Networks – Layer 2

How to use the OSI Model-to-troubleshoot Networks at Layer 2

How to use the OSI Model to Troubleshoot Networks at Layer 2


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Our previous article discusses how to use the OSI model to troubleshoot network problems at layer 1. We covered how to outline issues with your WiFi Networks and how to troubleshoot them using the OSI model.

Just to refresh your memory, the OSI model helps break down an issue and isolate the problem’s root. Ideally, it’s best taking a layer bottom-up approach as most of the WiFi problems happen in the first two layers of the OSI model. If the problem is not in layer 1 or 2, it is not a WiFi problem. Period!

In this article, we continue our way up in the OSI model with the data link layer.

OSI Model to Troubleshoot Networks at Layer 2

Data link is the second layer of the OSI model. It relates to how the systems using a physical link cooperate with one another.

It helps to transfer data between two devices on the same network. The data is broken down into packets. The data link layer’s job is to define unique sequences to indicate the beginning and the end for each packet. Also, it is directly responsible for flow and error control in intra-network communications.

The data link layer has two sublayers: the Logical Link Control (LLC), which interprets electricity, light, and WiFi into 1s and 0s that become the data packets. The other sublayer is the Media Access Control (MAC) layer, accountable for moving data packets to the Network Interface Card (NIC) to another across a shared channel. Thanks to MAC protocols used in the sublayer, the signals sent from different stations across the same channel don’t collide.

WiFi radios talk via 802.11 frame exchanges at the MAC sub-layer of the data link layer. Therefore, the next layer to look into when troubleshooting networks is layer 2 of the OSI model.

Retransmissions

The most common problem in layer 2 is retransmissions that happens at the MAC sublayer. Everything starts when a transmitter device sends a unicast frame to a device. The receiver device uses a cyclic redundancy check, aka ‘CRC,’ to confirm the data packet reception’s integrity. If the CRC passes, it means the data packet has not been corrupted during transmission.

The receiver device will send an 802.11 acknowledgment ‘ACK’ frame back to the transmitter device, as a way to verify the data packet delivery. If a collision happens during the information transmission or part of the unicast frame is corrupted, the CRC will fail. Thus the receiver device won’t be sending an ACK frame to the transmitter device.

In turn, the transmitter device will transmit the frames again, causing retransmission. Retransmissions have a high impact on WiFi networks as it creates extra MAC layer overhead. Also, it consumes additional airtime in the half-duplex medium.

Layer 2 retransmissions have a negative effect. For instance, if the throughput goes down and latency goes up, it would most likely impact voice and video. So, an increase in latency will result in echo problems, and high jitter variations will result in disjointed audio. As a rule of thumb, for WiFi calls, the maximum rate of retransmissions your WiFi network can handle without affecting the service should be less than 2%.

Reasons for layer 2 retransmissions can be quite a few. For example, a radio frequency interference paired with low Signal to Noise Ratio (SNR) due to a lousy WiFi design. Both of them happening at layer 1. Furthermore, there’s the possibility of adjacent cell interference and a hidden node that can also cause higher percentages of layer 2 retries.

Let’s break the reasons down:

SNR (Signal-to-noise ratio)

It is the difference between the received signal power and the noise power expressed in decibels. The retransmissions at layer 2 increase when the background noise is close to the received signal power or if the signal is too low. Stats to live by for WLANs: A good signal quality should be between 20 and 25 dB. Anything below these ranges is considered low signal quality.

RF interference 

It plays a significant role in the retransmissions in layer 2. Excessive retransmissions will happen when frames are corrupted because of RF interference, and therefore, throughput is reduced significantly. If these retransmissions occur frequently, it’s essential to understand the source to remove the interference device.

Channel interference 

Let’s go back to basics. When designing the 2.4GHz WLAN channel allocation plan, make sure to use the channels available for 2.4GHz properly. When there’s an overlapping coverage cell, and overlapping frequency space, the chances of having corrupted data and layer 2 retries are remarkably high. Remember to set up a reuse pattern for 2.4GHz channels 1, 6, and 11 (US) or 1, 5, and 9 -sometimes 13 is also used in deployments for Europe. In this way, you prevent adjacent cell interference in your WLANs.

