Recently, I visited a friend’s office building to take a look at their Wi-Fi environment to assess some coverage issues they were having. They are the sole tenant of a…

Recently, I visited a friend’s office building to take a look at their Wi-Fi environment to assess some coverage issues they were having. They are the sole tenant of a 4-story office building near Julia Davis Park next to Downtown Boise, ID.

I packed my Wi-Spy Air and set out with a colleague to do a survey of their Wi-Fi coverage on each floor. I thought ahead and also brought a dual-band directional antenna just in case I needed it, and I am glad I did.

The company’s head of IT joined us for our walkabout. While we were moving through the first couple of floors, he mentioned that there was one AP that was separated from the rest of the wireless network because that particular user “had to have it” (don’t worry, we’ll come back to that). To give some insight into what they are running, they have a network of Ubiquity APs that broadcast 2 SSIDs: one protected by WPA2-Enterprise security for the employees, and the other protected by WPA2-Personal for guests. They have about four APs per floor, and are mainly concerned about coverage and capacity for meeting rooms.

As we moved from floor-to-floor, starting at the ground floor, we were able to identify areas with poor coverage and suggest AP placements. As we started to move around the top (4th) floor, we were asked to proceed with caution as this floor is where the executive offices are located. At one point, our friend asked us to not go any further down a hallway, because that is where the CEO is and they don’t want to be distracted.

Well… I was still curious about what the coverage might look like for the CEO, which is someone you definitely do not want to have complain about Wi-Fi coverage. Luckily, since I had my directional antenna, I was able to swap the omni out for it and point it down the hall to take a peek at what was going on.

We saw that the strongest signal was a D-Link wireless router broadcasting an SSID different than the others. Remember when I mentioned the lone wolf AP the IT manager told us about at the beginning? Yep, you guessed it! The CEO is the one who had to have his own AP… and it’s located in his office. Seeing what the situation was and after seeing the Wi-Fi landscape after walking through the previous floors, I was able to recommend some changes that should provide a better Wi-Fi experience for the CEO and all of the other employees.

Some of the key things I noticed while assessing their environment with Air Viewer was that planning for 2.4 GHz band wasn’t optimal.

  • Most of the APs were on 1 and 11, but there were also several broadcasting on channels 4 and 8. I suggested planning for only 1, 6, and 11 on 2.4 GHz to decrease adjacent channel interference.
  • Also, though the Ubiquity APs are dual band, most of the clients I saw were connected to 2.4 radios as the power levels were much higher throughout for that band.
  • Going back to the CEO, his D-Link was a single band (2.4 GHz only) and was broadcasting on channel 11, close to an AP broadcasting on channel 8 and another AP broadcasting on channel 11, both channels showing a decent amount of activity when viewing Air Viewer’s spectrum analyzer.

Improved channel planning in that area as well as giving the CEO a dual-band AP should keep him happy; which, in turn, will keep our head of IT friend from sweating. 😀

All of this goes to show the added utility of the directional antenna, being sneaky and getting the insightful data you need.

What use cases and stories do you have for using a directional antenna over an omni when troubleshooting Wi-Fi? Add a comment below, I’d love to hear about your experiences!  

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