High Density Wireless

By Kyle Libby, Sr. Network Admin and Mike Hertweck, Wireless Network Admin of Smart City

Consumers today consider wireless availability essential to their everyday lives. The movement of wearables and smart devices is rapidly expanding and the demand for those devices to have wireless access is imperative. Many people would rather give up tasty beverages and pizza than to be deprived of their WiFi. Because of this the pressure and expectation for a robust wireless network at public venues is more prevalent than ever before. Convention centers that have a high density WiFi deployment are being sought after for large scale events. Usually, General Sessions play a huge part in these big events. More and more General Sessions are incorporating applications that require their attendees to participate via WiFi.

There are a variety of events that utilize high density wireless. Technology events such as Cisco Live and iPad Summit depend largely on high density WiFi. During Cisco Live, the convention encourages attendees to push public WiFi to its limits. Another convention that relies greatly on wireless is TCT, this medical event requires the availability of live streaming to each of their participants. Some events have attendee counts that go past 20,000 people, it is a necessity for a high density wireless network to be in place.

Traditionally, wireless was designed around “coverage oriented” WiFi, with the understanding that good signal strength means the wireless is sufficient. In the coverage oriented design, there would only be a few Access Points(AP) per exhibit hall. Each AP is equipped with omni-direction antennas, this type of antenna creates a large donut shape coverage area. This type of antenna is ideal for a maximum coverage wireless design. A single access point ideally serves approximately 50-75 clients. During large events, APs would get flooded with clients and throughput for each client drops drastically leaving clients contending for air time resulting in poor consumer experience. Moreover, events that try to stream live and host interactive applications for attendees remain unmanageable.

The demand for a wireless solution that can answer live streaming needs and interactive apps is increasing significantly. Cisco responds to that demand, by creating a centralized wireless management system and highly directional antennas to replace omni-directional antennas. These advances as well as many others offer a highly scalable solution that can be engineered to support the most demanding environments.

Designing a high density environment has many variables that must be taken into account. From a structural standpoint, one must take into account ceiling height, mounting restrictions (if ceiling mounts are unavailable), lighting, material of the surrounding walls and the various angles in the room. When those variables are taken into account, the science behind the design can begin. In order to achieve high density, coverage area of each access point (cells) must actually be minimized. With the utilization of highly-directional antennas and fine-tuning transmit power, small cell sizes can be attained. The benefit of having small cell sizes is that there are fewer clients per access point. This leads to higher throughput for each client, which enables them to stream live and participate in interactive apps.

Here at Smart City Networks, our wireless engineers use Ekahau WiFi survey planner to help plan predictive surveys and to assist in the overall design of each wireless project. Ekahau gives us the ability to run interference and network analysis, capacity planning, optimization and simulation in a 3D environment. We incorporate Cisco’s Mobility Services Engine into our wireless networks to give real time location base analytics for our clients.

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