One of the most frustrating terms in the wireless industry is the term “site-survey”; it means one thing to some and a completely different thing to others.
The reality is that having such a mixed consensus on what the term really means is confusing and in a lot of cases causes the wrong expectations and ultimately a poorly designed, poor performing WLAN.
It’s time we try and settle the confusion.
Here’s what a wireless site survey really means and how to ensure you get the most out of your next wireless network design.
To understand what a wireless site survey is it’s important to understand what it’s not. It’s not the design process itself as some claim it to be and it’s not a validation visit after the installation has been completed
A wireless site survey is merely a component of the design process.
So, if we’re going to refer to the entire design process we should do just that and refer to it as awireless network design.
This is the first step in any design, defining where your current network is and then making recommendations to support your specific needs and/or requirements. This can involve a multitude of tests such as networks assessments, security assessments, and application performance testing.
Now it comes time to actually meet those requirements defined through the previous analysis and benchmarking.
*Remember: The application (what you’re trying to do) drives the infrastructure (your wireless LAN design).
It’s common at this point to perform a predictive site survey or when needed an on-site wireless site survey. Either one is necessary to determine specific RF characteristics and to establish the exact scope of the environment.
This is where your new network design is actually installed and is typically the easiest phase of the overall design. This is where your WiFi service provider will mount AP’s, configure controllers and physically set-up your network. It’s important to note that before you attach any AP’s to a wired network that you should test for PoE, DHCP, VLAN assignments, Default Gateway and DNS.
Once your new network is in place it’s time to do a validation site survey to test your network and make sure that all of the requirements outlined in the first step have been either met and/or exceeded. This is a critical step to make sure that your new wireless design is correct and functioning at the highest performance levels.
It’s easy to design for coverage but in a mobile “always-on, always-connected” world, capacity and security become the greatest challenges. Simply adding more and more AP’s will not guarantee more capacity; in reality it will only lower throughputs and lower your networks performance.
If we want to talk about site-surveys do just that and be specific: predictive, on-site, validation, active, passive, these are all types of site-surveys. If we want to talk about wireless network design let’s talk about design and not just one piece of it.