Hidden node

In wireless networking, a ‘hidden node’ means that a specific node ‘talks’ to a WiFi access point but can’t ‘talk’ directly with other nodes already having a ‘conversation’ with that access point. This should ring all the bells, because it leads to problems in the MAC sublayer as multiple nodes send data packets to the access point at the same time, thus creating interference at the AP level, resulting in data packet loss.

Side Note

When there’s frequent packets loss, and thus retransmissions occur often is crucial to keep an eye on the percentage of packet loss and retransmissions. Tanaza has an embedded ping tool in the cloud management platform that allows you to track data packet loss and network performance to identify connection issues proactively. Our ping tool measures and records the packet round trip time, which lets you know the levels of latency between devices. Additionally, it measures if there are any losses along the way while performing the ping test.

Roaming

Another common problem in layer 2 is roaming. Sometimes roaming problems occur due to drivers’ issues on the client device side, and sticky devices due to bad WiFi design. Usually, roaming improves for those client devices that support 802.11K protocols.

Furthermore, roaming has a correspondence with WLAN security. When client devices roam from one AP to another, they always need to go through an authentication process with the new AP. When AP’s act independently, establishing an authentication takes place every time the client device roams. 

For instance, an end user’s smartphone is connected to the airport’s WiFi – where dozens of AP’s coexist in the same network. If the end-user is on the move, without the inclusion of standards 802.11r/k, the smartphone disconnects from the existing AP before establishing a connection with the new one. 

As a result, the end-user experiences WiFi disconnection and latency while reconnecting to a new access point. It translates into dropped WiFi-based calls, websites loading slowly, difficulties in uploading images on social networks, and other negative performance. 

The Tanaza WiFi cloud platform supports the current fast roaming IEEE 802.11 protocols. The fast roaming standards are leveraged when a client device is connected to a secured-password or captive SSID in a wireless network. The standards allow the client device to roam quickly from one access point to another seamlessly. The client devices do not need to re-authenticate to the RADIUS server every time they switch access points.

By installing the TanazaOS operating system on access points that do not have roaming within the stock firmware, you can add roaming features following the IEEE 802.11r/k/v standards to the devices. Consequently, the Tanaza Operating System enables the fast roaming feature on top of multi-vendor networks of a variety of WiFi access points its compatible with.

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Troubleshooting wireless networks with the OSI model – Layer 1

Troubleshooting Wireless Networks

Troubleshooting wireless networks with the OSI model


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Troubleshooting wireless networks? We have the right recipe! 

Deploying a robust state-of-the-art WiFi network that allows delivering high performance and reliability has turned out to be a challenging task for many enterprises. Wireless networks can be expensive and complex to set up and implement; thus, organizations, more than ever, seek assistance from Service Providers.

Rightful, having a cloud-managed WiFi solution that proactively pinpoints performance issues before your customers know they exist, has become a necessity. Nowadays, network administrators need to be able to troubleshoot issues right away, remotely, and fast.

Outline the issues in your Wireless Networks

Before attempting to solve any issues with WLANs is crucial to understand the root of the problem and gather information about the situation by answering the Five Ws questions (who, what, when, where, why), to outline the issue and define an action plan.

Identify the issue by asking the right questions to your customer.

  1. What is the problem the customer has? Is it a slow connection to the Internet or no Internet access at all? Or does the Internet connection drop randomly?
  2. When is the problem happening? All the time, at certain times in the day, once in a while? Timestamps are key! Check the access points log files you are monitoring.
  3. Where is the problem happening? Is the problem described in question one happening in one area? Multiple areas? Is it campus-wide. By asking this question, the problem can be isolated to a specific access point or area.
  4. Who gets affected by this problem? Does the problem affect one client or many client devices? If it affects many devices, it might be a deeper issue; however, if it’s affecting one client, it might be a problem with the device itself and not with the entire WiFi network infrastructure.
  5. Why is the problem happening? Mostly it could be associated with changes carried out by the customer. Understanding if the customer did any change to the WiFi structure that might have triggered the problem is crucial.

