Designing an outdoor wireless network is an essential task for many large campus environments to support mobility for their students, faculty, guests and administrators. However, it can also be a little overwhelming and quite often very challenging to get it right the first time.
The good news: Deploying an outdoor wireless network design that your college or university requires can be done if you follow the right process and partner with a wireless service provider whose experienced in outdoor wifi design and deployment.
We get a lot of questions about outdoor wifi, mostly because people often think its the same as indoor environments and sadly its not at all.
So, before you go throwing up a bunch of access points all over your campus, we need to take a step back and make sure you understand exactly what you’ll need to be successful.
What is an outdoor wireless assessment (site survey)?
Like an indoor site survey an outdoor wireless site survey is an assessment of the exterior environment of your campus in order to create an optimal RF design for both wireless coverage and capacity.
Again, similar to an indoor wifi assessment, outdoor rf site surveys come in two different varieties, a predictive RF design and a physical wireless sitey survey or on-site assessment.
Because of how complex it can be to design an outdoor wifi network, utilizing components like wireless mesh and bridge links, we always recommend starting with a predictive site survey and then validating that design with an on-site assessment.
Since we’re dealing with large distances, usually a large variety of obstacles trees, buildings etc, and just a lot of open "air" in general, a predictive design allows us to use advanced planning tools (software) to accurately create an RF design built for maximum performance (coverage/capacity).
Once we’ve established a predictive design of the outdoor environment, we can then perform the physical site survey to make further adjustments as needed.
What information do I need to provide to complete an outdoor predictive design?
In order to accurately complete an outdoor predictive design for a college or university we would need the following pieces of information:
- Detailed maps with specified areas that will need to be covered. (Google Earth cna be a helpful tool)
- A list of any and all buildings that need to be linked
- Any and all line of sight obstacles that might cause interference issues, this could be trees, buildings, parking structures etc.
- The dimensions (specifically height) of each building and other obstacles.
- Availability of power to each AP.
- Availability of data connectivity
- What types of applications are you trying to support and how much bandwidth will you need.
- What types of devices will your environment need to support
What should I expect to receive from a completed outdoor RF site survey?
There are two different categories to this, what you will get from your predictive design and what can expect from your on-site wifi site survey.
The predictive RF design will provide you with:
- A detailed map of your outdoor environment with each access point and/or wireless bridge link location.
- Where you will need power and/or data
- An estimated project cost as well as bill of materials
The physical outdoor wireless site survey will include:
- An updated map with either confirmations or adjustments of each AP/bridge link location
- A detailed report of each installation point and what will be required at each point be it power, data or both.
- Confirmed project costs and bill of materials
- SOW or statement of work of exactly what will be delivered and how
- A detailed project plan including an exact time-line from the first meeting to the deployment and support of your new outdoor wireless network.
Suggested Reading: “8 Tips to Design an Outdoor Wireless Network Like a Pro"
Outdoor wireless, while similar in some aspects to indoor Wi-Fi networks, are definitely not the same. It takes a different approach and a deep understanding of the specific complexities that comes with designing an outdoor network in higher education.
If you have any questions about designing or updating an outdoor wireless network, please contact us here, we’d love to discuss how we can help.