How to choose the best channel for WiFi networks

How to Choose the Best Channel for WiFi Networks
How to choose the best channel for WiFi networks

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How to choose the best channel for WiFi networks can be tricky. When deploying a wireless network, Network Engineers need to select the right channel to improve WiFi coverage and performance significantly. 

WiFi instability and signal interruptions are very often tied to the choice of the channel applied. Issues like reduced range or sudden drops in transfer speed are the mainstream problems of any high-density WiFi deployment. This, of course, might depend on the wireless environment in which a new network is deployed. 

Therefore, before designing and implementing WiFi networks, it’s essential to ensure that the impact between a network previously deployed and converging WLANs is minimized 

To prevent all these issues with your networks, when planning for the right channel, we suggest taking into account two key factors: IP and Channel plan.

What is the IP Plan, and how does it work?

An IP plan is a document developed by Network Engineers to show how IP addresses will be distributed among network devices based on network design to support the required services.

The IP plan allows you to:

  • Determine the number of IP addresses required to provide the specified services to customers.
  • Maintain reachability between the different network segments.
  • Facilitate future expansion and modification of the network.

 

The first aspect to check concerns the presence of IP conflicts. IP conflicts occur when two or more networking devices have the same IP address (layer 3) and can communicate within the same WLAN (layer 2). Thus, the sender doesn’t know who should deliver the specific IP packet due to the conflict. It is like if two units claim to be the receiver of the specific package, and there is no way to know who will be chosen.

Therefore, it’s crucial to know the WLAN’s design, how it’s partitioned into collision domains, and how many NAT levels are cascaded. The typical situation in an environment where a DSL router is installed is that such router has a WAN port with a public IP, dynamically provided by the ISP. An IP class is shared among all LAN ports, such as 192.168.1.1/24. It means clients connecting to the LAN ports will receive an IP address between 192.168.1.2 and 192.168.1.254.

In these cases, it is best to leave the added AP configured to work in DHCP mode (with dynamic IP), which means it will receive an IP address in that range, behaving precisely like other clients.

To know the exact IP addresses assigned to WiFi clients, you can check the DHCP Lease Table, available in the DSL router configuration tool.

If your DSL router has a WiFi interface, the same criteria must be applied, as the SSID is usually connected to the LAN ports and shares the same DHCP range. If you need to assign a static IP to the added AP, it’s important to check the DHCP range of the DHCP server built into the DSL router.

This operation is usually accomplished by logging into the web interface or DSL router configuration tool.

The static IP assigned to the new AP connected to one of the router LAN ports must not be included in the DHCP RANGE; otherwise, an IP conflict is likely to occur between the AP and a network client receiving that IP from the DHCP server.

The Channel Plan to reduce interference

A proper design and deployment of a wireless network must include a channel plan, pivotal for high-performance WLANs.

Whether you are using a static channel plan or a dynamic channel assignment, there are a few things to consider beyond choosing the best channel for that network. One of the most important is deciding the correct channel width to use.

The IEEE 802.11 standard defines wireless networks’ operation in the frequency ranges of 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. (Learn more here https://www.tanaza.com/blog/5ghz-vs-2-4ghz/).

WiFi channels are the smaller bands within each WiFi frequency band. The 2.4 GHz band is divided into 14 channels (1-14), according to the standard and depending on the availability of each country’s regulations. Each channel could be up to 40 MHz wide. The two frequencies combined allow for channel width from 20MHz to 160MHz. Although, there are 14 channels available in 2.4GHz, and only 3 of them don’t “overlap” or interfere with each other: 1, 6, and 11. 

However, channels 2-5 interfere with 1 and 6, while 7-10 interfere with 6 and 11.

For instance, when a station (access point, or client device) needs to  transmit something, it must wait for the channel to be free. Therefore, only one device can send data at a time. When overlapping channels (2-5, 7-10 at 2.4 GHz) are in use, any station on those channels will transmit regardless of what is happening on the other channels, causing performance downgrade. This type of interference is described as Adjacent Channel Interference (ACI).

A Co-Channel Interference (CCI), on the contrary, occurs when two or more APs in the same area operate on the same channel. This essentially turns both cells (the coverage areas for an AP) into one large cell. Any device that has something to transmit must wait for the other devices associated with the same AP. But also wait for all the devices related to the other APs on the same channel. 

Indeed, CCI will also reduce performance even if not as severe as ACI. The reason behind this behavior is that multiple devices are attempting to access wireless media on the same channel, forcing stations to wait longer before they can transmit.

Due to the limited amount of available spectrum, it’s safer to use only non-overlapping 20 MHz channels, although the possibility to use 40 MHz was added in 802.11n.

