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Malpractice in the Wi-Fi Industry

During LEVER's six years experience in the wireless network industry, we have been contracted by companies of all kinds, including major IT resellers, wireles network installation companies and end-user companies in most market sectors.

We have seen countless examples of poor practice in wireless network Planning, Design, Survey, Installation, Configuration and Support.

It is unfortunately our firm opinion that the majority of companies that conduct wireless site surveys and who install wireless networks, have inadequate knowledge, skills, tools and experience to perform these tasks competently.

Put simply, we see that the standards of practice in the industry are poor - falling well below the standards that customers are entitled to expect.

We have listed below just some of the most common mistakes that we regularly encounter in our surveys of existing customer networks. Some of the gravest errors have been committed by some of the very biggest names in the Wi-Fi industry!

We hope that by identifying bad practice in the industry we will be:

  • Highlighting a major problem that is almost pervasive.
  • Focussing attention on the need for rigorous Wi-Fi network Planning, Design, Survey and Implementation.
  • Helping customers to choose a competent supplier for Wi-Fi Services and Solutions.
  • Helping to raise standards within the industry.
  • Helping organisations to benefit from new applications, cost-reductions and better working practices through the successful deployment of Wi-Fi technology.

Getting Help with a Wi-Fi Project

If you are at all concerned about a Wi-Fi deployment - help is at hand.

?subject=Enquiry - Wi-Fi Services">Contact LEVER now to find out how we can make your Wi-Fi project a success.

LEVER provide cutting-edge WiFi consultancy and training services to the some of the industry's biggest names. We work on behalf of leading Wi-Fi equipment manufacturers, UK and European Wi-Fi network installers, Cisco Gold Partners, Wireless Internet Service Providers (WISP) and blue chip companies in Banking, Retail, Distribution, Commerce, Health, Universities, Schools - in fact just about all business sectors.

We advise leading Wi-Fi product manufacturers on best practices for Wi-Fi network Planning, Design and Site Survey.

We have unrivalled skills in Wireless Network Analysis, Troubleshooting and Optimisation, spanning more than twelve years service to the IT industry, and we are seasoned practitioners - we Plan, Design, Install, Maintain and Support sophisticated Wi-Fi networks for demanding clients.

Problems and Issues with Wi-Fi Networks

We have listed below just a few examples of the poor Planning, Design, Installation or Support practices that we have seen in Wi-Fi networks supplied by other companies.

In truth, there are worse stories still - perhaps we'll tell you about those when you call us!

Problem or Issue   Comment

 
Not understanding the customer's requirements properly, or at all.
 
  LEVER conduct a structured User Needs Analysis session during the Planning phase of our Wi-Fi project assignments.
 
Not defining the customer's requirements.
 
  LEVER perform Application Chacterisation, as part of our broader Planning phase, before defining the users wireless network requirements in quantitative terms.
 
Not stating the design parameters for a customer's wireless network.   LEVER define the Wi-Fi RF network requirements in terms of coverage, capacity, cell overlap, signal strength, SNR and more.
 
Not designing the wireless network to meet any stated or relevant design parameters.
 
  Before surveying the customer's premises, LEVER perform in-depth Wi-Fi network Design and Modelling using advanced WLAN simulation tools.
Not designing the wireless network to deliver RF coverage to the areas required.
 
  Over the past six years, LEVER have developed a range of specialist and bespoke Wi-Fi network designs and solutions to meet the needs of specific markets and environments.
 
Employing the wrong antenna types in a wireless network.
 
 
 
There is no excuse for this, but too many companies use omnidirectional antennas where they shouldn't. Panel, Yagi and other types of WLAN antennas are specifically designed for use in many instances where omni antennas just aren't appropriate.
 
Not understanding the RF radiation patterns of common Wi-Fi antennas, including Omnidirectional antennas.
 
  Even where an omni antenna is the right choice, we often see these located in the wrong places.
 
Stating that the WLAN antennas should have a gain of "at least 2.2dBi", in an environment and where greater gain would degrade the network through mutual interference, and where the EIRP levels would be illegal.
 
  LEVER design and survey RF networks precisely. You'll find no mention of "at least" in our documents.
 
