Over the last 5 years Wi-Fi in high-density outdoor areas has improved exponentially, offering better pricing and performance (capacity). If your school is in the process of making improvements to its campus Wi-Fi network, and an outdoor WLAN is included in that deployment, there are a few things you’ll want to consider to make sure your new network is successful.
As with any wireless network planning, the more thought and research you put into it, the better the outcome. One thing to focus on when it comes to planning your outdoor wireless network is avoiding too much distance or obstructions with your setup.
Basically, the greater the distance between endpoints (beyond what’s required), the slower the network—and anything obstructing the area will affect throughput. While these are key concepts, there are other things you can do to ensure a successful outdoor wireless deployment throughout your school’s campus.
Look into local safety and building codes
To prevent any legal complications in the future, it’s a great idea to understand your local safety and building codes. The codes would apply to features such as:
- Height restrictions
- Secure mountings
- Lightning restrictions
- Any other related items
Although currently there aren’t regulations on outdoor Wi-Fi products, it’s best to act as though there were.
Use weatherproof equipment
There are a many Wi-Fi products available that are intended for outdoor use. You’ll have your choice of Access Points (APs) specifically designed to be installed outside, and a variety of waterproof housings created by third-party companies. You’ll want to avoid making any “homemade” solutions when you’re dealing with power and antennas.
Suggested Reading - "The Ultimate Guide to Planning a Successful Outdoor Wireless Network"
Assess, and provide sufficient capacity
Take the time to analyze your capacity needs. It shouldn’t be done based on throughput alone, but on:
- application mix
- airtime demand
- max devices per radio.
Keep in mind not to produce too great a range as mentioned above.
Evaluate backhaul requirements
To evaluate backhaul requirements, you have to have a sense of what it is. Backhaul is the wireless communication/network infrastructure in charge of transporting communication data from end users to the center network.
Think of it as the part that connects smaller sections/networks with the primary network. For the wireless side of things to work, you have to have sufficient capacity on the wired side. However, in some instances, wiring isn’t possible, or is highly inconvenient.
If that is the case, a wireless mesh network can solve the problem. It will allow one AP to relay through another one. There is a variety of wireless outdoor mesh products available that can be used specifically for creating the needed backhaul capability.
Suggested Reading - "Traditional Outdoor Wireless vs. New Outdoor Mesh Networks Technology"
Look into antenna requirements
Antennas serve an important purpose in outdoor WLAN. For instance, there are areas of your campus that will need a power boost to support the demands that come from large, high-density environments. Because the APs must be situated farther apart, your antenna array will be a crucial part of your Wi-Fi design and deployment.
The need for outdoor Wi-Fi on campuses will only continue to increase. If you see a deployment in your future, make sure to let these tips guide you. The available outdoor WLAN equipment is often flexible and affordable, and its performance is making the campus transition to broadening coverage easier than ever.