Insight

Wi-Fi & Wireless Network FAQs

by Steven Forrest

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We are often asked questions about WiFi in meetings with customers and via our social media and website. Below are some of the most frequent along with our responses.

What exactly is WiFi?

This is the best question! Wi-Fi as a term was first used by the Wi-Fi Alliance which was set up in 1999. Their aim is to ensure interoperability between wireless network devices. The correct usage is Wi-Fi with capitals and a hyphen; however, most people use WiFi without the hyphen for convenience. For more details, please see our guide: ‘The Definitive Guide to Wireless Networking (Wi-Fi)

How can we ensure that Wi-Fi access is secure when our team are working from home or in coffee shops?

This can be achieved with Secure Remote Worker solutions. Devices are analysed for security and users are multi-factor authenticated before being allowed access across the VPN to the corporate data space.

When our staff are in the office, they are a lot more mobile. They often work in break out rooms or small meeting rooms. How can we be sure that the Wi-Fi coverage meets their needs?

An On-site Analysis Survey will confirm the coverage across the site ensuring that sufficient capacity is available for those high usage areas.

We have social distancing guidelines and are advising against gatherings of more than 6 people. How can we see if our staff and guests are adhering to this?

Use location analytics to anonymously track users. Alarms can be set for close proximity of users or high congregation numbers.

Our warehouse is now far fuller, it seems to be affecting the Wi-Fi, is this possible?

Warehouse stock, depending on the materials can cause high amounts of reflection and absorption of Radio Frequency (RF) signals. Stock levels will most certainly have a significant effect on Wi-Fi performance. An On-site Analysis Survey will ensure that the coverage can adapt to the changing environment.

We have a large retail space. Can we collate information such as customer numbers, dwell time, high dwell areas, repeat customers and their shopping habits?

Capture location analytics as well as customer data. This is combined to create a wealth of data for customer analytics.

Users are complaining about losing poor performance when using Microsoft Teams, particularly on mobile devices.

Voice and video applications are becoming more prevalent and have specific performance requirements. Ensure that your Wi-Fi network meets these requirements for coverage, capacity and roaming with an on-site Analysis and/or Design survey.

We’re about to place a large order of new kit. How do I ensure the kit we’re purchasing is fit for purpose?

This is achieved by following a solid design strategy. Talk to us and we can discuss your requirements, provide you with recommendations and a tangible roadmap to inform future key decision making.

What is the range of coverage for a wireless network?

Wireless networks use microwave and so signal propagation can be calculated using the inverse square law from RF theory. Essentially this will depend on the WiFi channel being used, the transmit power and the gain of the antenna. Commonly this is between 20 and 100 meters.

How can businesses protect wireless networks?

Wireless networks in particular Wi-Fi networks come with a suite of protection options. From authentication and authorisation to ensuring that wireless frames cannot be spoofed. WPA3, released in 2018 brings a more robust authentication handshake which among other things protects against the KRACK attacks that WPA2 is vulnerable too.

Do most businesses use wired or wireless networks?

This depends on the business needs. In my experience, most business have a combination of wired and wireless networks. Wireless networks bring a wealth of advantages such as convenience for the users and a reduction in cost due to less need for wired infrastructure.

Should businesses use wireless networking?

In most cases Wi-Fi will satisfy the requirements for a business’s network. Previously it was thought that wired networks were faster and more secure than wireless networks. But continual enhancements to wireless network technology such as the Wi-Fi 6 networking standard have eroded speed and security differences between wired and wireless networks.

What are the advantages and disadvantages (pros and cons) of wireless connections?

The main advantage of wireless connections is the convenience. Imagine a world where every Internet connection required the device to be tethered to a cable. We now take the wireless world for granted. Other advantages, particularly of Wi-Fi are the relative lower cost due to not having to cable to every device and the air-conditioned spaces required for the associated infrastructure.

Due to the ease of being able to eves-drop on Wi-Fi network the security is very robust. All data packets are encrypted and with WPA3 so are all the management packets.

The main disadvantage of wireless connections is the shared medium. Wi-Fi is half-duplex; this means that communication can only happen in one direction at a time. The consequences of this are that Wi-Fi access points and Wi-Fi clients must take it in turns to send or receive data. Management of this airspace is vital to ensure that time sensitive applications are not adversely affected.

Is WiFi dead now we have 5G?

Wi-Fi and 5G are very different technologies however both aim to achieve the same reliable, high performance wireless communication. Due to their fundamental differences, they are better suited to different applications. 5G, for example suits open spaces with a high density of roaming client devices. Wi-Fi suits more indoor environments. 5G lends itself better to time sensitive applications such as voice, Wi-Fi performs better for bandwidth heavy applications such as high-resolution video streaming. One notable difference is that a Wi-Fi network tends to be owned by the business that uses it, a 5G network will be owned by the telecommunications provider. A 5G network will save on the initial infrastructure outlay but will cost considerably more in service charges.

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