In the 5GHz band, there is much more spectrum available. Each channel occupies its non-overlapping slice at 20MHz. As with the 2.4, 802.11n gave us the ability to use 40 MHz channels. From there, 802.11ac now allows 80 MHz and even 160 MHz wide channels. These wide channels are created by joining 20 MHz channels together, using the center frequency to indicate the channel.

So why not set your APs to the widest channel available?

Let’s assume we have decided to use 80 MHz channels for our deployment. We just went from 9 non-overlapping channels to 2. This means that half of the APs we have implemented will occupy the same part of the spectrum. Now, for APs on opposite ends of the facility that can’t communicate with each other too loudly, this isn’t a big issue. 

The situation changes for the APs close to each other. These APs and any associated devices become part of the same cell, slowing everything down. All devices must then wait their turn to access the network.

The best way to accomplish this is to have as many channels as possible to distribute. Even though a 20 MHz channel doesn’t achieve the higher data rates shown on 80 MHz, users can still achieve acceptable speeds.

For most enterprise-grade deployments with many APs, choosing narrow channels will give the spatial reuse you need for your WLAN to perform at its best and improve the user experience. However, the best practice is to do a quick survey and check which channels are already in use on-site to choose the right channel for your network. There are many free tools for Windows, Mac, Linux, to do this kind of process.

For example: in a venue with a WiFi DSL router in place, the site survey might provide the following result:

– SSID A / location 1 / channel 1 / power 4/5
– SSID B / location 2/ channel 11 / power 3/5
– SSID C / location 2 / channel 9 / power 5/5

In such a situation, the best channel to use is 6, which does not overlap with neighboring SSIDs. If possible, we suggest to turn off the WiFi of the DSL of the venue where the AP is being added and remove unnecessary interference. If this SSID is active, it should be considered as a source of interference.

For instance, Tanaza allows the band selection with which you can decide whether to transmit the SSID only at one frequency or whether on both frequencies (only 2.4Ghz, 5Ghz, or dual-band).

In the Tanaza platform, radio selection is automatically set to ‘standard channel selection’. However the user can edit it manually, allowing the individual radios to be turned off.

As the interference sources can change over time, it is recommended to use remote channel management tools to change the channel when needed. The Tanaza dashboard includes a tool to easily change the channel automatically.

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Cloud WiFi Management Software for Enterprise

5GHz vs 2.4GHz – What is the best WiFi frequency for business?

https://www.tanaza.com/blog/how-to-optimize-wifi-network-infrastructure/

How to optimize WiFi network infrastructure

How to Optimize WiFi Network Infrastructure

How to Optimize your WiFi Network Infrastructure


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Network Administrators need to adequate the WiFi network infrastructure deployments in terms of coverage, capacity, and bandwidth requirements to cope with the increasing demand for connectivity.

This blog post will delve into the main 6 steps network administrators should undergo to design and implement future-proof, scalable, and reliable networks to effectively fulfill the data traffic demand.

1. Define the number of access points needed

As a first step, network administrators should evaluate how many and what type of access points they need for the infrastructure they are going to implement. Whether it is small or large scale, indoor or outdoor deployments. 

First of all, you need to understand all the network requirements to provide a suitable design to avoid further site analysis and use additional access points after the WiFi infrastructure is deployed.

It is paramount to consider:
– what kind of applications will be handled in the network
– what technologies WiFi infrastructure will you support
– the number of devices that will connect to the WiFi network simultaneously
– where are the most relevant areas on the site that need WiFi coverage

Finally, consider power constraints: if you use PoE+, you are allowed to support higher performing access points.

If you want to calculate the number of access points for network deployments, please read our article Network Capacity Planning – Wireless Capacity vs. Coverage.

Tanaza supports a wide range of indoor and outdoor multi-vendor devices, and it has its cloud-managed line of Tanaza Powered Devices. You have the flexibility of choosing the most suitable brand of access points for your network deployments.

2. Control the WiFi network using a survey test

The second step is beneficial to assess your network’s environment by running a WiFi survey test. This will help you to provide a robust and reliable WiFi experience. For instance, multiple access points in the same area – i.e., surrounding buildings- might be using the same channel or an overlapping channel in the 2.4GhZ band, which might lower your WiFi network’s propagation signal while generating interference. 

