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Don’t deploy 802.11ac without thorough RF planning

by Hemant Chaskar on May 29, 2013

Wi-Fi RF Planning has never been trivial


AirTight Planner : the solution to all your RF planning questionsTraditionally, anyone contemplating Wi-Fi deployment has always faced questions like:

  • How many access points?
  • Where do I install them?
  • What channels should they operate on?
  • Will the deployment meet my coverage and capacity objectives?
  • What will be my security exposure? and so on.

Due to the myriad of issues that need to be addressed while making these determinations, manual processes and rules of thumb have always been cumbersome and/or imprecise, particularly for Wi-Fi deployments with large footprints.


802.11ac will only exacerbate RF planning challenges


802.11ac adds more elaborate channeling structure and new techniques to raise wireless data rates. 802.11ac is slated to arrive in two Waves – Wave-1 this year and Wave-2 next year. While the decibel level in the market is raised to prematurely hasten the 802.11ac upgrade cycle, the reality is that this is just the beginning of Wave-1. Many people may not see justification to jump on Wave-1 due to a myriad of practical, network engineering, and interoperability issues that Wave-1 faces. Also important is the fact that Wave-1 lacks the complete feature set of 802.11ac and new radios will be required when Wave-2 hits with those features. All this points to Wave-2 next year to be realistic timeline for large scale network upgrade to 802.11ac.

In any case, increased complexity of channelization and MAC in 802.11ac will result in increased complexity of RF planning over and above 802.11n. Improperly planned networks can result in undesirable side effects such as co-channel interference and slow talkers, which can take away the advantages that the new 802.11ac features have to offer. Also, the 802.11ac network will be expected to deliver higher capacity and increased reliability than the incumbent. As a result, it is only natural that concrete benchmarking with what-if analyses will have to be done prior to investing in the network upgrade. The cost of 802.11ac APs will also be higher - at least in the beginning. Accordingly, overprovisioning is undesirable.


Past experience has proven the value of scientific RF planning software


In order to answer difficult questions during Wi-Fi deployments in a quick, cost-effective, and accurate manner; and to facilitate easy what-if analysis, scientific RF planning software such as AirTight Planner have always proven to be useful. AirTight Planner imports CAD drawings of the facility with embedded material characteristics in them or can also import floor images which can be annotated with building characteristics.


AirTight Wi-Fi Planner


View Airtight Planner data sheet


AirTight Planner allows you to drag and drop devices and quickly visualize your RF coverage AirTight Planner allows you to drag and drop devices and quickly visualize your RF coverage

It then formulates RF propagation models for the facility using “ray tracing algorithms” (it does not draw primitive geometric circles like I have seen with some non-scientific planning tools). The software also takes coverage, capacity, and redundancy requirements as input. It then automatically computes BOM, AP placement and channel allocation to meet the desired criteria. AirTight Planner is great for planning AirTight secure Wi-Fi – to meet both Wi-Fi access and WIPS security objectives. In particular, when combined with band unlocked, software defined APs, it attains additional BOM efficiency and design flexibility. AirTight Networks also provides an RF planning service whereby customers simply hand over their floor plans (CAD or images) to our RF experts. They will in turn design the network for the customer using AirTight Planner.


Due to its ease of use and accuracy, many Wi-Fi system integrators and VARs use AirTight Planner to plan networks based on even the third party APs. My best memory here is when we worked with a university in the past wanting to upgrade to 802.11n which was quoted 600 Cisco APs (not sure if it was thumb rule or stuffing rule that was used to arrive at that number), but they were not told where to deploy them. They sought AirTight planning service and our RF experts told them that 450 APs were more than adequate to meet their objectives. Startled by this affirmation, they challenged: "If after deployment, it is found that more than 450 are required, AirTight will pick up the cost of the additional 150 APs". We took the bet. Needless to say, their network is now rolling with 450 APs at significantly lower cost than originally quoted.

Having delivered great value to customers over the past several years in symplifying their 802.11n Wi-Fi network planning, I expect AirTight Planner to deliver even more value when the real 802.11ac network upgrades begin with Wave-2!


How you can benefit from AirTight Planner:


If you are responsible for planning and deployment of Wi-Fi in your organization, you can :

    • Do it yourself with this easy to use software, or
    • Use AirTight Planning Service where our RF experts work with you to plan Wi-Fi deployments

If you are a distributor of Wi-Fi equipment, use our software to provide value added service to your customers.


Addition Information:

AirTight Planner

AirTight Planning Services

Airtight Planner data sheet

View a sample AirTight Planner report

BOM Math for Secure Wi-Fi Deployments

Wi-Fi networks in 5 GHz: a few observations


Topics: WLAN planning, 802.11ac