Trying to employ Omnidirectional antennas as Yagi antennas.
 
  Even the core technical assistance centre of one of the biggest names
in Wi-Fi get this wrong. Why? Because they lack the essential training and skills.
 
Having too many wireless access points located in close proximity.
 
  You may have read that having more wireless access points increases capacity - but without proper design, it has the reverse effect.
 
Not appreciating the adverse effects of mutual interference between wireless access points and wireless client devices.
 
  Mutual interference is the capacity-killer, and we have seen this render a 240x AP network unusable. Proper Wi-Fi Design and Survey techniques are needed to avoid problems such as this.
 
Assigning overlapping RF channel numbers to wireless access points that are in proximity to each other.
 
  Even the biggest name in Wi-Fi site survey got this wrong!
 
Installing wireless antennas in poor locations.
 
  Proper coverage is a primary requirement of a wireless access point or antenna, but this requires proper a proper understanding and visualisation of the RF radiating from an antenna.
 
Installing wireless antennas in close proximity to RF barriers and reflecting surfaces.
 
  LEVER employ specialist mounting hardware and placement techniques to ensure that the "obvious" problems are avoided.
 
Giving the impression in a site survey report that heatmaps were generated after detailed on-site survey, when in truth they were generated by:
  • Software simulation, and even
  • Graphical drawing tools

 
  There's no excuse for this: either a Desktop survey or On-Site RF survey is being performed. The two can then be combined, but openness and clarity are needed where modelling or simulation are being employed.

Ask your surveyor to explain any heat maps to you. What do the changes in colour actually represent?
 

Presenting heat maps with no scale of units, and even with no stated scale at all (e.g signal strength, associated data rate, SNR, etc).
 
  This is a sure sign that the "designer" doesn't now what they're doing and/or they're trying to pull the wool over your eyes!
 
Surveying a wireless network using completely inappropriate tools, such as the Cisco Aironet Site Survey Utility.
 
  Guess who used this utility - and nothing else - to survey a UK NHS Trust location during a 14-day site survey?

This was a totally inadequate and inappropriate site survey; and not only for the reasons stated here.

LEVER employ only state-of-the-art tools for Wi-Fi network site survey.
 

Placing access points in the wrong orientation, including orienting them vertically when they should be oriented horizontally.
 
  There are many examples. We have seen Cisco 1010 and 1020 APs mounted sideways (Airespace used to supply a bracket that allowed this); lots of instances where Cisco 1131 APs have been mounted vertically on walls, and many more.

If this is the case in your network, give LEVER a call.
 

Not assigning fixed RF channels to APs, but instead using a "Least Congested Frequency" setting.
 
  This is another clear sign that a network is not properly designed, and is improperly configured.
 
Setting RF power levels too high: from a mutual interference perspective.
 
  If a company doesn't understand mutual interference and how to design a network to avoid it, don't use that company!
 
Setting RF power levels too high, from a UK / EU legislative perspective: the wireless network was operating illegally.
 
  This is fairly common, but it puts you in breach of the Law, and yet it is completely unnecessary. Using illegal power levels highlights poor or non-existent design, and must be avoided at all costs.
 
Setting 5GHz RF channels manually (disabling DFS): the wireless network was operating illegally.
 
  We know that some Wi-Fi network suppliers do this deliberately!

It's best to ask your potential supplier beforehand about DFS and it's drawbacks. Then call LEVER for independent advice.
 

Disabling Transmit Power Control (TPC): the wireless network was operating illegally.
 
  Again, we know that some Wi-Fi network suppliers do this deliberately!

It's best to ask your potential supplier beforehand about TPC and it's use. Then call LEVER for advice.
 

Expecting a Wireless LAN Controller's "Auto RF"-type RF power and channel management to deliver a satisfactory wireless network configuration.
 
  The fact is that most times, the automatic RF capabilities of Wireless LAN Controllers and Switches has insufficient knowledge of the RF environment to do the job.

Moreover, Voice over Wi-Fi handset manufacturers will tell you to set the RF channel and power manually for each AP.

Proper Wi-Fi network design and survey should assign specific channels and power level settings to 802.11bgn (2.4GHz) radios.
 

