Wireless Network Design Using Wireless Site Surveys – FAQ

Written by Michael McNamee Michael McNamee | February 1, 2011 | Read Time: 3 mins

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What is a wireless site survey? A wireless site survey is an actual physical site survey done onsite using various RF measuring tools to analyze the propagation of RF signals within your facility.

In contrast to a predictive site survey a physical site survey is done real time and in a real world RF environment which allows for analysis of RF interference and simulations of the applications you plan to use.

Is a physical site survey better than a predictive site survey?

A physical site survey is more accurate because you’re evaluating a live environment vs. virtual environment. But it’s not always necessary. If your building environment has a lot of interference (hospital or manufacturing for example) or you want to support latency sensitive applications like Voice over WLAN then you need a site survey.

Do I still need a predictive site survey if I have decided to go with a physical site survey?

Yes. We suggest a predictive site survey first and design discussion about what applications need to be supported as well as an evaluation of the building environment.

When would you decide that a physical site survey is necessary?

After discussing with the client what the intended application will be for the wireless network and what type of environment it will be operating in will help us make that determination. Some examples where we would decide to perform a site survey are very busy hospitals where there are all sorts of WiFi obstacles and interference ( lead lined walls, multiple radio signal generators, large pieces of equipment that get moved around, etc.). Manufacturing environments (high humidity, floating metal particulates) are also tricky and would cause us to consider a physical site survey.

How is a wireless site survey performed?

A physical site survey is performed by walking the intended location and using site survey tools to measure the RF from an access point set up specifically for the survey. The access point will be moved to several locations intended to have coverage and the measurements taken there as well. After all measurements have been taken the site survey tool will provide an overall view of RF performance in the environment.

What tools are needed to perform a wireless site survey?

Here is what we use on a physical site survey:

  • Laptop with site survey software (Air Magnetor Ekahau as examples)
  • RF spectrum analysis software ( Air Magnet or WiSpy)
  • Access point configured to operate in a survey mode
  • Tripod to mount and elevate the access point to desired heights
  • Portable battery with PoE/PoE+ to power the access point
  • A mobile cart to roll the laptop around on (ever try to carry a 6 pound laptop around for 8 hours so you can continuously see the screen?)
  • Various markers (stickers, tape, flags) to mark the access point locations
  • Digital camera to document specific locations

What is needed from the client to begin the process of engaging SecurEdge Networks in a physical site survey?

From our clients we ask for the following:

  • A meeting to discuss the intended use and application for the wireless network including discussing the environment the wireless network will operate in.
  • Floor plans of the facility(s) or campus maps
  • Access to the facility or campus with a point of contact or escort to provide access to locked or gated areas.

What should I expect to receive from a wireless site survey?

After completing a wireless site survey SecurEdge Networks provides its clients with the following;

  • Report showing the facility walk with detailed analysis of the access point locations
  • Map showing the RF coverage of the access points
  • Spectrum analysis report, if conducted, showing channel and frequency utilization as well as a list of non-WiFi interferers (microwave ovens, baby monitors, blue tooth devices, etc.)
  • Wireless network proposal including costs, materials and labor
  • Statement of work detailing what will be delivered and how
  • Project plan process showing steps from analysis to design to deployment to support
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