Rowell and François discuss their tips and advice when running a Meraki Wi-Fi network in challenging environments such as warehouse, hospitals, and dense office environments.
Meraki Wi-Fi Tips
There’s a big appeal for organizations to use Meraki. The ease of management is the biggest factor. With the management interface being user friendly and the hardware having a very minimalistic look and feel, there’s no question why it’s so popular.
But making something easy to use does create other challenges when it comes to Wi-Fi. Some scenarios are not as easily solved with Meraki, or any other vendor for that matter. There are a lot of configurations which could lead to poor performance. We’ve seen it before with our existing clients and wanted to offer our tips.
We’ve noticed many people opt to skip design altogether. Or maybe they are unaware that a design is needed. This is the biggest mistake. Before we dive into Meraki specifics, we wanted to take this chance to remind everyone to have a design completed by a Wi-Fi expert.
Know your devices and applications
Planning and design are critical. This involves knowing what type of devices will be using Wi-Fi. Those devices will dictate how your configuration will be for your Meraki network. We’ve seen many misconfigurations which lead to users complaining about Wi-Fi performance due to not knowing how the devices utilize Wi-Fi and what applications are being used.
Turn off 2.4 GHz radios
By default, every single 2.4 GHz radio is enabled. In a warehouse, every AP can hear each other because of reflections and open space. Signal travels very far. In one example, a warehouse was seeing over 60% channel utilization on every AP in the 2.4 GHz spectrum. After about half of the radios were disabled, the channel utilization dropped to under 20%. A design will provide indicate which AP should or should not have a 2.4 GHz radio enabled. Coverage holes should not be created if devices must use 2.4 GHz.
With every radio being enabled by default, we must keep in mind what channels are being used and how much we can reuse. Using wider channel widths can look appealing because of the high throughput but at the cost of minimizing how many channels you can reuse in your environment before causing co-channel contention. Again, a design will produce a channel plan in both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. Our guidance is to stick to 20 MHz or 40 MHz wide channels.
All we have to say here is tune down the power. There’s no need to transmit at full power. That signal travels very far and can contribute to co-channel contention. Sometimes the AP cannot hear the client device transmitting back to the AP because clients don’t have the same power capabilities as APs. Use a design to determine the transmit power settings of an AP.
Placement is key
Again, we must reiterate the benefits of doing a design. Placement is important especially when dealing with scanner guns, roaming clients, and VoIP calls. APs placed away from obstruction will provide the best performance and will minimize the amount of client issues.
External antennas help tremendously
Sometimes omnidirectional antennas just don’t do the job. We need to provide better quality signal to the clients and this is where antennas help a lot. You can shape the signal you want, for example, down an isle. Or if you need to wall mount an AP but direct a signal to a specific area then an antenna can do that job for you.
Sometimes the client balancing feature within Meraki can cause issues with clients on voice calls. I’ve seen clients on a VoIP call get dropped due to client balancing. In a warehouse, scanner guns weren’t roaming properly because some APs had more users than others so client balancing was affecting how users were roaming.
Clients ultimately decide where they want to go. So why force them over to 5 GHz if 2.4 GHz is better? Or maybe the device is a 2.4 GHz only client? Another way of doing this is to create two specific SSIDs for each band. Either way, sometimes band steering doesn’t work the way we expect it to because clients control where they want to go.
RRM can be a very useful feature if you have many APs. It can help tune your environment. But most people don’t tune their settings in favor of RRM. So we see suboptimal settings selected for each AP. Honestly, sometimes the Meraki algorithm doesn’t pick ideal settings. Sometimes static configuration can be beneficial if RRM isn’t making the right choices.
Hidden network for mesh
If you aren’t using mesh capabilities, submit a ticket to have this feature turned off. By default there are hidden networks being broadcasted for mesh. You don’t see them but they show up on a validation survey.
Are you seeing these narrowband spikes when viewing the RF Spectrum within the dashboard? Do you see the same thing at channel 1, 4, 5, 9, and 11? Here are examples from our networks: