By: Andrew Shoffner
In the modern era, WiFi is no longer optional. Having a fast, reliable, and well-designed WiFi network specifically created to support a large number of bandwidth-hungry devices is critical for many organizations, and our team is here to help.
There are many factors and best practices that need to be carefully considered during the planning process to ensure your network is capable of meeting your business needs.
The Evolution of High-Density WiFi Networks: A Brief History
When WiFi first debuted, it was viewed as a convenience. However, WiFi has become essential for most people, making a well-designed network capable of meeting your business needs vital for almost all organizations.
Early WiFi networks were often designed to prioritize coverage over capacity, allowing a few users to enjoy adequate connectivity over a wide area. In today’s world, almost all individuals own multiple WiFi-connected devices, and a single network is frequently required to support hundreds, or even thousands of devices at a time, and bandwidth demands continue to increase in the age of video calls and video content. In order to ensure fast, reliable connectivity to all users, these high-density and high-capacity networks need to be carefully designed and implemented.
Common Challenges Associated with High-Density WiFi Networks
Designing and deploying high-density WiFi networks involves numerous challenges that need to be considered and addressed to ensure optimal network performance. However, which factors you prioritize ultimately depends on your end goal, the total physical area your network needs to serve, and how many connections your network needs to comfortably support.
No matter what other factors need to be considered, a good network should be designed to provide as much bandwidth as possible to the largest number of potential users and devices in a given area.
Like any large project, the key to success is good planning. No matter what area your network is covering, whether it’s a large common area in a school, a busy public market, or a 200-acre campground with thousands of users, all high-capacity networks need to be specifically engineered to meet the needs of the provider. When it comes to well-designed high-capacity WiFi networks, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution.
Coverage & Capacity Both Matter
Early WiFi networks typically prioritized coverage over capacity, but this approach is no longer sufficient for most organizations. Just because an area has great coverage doesn’t mean it has enough capacity to support the total number of users looking to access the network. An enterprise-grade coordinated WiFi system must be engineered, designed, and configured specifically for high-capacity usage.
Case Studies: Common High-Density Environments
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted public and private K-12 schools as well as post-secondary institutions such as universities and colleges. To help students remain connected to educators and educational resources, many educational institutions have shifted students out of small classrooms into large common spaces such as cafeterias, libraries, gyms, auditoriums, and large outdoor spaces so that students and educators alike can remain safe and socially distanced.
However, the networks that serve these large areas are often configured to prioritize coverage over connectivity and are not designed to support a large number of users at any one time.
When designing a high-capacity network, organizations should begin by determining the number of potential users connecting to the network and configure their network to easily support the maximum number of users likely to connect at any given time.
Large Public Venues & Spaces
The demand for WiFi connectivity in large public spaces and venues, such as the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia, continues to increase. In 2015, the city was preparing to host the upcoming Democratic National Convention, which would be held right next to the market. They realized that their free public WiFi was sorely underpowered for the event and in desperate need of an upgrade.
WiFi Integrators for Innovation was able to design a WiFi network for the market that offered fast, reliable coverage for up to 2400 devices at a time anywhere on the ground floor of the space. This network relies on 20 APs, each of which provides coverage for a small area. By limiting each AP’s coverage area, we were able to increase capacity dramatically without compromising coverage.
5 APs would have been sufficient to cover the entire area but would have severely limited the number of devices that could connect to the WiFi network simultaneously. Since this venue typically sports 2500 to 8500 unique connections each day, more APs were required to ensure sufficient bandwidth for all devices on the network.
Convention Centers & Sports Arenas
WiFi Integrators has designed and installed WiFi networks in a variety of sports arenas and convention centers, including a convention center on the Jersey Shore and a 4200-seat basketball arena at a local university.
Both venues required WiFi networks designed to ensure visitors enjoyed fast, reliable connections so users could interact with social media while on site. To achieve this goal, both facilities relied on outdoor APs with highly focused, directional antennas, creating microcells of coverage capable of supporting a large number of bandwidth-hungry devices at any given moment.
Setting Up a High-Density WiFi Network? WiFi Integrators for Innovation is Here to Help
WiFi Integrators for Innovation has been designing, deploying, and maintaining reliable, accessible, and secure networks since 2011. Our experienced team is here to help you design and deploy your high-density or high-capacity network, from the earliest design phase to the final testing and certification phase and every step in between.
We’re here to help you refine your organization’s WiFi vision and turn that vision into a network capable of supporting your workers, visitors, and other users using technology manufactured by our trusted partners.
For more information about designing and deploying your high-density WiFi network, or to get started on your design, please contact our team today.