Furthermore, physical obstacles like trees, water, reflecting surfaces, building materials, or devices, like garage door openers, microwave ovens, cordless phones, and Bluetooth devices, are potential sources of interference that can negatively affect the WiFi network performance. By relying on the right network stumbler or survey tool with the capability of detecting coverage and capacity, you will be able to identify such interferences, solve these issues pretty quickly, and, accordingly, determine the best place where to deploy your access points. Also, knowing where your signals are and the adjacent APs is core to running your network secure and reliable.

Finding why your APs are performing badly can have the same effect as changing a channel or removing an object that produces interference.

The WiFi site survey is a fundamental component of the planning and design process before installing a new wireless network. However, it can also be used to check and improve existing infrastructures. Here are just some of the advantages of having a WiFi site survey:

  • Identify and overcome potential issues before the installation rather than restore the equipment later on.
  • Designing a made-to-measure network system is helpful to meet the specific WiFi needs of the business.
  • Save time and money by avoiding bad choices that could have otherwise been made through a lack of important info.
  • Choose the most efficient WiFi equipment for the size of the design.
  • Give businesses the security that the option selected for the network’s plan has been the best to maintain a more reliable wireless network and expand performance levels.

Those types of tools will allow you to examine and analyze your WiFi networks to better plan, troubleshoot, and deploy them.

3. Monitor the WiFi network infrastructure

It is essential to monitor networks and intervene in disconnections or troubleshooting the access points to keep an optimal and well-performing WiFi infrastructure. You should regularly monitor your WiFi network infrastructure to rely on the predictable performance, especially when dealing with high-density environments. One of WLAN deployments’ main issues is uncontrolled bandwidth usage, causing congestion and connectivity problems.

Usually, there should be a setup of bandwidth limits in any deployment location, so there’s a constraint on the data’s flow. For this reason, multiple devices allocated in a single area must share the bandwidth. Some devices request more bandwidth than others. That’s why greater bandwidth is necessary if proper speed must be maintained on different devices.

Tanaza, for instance, features an easy-to-use remote monitoring tool that effectively monitors bandwidth, by constantly checking upload and download speed, bandwidth utilization, and the devices’ load percentage. 

In order to limit the bandwidth usage, Tanaza allows you to set up a maximum number of concurrent clients per SSID and the maximum bandwidth per SSID. Furthermore, our network monitoring software remotely checks the real-time status of your devices from a centralized dashboard and sends automatic and customizable alerts if it detects outages within your network. Furthermore, Tanaza’s platform guarantees high security and reliability levels by separating the encrypted management traffic and the client traffic on different networks.

If you want to know more about measuring bandwidth requirements, read this article: How to monitor bandwidth in WiFi Networks.

4. Enhance your WiFi infrastructure’s security

Network operators should make sure that guest users can easily access WiFi networks. WiFi infrastructures must let users easily authenticate to connect to a network’s SSIDs, but, at the same time, instantly block unauthorized users trying to access the network’s management system. 

Different tools can help to prevent a WiFi network from malicious attacks.

The Internet is an environment that is easily exposed. To ensure greater network security, it is necessary to protect the Internet environment with the right encryption mechanisms. Therefore, creating a granular policy to ensure that users are protected from malicious and untrustworthy websites becomes essential in designing networks within high-density environments.

Web content filtering allows you to configure a content filtering system throughout the network to ensure users’ safe browsing. Thanks to this tool, businesses can block inappropriate websites’ navigation, for example, pornographic content, betting sites, and malware sites.

Identifying and implementing an easy-to-use authentication and encryption strategy will make your network more secure.

Operators can set up “user authentication” to control users’ access to the network. 

Captive portals are often used for open wireless networks when authentication, payment, or acceptance of a license agreement or user policy is required. 

A captive portal may be the right solution to control and manage broadband Internet access resources on the network facility. Also, paired with a Walled Garden, which can direct users’ navigation paths within particular areas to allow and/or prevent access to specific contents –typically used to restrict Internet access. 

Tanaza features a built-in responsive and easy to set up splash page, allowing guest users to authenticate in seconds. You can access SSIDs with password encryption even in the presence of a captive portal. An access point can have from 1 to 8 SSIDs, and each one lands on a web page of your choosing, allowing you to view different splash pages to guarantee a different experience according to the needs of your business.

Tanaza gives the possibility to create a personalized Walled Garden to reach any domain you want. Suppose you select a list of websites that users can visit even without providing their personal data. In that case, Internet browsing is limited to a fixed number of pages, allowing everyone to access basic services without authentication.

5. Opt for a scalable network capacity

Many people expect to connect simultaneously to the same network in a dense wireless environment. So, it is important to design a flexible WiFi infrastructure to deploy the necessary capacity when needed.

