What is a WiFi site survey?

Many of us consider being connected to the digital world a bare necessity. That is why the availability of WiFi is no longer a luxury, but a basic need. Offering quality WiFi to your employees and guests is therefore important. To make sure your WiFi is on par, do a pre-deployment, post-deployment and/or predictive site survey.

The primary goal of a WiFi site survey is to understand the needs and use cases for the WiFi network. The aim is to provide detailed and accurate documentation about the current state of the WiFi and what services it will or should support. Or a design and deployment document highlighting aspects like coverage areas, predicted client numbers, device types, access point (AP) mounting location, orientation and end service level agreement (SLA) that needs to be delivered over the WiFi.

Types of site surveys

WiFi site surveys are essential processes for ensuring the optimal performance and coverage of wireless networks in various environments. Surveys assist network engineers and IT professionals in creating, installing, and managing WiFi infrastructure.

They analyse signal strength, interference, and coverage areas. This information is crucial for ensuring the intended and designed SLA over the WiFi is met. By conducting surveys, professionals can identify potential issues and make necessary adjustments to improve the overall WiFi experience.

Three primary types of WiFi site surveys exist. Each type serves a distinct purpose in the lifecycle of a wireless network, from initial planning to ongoing maintenance. Let's explore each type in more detail.

1. Pre-deployment survey

Conducted before installing WiFi infrastructure, this survey is interactive and is where the engineers gather information about the intended use of the WiFi. It includes factors like WiFi coverage areas, client device type and quantity within the coverage area. It also includes the intended SLA of the required networks and evaluates physical factors such as building layout, materials, and potential sources of interference to plan the placement of APs.

2. Post-deployment survey

Done after a new AP installation or anytime during the deployment's lifecycle. The objective is to verify that the intended network SLA is being achieved and complies with the coverage requirements set out when the network was designed and installed. This survey will assess aspects as related coverage criteria, identify potential dead zones, and detect any issues that may affect network performance.

3. Predictive Survey:

Utilises data-driven software simulations to forecast WiFi coverage and supported SLAs based on factors like building layout, materials, AP specifications, client device types and amounts. While not as accurate as on-site surveys, predictive surveys provide valuable insights during the planning phase and can produce accurate performance and placement data up to ± 85% confidence level.

WiFi coverage requirements – An example

The screenshot below is an example of the requirements for a voice-capable WiFi network (VoWifi). The specifications are set to meet Microsoft’s requirements for a successful Lync/Skype deployment over WiFi. These requirements were set by Microsoft themselves.

This is a good example to showcase that every service type required on the WiFi network is measurable, and strict design criteria and variables must be met. Only this way we can be confident that voice deployment will work in all areas of the building.

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Screenshot of the requirements for a voice capable Wi-Fi network

Site survey benefits and challenges

WiFi site surveys are indispensable tools for maintaining and optimising the performance and coverage of wireless networks. By evaluating coverage criteria, identifying dead zones, and mitigating interference, these surveys play a vital role in ensuring reliable connectivity for users.

However, along with their numerous benefits, WiFi site surveys also present certain challenges that network engineers and IT professionals must navigate. Let's delve into the main benefits and challenges associated with conducting WiFi site surveys.

Benefits:

  • Optimised coverage: Site surveys help determine the optimal placement and radio configuration of APs to ensure consistent coverage that meets the designed SLA throughout the intended area.
  • Improved performance: By identifying and providing mitigation plans to counter sources of interference or dead zones. WiFi site surveys provide data-rich visibility into the current operational status of the radio network as well as provide key incite help to prevent future challenges from arising.
  • Cost savings: Proper planning and deployment based on data-driven survey findings can prevent unnecessary expenses and productivity losses associated with over-provisioning or under-performing WiFi infrastructure.

Challenges

  • Complexity: Conducting thorough site surveys requires expertise in wireless networking and familiarity with survey tools and methodologies. Which makes it difficult to conduct yourself.
  • Dynamic environment: Wireless networks are subject to environmental changes. Some of these changes are in our control and predictable. Some are out of our control and are unpredictable, such as new neighbours occupying the building next door or building renovations and the introduction of new electronic devices and technology. General growth in employees, their workflow and device numbers will also affect WiFi performance over time.
  • Time and resources: Site surveys can be time-consuming and resource-intensive for both parties, for you, and the technology partner. Especially for large or complex environments that are high on security and access control.
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Nomios: Experts in WiFi site surveys

Optimising a WiFi network's performance and coverage requires meticulous planning and expertise in wireless networking and radio frequency engineering. Many organisations find it advantageous to enlist the services of an external company specialised in WiFi site surveys, such as Nomios. We have WiFi engineers who possess in-depth knowledge and experience in assessing wireless environments.

Their expertise allows them to identify potential challenges, that range from physical design issues and problems with AP placement to in-depth spectrum analysis required for troubleshooting more complex challenges such as unpredictable client behaviour or identifying non-WiFi related interference sources and coverage issues. Our engineers can then recommend effective solutions to mitigate against them.

Our engineers have expertise and provide unbiased recommendations for the best equipment for your organisation. Drawing upon our extensive experience and industry knowledge, we can advise on the most suitable access points, antennas, and other hardware components to maximise the performance and reliability of your WiFi network. Additionally, we offer insights into various WiFi platforms available in the market.

Choose WaaS

With WiFi as a Service (WaaS), you have access to a reliable and future-proof WiFi network that is always available anywhere. There are no upfront investments and no complex maintenance.

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