Why Your Wi-Fi Sucks And How It Can Be Helped, Part 2

Coverage Areas

Before we delve into any hard testing, we felt it was important to give a sense of wireless coverage from each of our six access points. You’ve seen where the laptop systems are located within our environment. If we were running a normal office, the logical placement of the access point would be directly above the middle of our 60-client cluster (which is where we mounted our second access point, not the unit under test, during interference testing). So, to get an idea of how well each access point might serve such an environment in terms of coverage, we worked with commercial wireless solutions provider Connect802 to perform a thorough site survey for all six APs.

With a test notebook strapped into a harness and running AirMagnet Survey Professional Edition, our Connect802 technician made six complete walking tours of our office area. In the following images, you can see the path he walked marked by the little red arrows on each map.

We did make one modification from the software’s default setting. When our Connect802 specialist mentioned that an access point would need a roughly -70 to -75 dBm signal in order to hold a usable Wi-Fi connection, we had the technician change the color scale on his maps such that light blue hits at -75 dBm and light blue/green is at -70 dBm. This way, you can assume that green shading (and on into the stronger yellow and red zones) represents a dependable Wi-Fi signal.

In the 2.4 GHz range, HP clearly fares worst. Kudos to Apple for making a fairly equivalent showing to Aruba, Cisco, and Meraki, although note how Apple, Aruba, and Meraki all have one quirky dead spot in each of their decent coverage areas. Cisco and Ruckus do not share this problem. In terms of green coverage to the building’s far wall, Ruckus provides the most coverage.

With 5 GHz mapping, this second verse runs very similar to the first, only this time we’d give the nod to Cisco for having the most -70 dBm or better coverage. With its longer wavelengths, 2.4 GHz is known to be somewhat more penetrating and long-reaching than 5 GHz. Either way, though, such maps are essential when deploying wireless coverage across a broad area because you have to know how many APs you’ll need to service your users. Better coverage is one of the factors that lead to purchasing fewer APs.

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  • winner4455
    Hey, I still haven't read this article but right away I notice the new format. Just thanking you for listening to your readers! :)
    15
  • Other Comments
  • winner4455
    Hey, I still haven't read this article but right away I notice the new format. Just thanking you for listening to your readers! :)
    15
  • cangelini
    Very welcome Winner. We thought the picture story format would work for that last part and didn't realize the text would come out to be so terrible. From now on, we'll only use picture stories when the captions fit without requiring another click!
    9
  • tacoslave
    cangeliniVery welcome Winner. We thought the picture story format would work for that last part and didn't realize the text would come out to be so terrible. From now on, we'll only use picture stories when the captions fit without requiring another click!

    "Now thats what i like to hear!"
    4
  • nekromobo
    What if you add few thin-foil balls to room (the size of fist or 2)

    That should add few rf-reflections or paths, right?
    Just your 2cent amplifier.. :)
    2
  • dead_rabbit
    Quote:
    However, when push came to shove,

    what does this clause mean???
    -8
  • wifiguy99
    When will Part 1 get a makeover like this?
    2
  • Anonymous
    I wonder why you didn't include Juniper products (formerly trapeze)to this test. It's quit a big player here in europe. Trapeze also produced the 3com wireless manager and accesspoints which was sold widely here.
    2
  • Hupiscratch
    In the page "Benchmark Results: Close Range, No Interference", the HP AP is missing on the downlink graph.
    3
  • Onus
    This was an outstanding article. Going just by this, Ruckus and Cisco are the only two I'd consider out of the box, but it would be very interesting to do a follow on that features even a minimal amount of tweaking to see what changes. A consumer expects a product to work well out of the box, but an enterprise network engineer almost certainly does not.
    2
  • Anonymous
    Very thorough. Lots of hard work went into this and it shows. But how did you select client devices? Did you try any other chipsets? We tried something like this with more diverse clients and got results that were too variable to reach conclusions. (Some clients just did better with some APs than others.)
    2
  • ashserratt
    Why not include Aerohive?
    1
  • Brazilian Joe
    I would like to know about the exact model of the Airport Extreme tested: is it the previous generation model, or the recently refreshed model capable of 450Mbps?
    -1
  • rebel1280
    jtt283This was an outstanding article. Going just by this, Ruckus and Cisco are the only two I'd consider out of the box, but it would be very interesting to do a follow on that features even a minimal amount of tweaking to see what changes. A consumer expects a product to work well out of the box, but an enterprise network engineer almost certainly does not.

    As much as i want to see a follow up on tweaked APs did you read the cost of the setup, $15,000! I don't expect a follow up any time soon haha. By the way Toms, great articles. I didn't mind the initial layout but I like this one better truth be told. Good info, good read. Looks like I'm getting me a Cisco for the office :)
    1
  • awtull
    You have confirmed what 6 years of operating and managing a TROPOS wireless mesh network has shown. As a municipality that deployed the network initially for mobile workers and public safety we did sell access to the network for affordable internet to our citizens. When we looked for a wireless bridge device for the customer that would give good performance along with reliable connectivity the hands down winner was Ruckus. We have probably installed close a 1000 of their dual zone bridges and I can say that everything that your tests have shown is what we have seen in true world application. Your article did a great job of addressing all of the various RF issues of wireless network and I commend you on a job well done.

    Anthony Tull CGCIO
    IT Director
    City of Granbury, TX
    8
  • wiinter
    Will - this has got to be one of the best online articles I've read in the last 15 years. Kudos to you and your team!
    2
  • Onus
    499015 said:
    As much as i want to see a follow up on tweaked APs did you read the cost of the setup, $15,000!...

    Oh yes, of course. If they could take just a worst case result, e.g. for that sorry Meraki unit, and see if a few simple tweaks made it viable, hopefully that wouldn't take the time or expense, but would clearly show the benefit from tweaking (i.e. from being a competent network engineer).

    Edit: And, perhaps the cost could be picked up by Meraki, or Aruba, since it seems to clearly be in their best interests, IF it showed their units could hang with the big boys. Based on this article alone, I probably wouldn't touch their products with a ten foot dipole.
    1
  • Anonymous
    Great read, interesting article. Have about 7 wifi devices in my house and currently getting pretty random performance. Think i now know why. If Ruckus ever releases a 3X3:3 for close range performance that would be very interesting!
    0
  • spammit
    Isn't it Cisco Aironet, not Aeronet?
    2
  • thearm
    spammitIsn't it Cisco Aironet, not Aeronet?


    Lord... Does it really matter?

    Anyway, it's so weird here at Toms now an add will pop up because you move you mouse over it and you have to click X to close it. But yet, the pull down at the end of each story (with the chapters in it) will go away of you move your mouse off of it. You have to be very careful with your mouse, when trying to select another chapter, or it will go away. It's been like that for years. Doesn't this annoy anyone else?
    0
  • Anonymous
    By the title of these 2 articles, I was anticipating some information regarding how I can diagnose and fix issues with my WiFi. Whereas now I have a greater understanding of what issues can arise and what router to use in an office setting, I still do not know how to diagnose my own crappy WiFi performance or how to fix it. While I applaud your efforts, I imagine most readers do not have 60 laptops and 5 ipads in their home...
    -2