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iPads and Wireless Network Design: What You Should Know

Written by Michael McNamee Michael McNamee | October 21, 2010

Once upon a time, it was pretty standard to see a user on the wireless network with just one device. Now it isn’t so unusual to see that same user have several devices.

On the average College Campus WLAN for example, we’ve seen students have a laptop, a smart phone, an iPad, and a gaming console. The average college student today has 3-5 wifi-enabled devices.

On the Hospital Wireless Network we are seeing the same trend: nurses carrying a tablet PC or iPad, and a wireless VoIP phone or a communicator badge that works over WiFi.

The challenge with so many wireless devices is when they begin to congregate in one area such as an auditorium or at a nurse’s station.

This high density of wireless clients trying to access the network and utilize bandwidth intensive application presents a burden on a traditional 802.11 WLAN System.

How do you handle the proliferation of iPads and other Wifi Devices on the campus WLAN?


During the wireless design process you need to look at areas where you will have high client density. For example: auditoriums, dorm buildings, libraries, nursing stations, conference rooms, etc…

These areas will need additional access points to provide extra capacity. In our experience we have found an average of 30 clients per access point is safe for planning on an 802.11n WLAN.

This is an average based on typical applications and other usage factors. We suggest using access points with at least 2-3 radios per AP in these locations. The dual radio aspect provides options for more capacity.


Select a wireless lan system with the performance capabilities to handle the high density users and devices with the following set of features:

  1. Band Steering: This feature will seamlessly move clients that have 5GHz capability over to the 5Ghz radio on the access point in order to free up space on the 2.4GHz radio for clients constrained to that radio.

  2. Spectrum Load Balancing: Load balancing will move clients amongst AP’s and channels so that no one access point or channel is over burdened with clients.

  3. Spectrum Analysis: An integrated Spectrum Analysis function will mitigate interference and adjust to provide optimal client connectivity and throughput.

  4. Application Aware: The WLAN system needs to know what the applications are that are on the network. WiFi QOS (quality of service) can be applied dynamically to give voice, and video priority over standard data packets.

Hopefully we have given you some direction in planning for and choosing a wireless network so that you don’t feel like taking your five iron to that Executive’s iPad.

Feel free to contact us with any questions.

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