A scalable solution is an answer to meet the higher user-density demand. It will allow you to manage a given number of access points and later upgrade them when WiFi users’ density and the related data traffic increase. In this way, your WiFi network infrastructure can effectively handle an unlimited number of connected clients.

Remember that most access points support the latest technologies and maximum data rates defined as per the standards. However, the average access points’ throughput available is usually driven by other aspects like client device capabilities, concurrent users per access point, type of technologies to be supported, and bandwidth.

Most of all, client device capabilities can affect throughput as client devices supporting only standard technologies will have lower throughput than a client device supporting newer ones.

When assessing client device throughput requirements, you can run a survey on client devices to determine their wireless capabilities. In that survey, 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.

To ensure the quality of WiFi experience in a high-density environment:

  • Make sure to have around 25 client devices per radio or 50 client devices per AP. 
  • Better 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. Therefore, based on the manufacturer’s advertised data rate, estimate the client device’s wireless throughput capability. A common practice is to consider about half of the data rate. Based on that value, reduce further the throughput by 30% for a 20 MHz channel width.

For instance, Tanaza benefits from unlimited scalability as it helps you manage from a few to thousands of access points, so you can scale networks when you need it. Therefore, it’s easier and faster for businesses to deploy WiFi networks.

Learn more about planning networks for capacity.

6. Improve your network’s frequency spectrum efficiency

As WiFi is becoming more and more congested, it is essential to maximize the limited WiFi radio frequency spectrum used to provide your deployment with the right network reliability. You can add more access points to handle the increased data traffic across a channel, or you can operate not only the 2.4GHz band but also the 5GHz band. 

There are different factors to consider that can help you choose the best frequency, depending on the network’s needs: interference and congestion.

Interference can slow down a network considerably, reduce its scope, and create congestion in the network. When multiple devices operate on the same frequency, there is usually interference that can affect the signal and reduce the connection speed. For this scenario, 2.4GHz is more convenient if you need to provide a better scope on your devices, have many walls or other objects where you need coverage.

Instead, the 5GHz band’s shorter waves make it less capable of going through walls and solid objects. In general, 5GHz WiFi frequency experiences fewer interferences from other devices than WiFi connections using 2.4GHz. 

Therefore, if your WiFi network is located where there are many interferences from other devices, it will slow down your connection; thus, we would suggest steering your devices to the 5GHz frequency. If you install high-density deployments or locations with a high possibility of interference, choose dual-band devices or 5GHz devices, like the DCN WL8200-I2, DCN WL8200-I3, Comfast CF-WA350, all supported by Tanaza.

For example, Tanaza features an automatic channel selection tool that’s very useful when it comes to overlapping channels. Set the channel as “automatic,” and the system will consequently find and assign the best channel to your device each time it reboots.

Read more about selecting the right channel to avoid interferences in this blog post: 5GHz vs. 2.4GHz – What is the best WiFi frequency?

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Related articles:

 

Cloud WiFi Management Software for Enterprise

5GHz vs 2.4GHz – What is the best WiFi frequency for business?

https://www.tanaza.com/blog/how-to-monitor-bandwidth/

Reduce Operating Costs of Wi-Fi Networks

Reduce Operating Costs with Remote WiFi Network Management

How to reduce operating costs with remote WiFi Network Management


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of Wi-Fi Networks.

Wireless is evolving, accelerated by IoT devices, more connections, and more bandwidth-hungry applications. Future WiFi networks will need more wireless capacity and reliability as the IoT marketplace is changing rapidly. This, however, puts a lot of pressure on the network’s infrastructure, and Service Providers need to find the best solution to cope with the demand while keeping network deployments costs down. 

Managing such a complex ecosystem can be stressful and confusing when too much time and money is wasted on daily tasks. Networks are expensive, and just a few businesses can operate without them. However, even if networks are essential for business operations, the money invested in them is always seen as a sunk cost.

Many companies believe that the initial investment of network deployments ends at the time of purchase. Most people do not consider that the initial investment is only a small percentage of the costs they will have to face for use and maintenance.

Gartner, Inc. shows that only 20% of the total expenditure is reflected in the purchase of hardware, software, operations, and administration costs. In contrast, the remaining 80% is invested in what is defined as indirect costs, e.g., end-user operations like technical support or maintenance costs. Thus, the price of WiFi networks goes above and beyond the initial investment.

Five ways to reduce the operational costs of WiFi networks

1. The cost of vendor lock-in

One of the most significant barriers that MSPs and Solution Providers can face when deploying networks is the equipment’s high cost. Some solutions require specific tools in terms of hardware (brand/model), which can represent an essential cost if you need to change the hardware at some point.