Once you have gathered all the key information from your customer, it’s time to start troubleshooting your WLANs, layer by layer.

Troubleshooting Wireless Networks with the OSI model

At Tanaza, we like to take a structured approach when it comes to troubleshooting wireless networks. We use the OSI (Open Systems Interconnection) model as a framework for troubleshooting networks.

The OSI model is a conceptual model that enables different communication systems to “talk” in the same “language” using standard protocols. This universal language for computer networking splits up the communication system into seven different layers, each one stacked upon the last.

The OSI model helps to break down an issue and isolate the root of the problem. Ideally, we suggest taking a layer bottom-up approach. When it comes to WLANs, most of the WiFi problems happen in the first two layers of the OSI model. So, if the issue can be narrowed down to one specific layer, you can save some valuable time and avoid needless extra work.

OSI Model Layers

In this article, we will cover troubleshooting WiFi Networks at Layer 1 of the OSI model. In our next article, we will cover Layer 2. Keep an eye on our Tanaza blog or activate your notifications so you are the first one to read the next article.

Troubleshooting Wireless Networks – Layer 1

The layer 1 of the OSI model, includes the physical equipment involved in the transmission and reception of data, like connectors, cables, switches, and fiber. In this layer, the data is converted into a bitstream, a series of 1s and 0s. That means the physical layer of devices, by default, must agree on code and modulations; thus, the 1s can be separated from the 0s on both devices.

As a rule of thumb, WiFi (802.11) operates at the first two layers of the OSI model, in other words, the physical layer and the data link layer. Broadly speaking, Physical Layer issues can be split into two main groups: outage and performance issues.

Outage issues

Investigating outage issues is the easiest one. Network admins can start by simply checking that all the equipment is connected correctly, and access points, switches, cables, and gateways are turned on and online. 

Performance issues

On the other hand, when delving into performance problems, it’s crucial to have the right tools to diagnose degraded performance. An easy and fast way to understand performance issues is by pinging devices to know whether the target device is active, the network path between source and destination is right in both directions, and also to measure the packet round trip time to determine latency and jitter levels. 

The Tanaza software has an embedded ping tool that allows network admins to perform routine ping tests. After pinging a device, the tool displays the ping results through dynamic diagrams. These graphics allow users to get a quick overview of the network situation in a fast and organized way, while at the same time pointing users in the direction of what’s causing the Physical Layer problem.

Also…

As part of the check-up, take a quick look at the configuration of the device’s drivers and the access points’ configuration. Commonly the main reasons for a breakdown in the connectivity. First-generation radio drivers and firmware are notorious for possible bugs, which often causes connectivity issues with brand-new access points. Ensure all client devices, whenever possible, have the latest drivers installed and ensure that all access points are up to date with the latest operating system. 

The Tanaza WiFi cloud management platform allows network admins to update the access point firmware of all cloud-managed access points in bulk without the need to reboot the devices and from remote. With each firmware release, Tanaza delivers turnkey features, patch vulnerabilities, and drive security and stability, to empower your devices.

Radio frequency signals can cause another potential performance problem. An outside entity causes noise that interferes with the signal or dataflow across the network, affecting not only the performance but also the coverage of the WLAN, i.e., a microwave interfering with the WiFi signal.

High Power. Having the access points transmitting at full power, particularly for indoor deployments, might lead to oversized coverage, increasing co-channel interference and roaming issues, like sticky clients. So, take a notch down in the access point power.  

You can always avoid these problems with good WLAN design. Most of the issues that appear because of inadequate WLAN design are coverage holes due to access points misplacing and antenna orientation and also co-channel interference. Design your WLANs for for capacity and air time, not for coverage. Read our 7 key recommendations to plan a better WLAN design.

