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Campus Outdoor Wi-Fi Deployment

As universities get closer to the start of the academic year, many are planning to hold classes outdoors. At my campus, outdoor Wi-Fi is still in the works. It’s even an initiative.

Since we’re in California, the weather is perfect for outdoor classes. The challenge was rolling out equipment as fast as we can prior to the school year beginning.

There are a few schools on campus that hopped onto this idea quickly. They planned out the locations and requested Wi-Fi. In this episode, I’m focusing on one school that had all their ducks in a row and we were able to deliver. In fact, classes start the same day this episode is published.

Critical to this project was identifying the locations for these classes. Previously, outdoor Wi-Fi at this school did not exist.

Once I had these rough locations, I configured a Cisco 1562I as Mobility Express so I can perform an AP-on-a-Stick survey. My goal was to provide adequate coverage for roughly 15-30 students. I also anticipated the professor live-streaming his class through Zoom.

Offset testing

Using Google Earth, I created the “floor plans” for Ekahau Pro and for the NetAlly Etherscope nXG. At this time I was comparing the two products because it sure was a lot easier to carry one handheld device for survey purposes 🙂

The next step involved working with facilities engineering to find out if we could get access points mounted where we wanted them. I believe we were able to get locations approved easily due to the classes having to be done outdoors.

Our outdoor deployment uses Cisco 1562I access points joined to our wireless LAN controllers. I had preconfigured them all prior to being installed.

The physical installation of the access points couldn’t have gone any better. We got proper mounting solutions and I’m confident the outdoor classes will run smoothly over Wi-Fi.

I ran into some other issues such as hitting PoE limitations of the switch causing one of the access points to bring down its radios. One of my APoS access points managed to get installed so I ended up having to swap it out. That last one took me a while to figure out.

In one location, I did not have any available locations to mount an outdoor access point. So instead, I settled on mounting a patch antenna from inside the building to propagate the signal outside through a window. I did test this method with my APoS and was happy with the results.

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Rowell, CWNE #210, is a network engineer in Higher-Ed. He enjoys working with wireless networking technologies and loves to share and engage with the community. You can connect with him on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

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