Choosing closed software and hardware technologies can lead to huge OpEx, which might increase CapEx very quickly. Nonetheless, the movement of Open-Source is gaining momentum in the networking space. Enterprises are moving towards software-defined networks developed on open-standards.

This means that organizations are not locked into a single vendor when purchasing networking equipment, which can be a substantial cost-saver factor.

The more complex networks become, the more they cost to operate and maintain. A multi-vendor software can solve these difficulties because it lets you choose to work with different brands and models, including your WiFi devices.

2. On-premises system-based

Another obstacle to the growth of MSPs could be the up-front cost of the on-premises infrastructure maintenance to keep the networks up-and-running. Instead, with a software-as-a-service approach, users can easily manage networks remotely, scale businesses, and pay only for the services used. 

In this way, users can reduce not only up-front costs and maintenance costs but also CapEx by adopting a “pay-as-you-go” subscription approach.

3. Overlooked hidden costs

As mentioned above, the subscription model can replace CapEx expenses with a budget-friendly pay-as-you-go approach. This model can have many advantages and could fit your enterprises’ needs. But, its impact over time must be correctly estimated. 

Like ordinary maintenance, these costs should be previewed into a long-term analysis that compares both the purchase and subscription model’s real costs for any network investment you are planning.

Vendor’s bundling packages during the sales process also deserve a review. In a full package, users theoretically can rely on enhanced value through added features and multiple components, which is fine if the bundle package has everything. If not, the likelihood of paying for not used features is high, which will cause higher prices in the operating costs.

4. Total cost of ownership

TCO – the total cost of using and maintaining an IT investment over time – is often ignored and unbudgeted, presenting an inaccurate spending analysis. TCO in WiFi networking considers the initial purchase costs and the additional costs that arise over time and depend on the units wasted.

Although the TCO cannot be the only element to be considered in a company’s technological choice, it still remains one of the fundamental causes of underestimating very high operating costs.

5. 24/7 Support and Monitoring

According to the Enterprise Management Associations (EMA) ‘s research, Network Engineers and Operators use numerous monitoring and troubleshooting tools in their daily activities. Managing networks implies to provide 24/7 support and to be always available for customers. 

Nevertheless, if you are an MSP that deals with many clients from multiple locations, this can be a significant costly problem. Consider the transportation costs to get to the customer’s premises to install, troubleshoot, or reboot a device or even upgrade the firmware. Therefore, no matter which WiFi management software you use, to reduce costs and time, make sure the software you choose allows you to operate and monitor the networks remotely.

Remote monitoring as a solution

We recommend relying on a management platform with remote monitoring capability to reduce WiFi networks’ operational cost. It will allow you to manage all your networks and hardware equipment fast and efficiently from one place, without going on-premises.

The WiFi remote monitoring technology allows you to instantly access your equipment and operate networks based on that information. Moreover, you have a full 24/7 overview of the networks and get notifications of any critical operational issues on the system as they occur.

Moreover, it allows you to reduce costs by centralizing your IT staff or adapting your organization to make it more efficient. Managing your WiFi infrastructure remotely gives you the opportunity and the time to focus on your projects, like improve your product and service, innovate, deliver excellent customer service, etc.

Tanaza the WiFi cloud management solution

Tanaza is a cloud-based management solution to operate WiFi networks. It allows the remote deployment, configuration, and troubleshooting of WiFi networks from an intuitive and responsive dashboard.

Tanaza works with all access points powered with TanazaOS, the Linux-based operating system for multi-vendor devices. Also, it has a well-crafted selection of Tanaza Powered Devices that come with the Tanaza software already installed to give customers a plug & play experience.

The Tanaza platform allows users to manage and control thousands of networks and organizations from one dashboard. Apply in bulk centralized network-wide configurations, limit bandwidth, stir devices to different channels, create and manage multiple SSIDs, and much more.

Tanaza gives users the freedom to use multiple brands’ access points, reducing CAPEX considerably. In this way, by reusing the existing WiFi infrastructure, Tanaza enables customers to lower the WiFi networks’ up-front investment.

Furthermore, Tanaza reduces OPEX throughout the whole life cycle of the access points, from installation to configuration and maintenance, allowing to save up to 60% in costs in 5 years. Additionally, it removes the need for physical hardware controllers installed on-premises.

Lastly, Tanaza takes care of many operations, including server maintenance, back-up, security patches, and fixes, and ensures high availability of the system for minimum downtime and productivity losses. 

Tanaza is a WiFi cloud management software suitable for indoor and outdoor deployments of medium and large scale. Test the platform and experience all the features available within Tanaza with our free interactive demo.

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