In our next blog article, we will be discussing how to troubleshoot WiFi networks using the OSI model – Layer 2. Make sure to keep an eye on our Tanaza blog.

Looking for a cloud-based platform to manage your WLANs?

Tanaza is a complete cloud platform for IT professionals to manage WiFi networks. Our platform allows MSPs, System Integrators, Network Administrators and ISPs to improve their efficiency levels by managing all WiFi networks, access points, SSIDs and clients from a single platform.

Tanaza simplifies the implementation and configuration of multiple WiFi access points. Users can manage the settings of hundreds of WiFi access points from a single cloud controller platform. Tanaza allows to enable SSIDs, configure IP addresses, set radio power and channels, and more from the managed WiFi dashboard.

Users can increase operational efficiency by enabling network-wide configurations and maximize service availability. Configure access points without rebooting them or restarting the services. Apply the same configuration to multiple access points simultaneously, each access point added to the network will immediately receive the same configurations as the others.

Among the main features of Tanaza:

  • Centralized configuration
  • Remote monitoring
  • Multi-Role Access
  • Fast Roaming
  • Integrated hotspot with advanced analysis

Tanaza is compatible with the most well-known access point brands in the market, like Ubiquiti, Amer Networks, TP Link, LigoWave and more. Alternatively, users can choose from our line of Tanaza Powered Devices: wireless access points pre-loaded with TanazaOS – the powerful Tanaza operating system based on Linux.

Would you like to know more about the Tanaza platform? Download the Tanaza brochure

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Experience the power of managing, controlling, and monitoring your access points with the Tanaza WiFi Cloud management platform. Try it for free!

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Network Capacity Planning – Wireless Capacity vs Coverage

Network Capacity Planning
Network Capacity Planning – Wireless Capacity vs Coverage

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Network capacity planning is the process of designing a wireless network for a specific location, bandwidth, number of access points, channel utilization, and other network capacity constraints. Doing proper network capacity planning helps network engineers to plan the WiFi structure adequately.

The process of designing a WiFi network can start in many ways. All IT teams take a different avenue when it comes to planning a WLAN’s structure. However, the goal of providing connectivity to a specific location in which users will be connected to the network doesn’t change.

In our previous article, we have put together seven key recommendations for network engineers to plan a better WiFi network design.

In this article, we will take a hands-on approach to plan wireless networks. Before deep-diving into it, let’s take a quick look at the differences between planning a wireless network for coverage vs. capacity.

Wireless network for coverage

When deploying WLANs for coverage, there are three main variables to consider: device power settings, physical environment (like buildings, obstacles, walls), and the device antenna capabilities. The latest enterprise gear will automatically adapt their settings to supply ideal coverage. However, long gone are the days when we used to plan for coverage. Nowadays, with the fast-paced growth of IoT devices connected to networks, users not only want to connect their laptops and smartphones to a WiFi network. They want to be on the move and still have a great connection. They want to upload, download, and stream content without the ‘suffer-buffer’ and slow loading rates. 

Consequently, planning only for coverage seems falling short for the current users’ needs. A proper WLAN design for capacity and coverage, paired with spectrum analysis and validation site surveys (pre and post-deployment), will reduce most of the support tickets coming your way related to the performance of your customers’ networks.

Wireless network for capacity

When designing for capacity, instead, we need to analyze multiple variables that will shape the final decision, like the main application to be supported, how many users will be using the network simultaneously, estimate bandwidth per user, and access points throughout. Also, plan for site survey validation that among all the things that are useful for, it helps you to avoid the typical coverage holes in the WiFi networks.

Nowadays, designing WLANs rigidly for coverage is an antiquated concept. WLAN capacity and airtime consumption reduction come first. However, before starting a WLAN design, it is necessary to assess the primary purpose of the network, the main application to be supported, number of concurrent users, type of client devices expected in the network, bandwidth per-user goal, and access points throughput.

Let’s look at each segment in greater detail.