Supplying and installing inappropriate wireless network hardware.
 
  SOHO-grade Wi-Fi access points cannot deliver the wireless network coverage, capacity, services and manageability that business, colleges and schools require.

If you're offered hardware of this kind, find another supplier.
 

Mounting access points above metal-skinned ceiling tiles.
 
  We have seen this several times. Predictably, wireless network coverage and capacity are severely impaired, but sometimes the customer is unaware during the early stages of using the network.
 
Misleading the customer to believe that problems experienced with their wireless network were due to external interference, when in fact the cause was poor RF network design.
 
  We find that "interference" is all too often blamed as the cause of problems with wireless networks, yet this is rarely the case. Usually, it is due to either:
  • Poor network design, or
  • Poor network configuration
However, LEVER can assess interference problems using a range of methods, which include RF Spectrum Analysis - a field in which we have more than 20 years experience.
 
Claiming that a Wireless LAN Controller was required, to resolve network problems.
 
  WLAN controllers rarely solve problems: it's the services of a Wi-Fi Expert that are usually required.
 
Claiming (counter to their own design documents) that antenna spacing was the problematic cause.
 
  There are rules for spacing between diversity antenna, but there is disagreement on the part of some manufacturers as to what this should be.

As with many misleading articles and white papers, this is usually due to someone attempting to over-simplify what is really a more complex issue.
 

Stating that DECT phones and other devices interfere with Wi-Fi network operations, when they do not.
 
  DECT phones operate in the 1880MHz to 1900MHz spectrum range (although other bands have also been allocated). Wi-Fi devices use totally different spectra.

If a supplier's proposal or survey document suggests otherwise, give LEVER a call.
 

Claiming that spectrum analysis had been performed when it had not. There was no data presented and nothing to substantiate the claim that external interference was the cause of the customer's problems.
 
  If your supplier does not present screenshots or recordings of spectrum analysis at your premises, this should be a cause for concern. Ask to see the data.
 
Claiming that their consultant was independent: the consultant in fact worked for the company that had installed the non-functional network.
 
  LEVER are truly independent, and we're vendor-neutral too, since we regularly work with most vendor's hardware and resell products from multiple vendors.
 

How can you prevent this happening within your organisation?

LEVER are the UK's leading Wi-Fi experts. We provide a complete range of services to organisations planning to implement Wi-Fi networks and solutions.

Our services include:

  • Strategic Briefings and Seminars
  • Initial Consultation
  • Wi-Fi network Planning and Design
  • Wireless Site Survey - both Desktop and On-site RF Survey
  • Wireless network Installation and Commissioning
  • Post-Installation Site Survey
  • Wi-Fi Network Health Check
  • Wi-Fi Network Audit
  • Wi-Fi Security Audit
  • In-depth Wi-Fi Network Troubleshooting
If you are at all concerned about a Wi-Fi deployment - help is at hand.

?subject=Enquiry - Wi-Fi Services">Contact LEVER now to find out how we can make your Wi-Fi project a success.

Just 495 could save you thousands ...

Prevention is better than cure, and one of our achievements since 2002 has been to save our customers money by providing
industry-leading education in Wi-Fi deployment.

... from as little as 495, you can become fully-briefed in the procurement of Wi-Fi solutions.

... from as little as 2395, your staff can be fully-traing trained in professional Wi-Fi network Planning and Design.

LEVER can deliver a comprehensive Wi-Fi Network Professional training programme, which will enable your organisation to:

  • Ensure that your Wi-Fi network requirements are properly understood and defined.
  • Plan and Design your Wi-Fi network deployments professionally.
  • Evaluate the Wi-Fi products that they are offering.
  • Evaluate potential suppliers rigorously.
  • Evaluate and critique Wi-Fi network proposals from potential suppliers.
  • Significantly reduce the cost of your Wi-Fi network deployments.
  • Move forward confidently with your corporate Wi-Fi strategy.

Contact LEVER now and learn more about the unique benefits of Wi-Fi training with LEVER.

Call free on 0800 138 3030 (UK) or +44 113 398 3300 (International), or e-mail
                     

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