guidelines

CTS 178: 7 Wi-Fi Best Practices & Guidelines

These are our Wi-Fi best practices and guidelines based on our previous experiences.

So if you want to find learn how we are able to successfully deploy Wi-Fi networks with every one of our clients, then you’re in the right place.

Keep reading…

Why do we not have one industry set of Wi-Fi best practices and/or guidelines?

  • Is it because every environment is different
  • There are differing configurations
  • Every vendor is different
  • Anyone can easily deploy Wi-Fi

Can we look to the Wi-Fi Alliance or Wireless Broadband Alliance to help create these best practices?

By the way, the WBA has a document on wireless deployment best practices and a Wi-Fi 6 Deployment Guideline. It’s what prompted this episode.

It becomes a question of who’s best practices? Who’s deployment or configuration guidelines.

There’s still a lot of proprietary configurations as well. 

  • Cisco RRM
  • Aruba ARM
  • High availability and redundancy

The IEEE Standards leave a lot of room for interpretation. But is there a middle ground that we can come to? Possibly.

7 Wi-Fi Best Practices & Guidelines

1. Create a Design Based on Requirements
2. Have an Optimal Channel Plan
3. Have an Optimal Transmit Power Plan
4. Understand Device Capabilities
5. Validate Your Deployment
6. Understand How Wi-Fi 6 Works
7. Configuring Wi-Fi 6 Backwards Compatibility

We both (Rowell & François) have our set of best practices/guidelines to follow. This is based on our experience.

Why do we need best practices or guidelines?

We’re continuing to see the amount of growth in traffic. Cisco VNI predicts “Nearly three-fifths of traffic (59%) will be offloaded from cellular networks (on to Wi-Fi) by 2022.” And “Nearly four-fifths (79 percent) of the world’s mobile data traffic will be video by 2022.”

Then there’s the future technologies such as VR or AR and the increasing amount of IoT devices.

Across the board we’re seeing high density, higher capacity, and applications requiring lower latency. Our goal, as Wi-Fi professionals is to make the user experience better.

These best practices, guidelines, and recommendations become an important point as Wi-Fi discussion takes place against 5G.

1. Create a Design Based on Requirements

The first thing, prior to doing any deployment, is to gather requirements. This can be business, technical, and constraints.

Determining the use case of the Wi-Fi network will help with the design process. Along with understanding what types of devices used and their application usage.

Constraints could be something like conforming to aesthetics.

2. Have an Optimal Channel Plan

In the design process, a channel plan can be created. While most environments probably use something like RRM, a channel plan can provide optimal channel reuse.

Channel reuse is a goal for high density deployments which result in optimized Wi-Fi networks. The design can answer what channel width will be best for the channel reuse.

We rarely see 80 MHz or 160 MHz today due to no channel reuse available. This makes Wi-Fi networks inefficient in high density and high capacity environments.

Once 6 GHz becomes available, 80 MHz and 160 MHz channel widths will be very possible with throughput increases. But consider many devices do not support 80 MHz or 160 MHz channel widths.

Cisco Live Photos by Rowell Dionicio. https://rowelldionicio.com/clusphotos

3. Have an Optimal Transmit Power Plan

Too many environments fail to modify the default settings. Some Wi-Fi systems set a wide transmit power range.

When transmit power is not considered in the design and configured too high, there tends to be sticky client issues. This can also create co-channel contention.

Additionally, you do not want to exceed your regulatory domain.

When using dynamic transmit power, set the minimum and maximum range which corresponds with your design and requirements.

4. Understand Device Capabilities

The reason for designing a Wi-Fi network with best practices or guidelines is to have a good user experience.

In order to have good end user experience, the devices and device capabilities should be sought after.

Support for 802.11k/v/r can improve Wi-Fi network efficiency and performance. But many devices today still do not support these amendments.

BYOD can prove to be challenging with unknown device types associating to Wi-Fi. Fortunately, there are many network management systems that provide insight into what majority types of devices are using Wi-Fi.

5. Validate Your Deployment

After any design and deployment it is critical to validate the installation. Ensure access points were installed properly and antennas accurately aligned.

Be aware of any access points within a few feet of each other to avoid adjacent channel interference. Access points placed too close to each other may receive interference from each other. The adjacent interference can be detrimental.

Avoid hallway-only installations if you’re using RRM. Transmit power can be reduced due to each access point hearing a neighbor access point too loudly.

In a post-deployment survey, identify any large deviations from the design and identify which areas can be improved.

Cisco Live Photos by Rowell Dionicio. https://rowelldionicio.com/clusphotos

6. Understand How Wi-Fi 6 Works

Wi-Fi 6 cannot avoid the discussion of best practices although it is not widely used. True, access points are being sold by major vendors but learn how Wi-Fi 6 works.

It is too early to tell what the best practices will be. Vendors will implement key features differently, such as resource units.

Wi-Fi design tools will need to be updated to include the effects of BSS color to Co-Channel Interference (CCI).

In the real world, we will need to validate the theory of throughput increases and efficiencies due to features such as OFDMA.

The configuration of Target Wake Time (TWT) will be important for IoT on Wi-Fi networks. This will allow for more air time efficiency.

With today’s marketing for Wi-Fi 6 we must consider coexistence with previous Wi-Fi protocols…

7. Configuring Wi-Fi 6 Backwards Compatibility

We will be in a long transition period as many migrate to Wi-Fi 6. The Wi-Fi 6 install base will undoubtly grow. There are considerations to be made for backwards compatibility or the coexistence of Wi-Fi 6 and previous Wi-Fi protocols.

The goal of Wi-Fi 6 is efficiency. With Wi-Fi 6 devices and access points transmitting with the latest protocol, OFDMA can have a huge impact by utilizing a single transmit opportunity to communicate with multiple Wi-Fi 6 devices.

Transmit opportunity with Wi-Fi 6 allows more air time for Wi-Fi 5 devices and older.

Additionally, newer access points will have better hardware capabilities. Surely, we’ll see marginal performance improvements for all Wi-Fi devices.

The Wireless Broadband Alliance is recommending the use of 20 MHz or 40 MHz wide channels when coexisting with Wi-Fi 5 or older devices. Also, with the disabling of MU-MIMO due to the lack of legacy device supporting the feature. It helps to eliminate the overhead of sounding frames.

Conclusion

Which of our Wi-Fi best practices and guidelines will you implement first?

This is not a definitive list. We developed this list based on our previous experience with Wi-Fi deployments.

Links & Resources

WLA WLPC Update: Update from WLA | Peter Mackenzie | WLPC Phoenix 2019

WBA Wi-Fi 6 Deployment Guidelines & Scenarios

WBA Wi-Fi Deployment Guidelines