Wireless Network Capacity Planning – How to get started

Follow these steps to start your WLAN design based on capacity:

Assess the application bandwidth requirement

When assessing the application throughput, there’s a primary application that drives the need for connectivity. Let’s take a school as our main example for this article. 

The school’s primary application might be browser-based, streaming a video class, or a learning platform. Understanding what the school needs will help you to know what should be the per-user bandwidth goal. The latter will drive further design network decisions.

We have a tool that can help you to calculate the bandwidth requirement. We created it to suggest the type of access points suitable per location and application type, but to estimate the required bandwidth per-user connection, it comes in handy. Check it out here.

Assess the Aggregate Application Throughput

Once you know the bandwidth throughput per application and connection, you can calculate the aggregate application throughput needed in the area you intend to cover with the WLAN.

As a thumb of rule, you should have an aggregate application throughput for different areas. For instance, one for the classrooms, another one for the halls and the staff offices, as the connections and usage might differ in each area. 

So, let’s say you are designing a WiFi network for a school to support video streaming, which requires at least 3 Mbps per user in a classroom of 50 students.

[Application Throughput] * [Number of Concurrent Users] = Aggregate Application Throughput
So if we do quick maths, it would be:
3 Mbps * 50 students = 150 Mbps for the classroom
Note: the result you get here is a theoretical estimation to use in the calculations of the step 4.

Assess the Aggregate Throughput per Access Point

In practice, most APs support the latest technologies and maximum data rates defined as per the standards. However, the average AP throughput available is usually dictated by other factors like client device capabilities, concurrent users per access point, type of technologies to be supported, and bandwidth.

In reality, client device capabilities can have a meaningful impact on throughput as client devices supporting only legacy rates will have lower throughput than a client device supporting newer technologies. 

When assessing client device throughput requirements, you can run a survey on client devices to determine their wireless capabilities. For instance, if the school wants to prioritize throughput for proprietary hardware, you should identify the supported wireless bands of those devices (e.g., 2.4 GHz vs. 5 GHz). Also, check on the supported wireless standards (802.11a/b/g/n/ac), and the number of spatial streams each device supports. 

Recommendations:

  • To ensure the quality of experience, make sure to have around 25 client devices per radio or 50 client devices per AP in high-density environments. 
  • Also, consider in a high-density context, we’d suggest having a channel width of 20 MHz to reduce the number of access points using the same channel.
  • Client devices do not always support the fastest data rates. Thus, based on the manufacturer’s advertised data rate, then estimate the wireless throughput capability of the client device. A common practice is to consider about half of the data rate. Then, based on that value, reduce further the throughput by 30% for a 20 MHz channel width.

Calculate how many access points are required

We suggest double-checking the application throughput requirements. This will have a high impact on the number of access points to deploy and, therefore, it will increase your operational costs if miscalculated.

Going back to our previous example, designing the WLAN for a school, with the following requirements and assumptions:

  • Main application to support: video streaming, which requires 3 Mbps with standard resolution.
  • The classroom accommodates 50 students streaming video to the school laptop at the same time.
  • All laptops support the 802.11ac wireless standard. Also, have 3 spatial streams capability.
  • The WiFi network is configured for 20MHz channels.
  • The WiFi access point yields up to 101 Mbps of throughput.

To calculate roughly how many APs are needed to satisfy the video streaming application capacity, use the following formula:

[Aggregate Application Throughput] / [Access Point Throughput] = Number of Access Points based on throughput
150 Mbps/101Mbps = 1.48 ~ 2 APs per classroom.

Once the number of access points is defined, then the AP’s physical placement can take place. Carry out a site survey to ensure adequate signal coverage in all areas and also proper spacing of APs on the floor plan with the minimum co-channel interference and proper cell overlap. It’s crucial to consider the RF environment and construction materials used for AP placement.

In our next blog article, we will be discussing how to calculate the real access point throughput vs the one advertised by the manufacturer.

Make sure to keep an eye on our blog. We will release weekly blog posts about WiFi network design, key for a healthy and well-performing WiFi network.

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