The problem with both of these approaches is that they are the extremes and aren't applicable for many wireless networks. Basic coverage designs may still work for warehouses and some retailers and maximum capacity designs are great for stadiums and large conferences, but both have serious drawbacks for everyone else. Coverage designs can’t meet modern capacity demands with the proliferation of laptops and mobile devices, while maximum capacity designs would result in over-built networks that IT departments can’t afford.
The majority of WLANs need to be designed to balance coverage and capacity requirements against cost of deployment, complexity, stability, and supportability. A balanced design is appropriate for most modern WLANs, which face increasing device density and business reliance on the WLAN. There is undoubtedly a much heavier dependence on capacity requirements than ever before, but a lack of adequate methodology and tools leaves many guessing ‘how many APs do I really need?’ Common methodologies that are used involve sticking a finger in the air and guessing based on some random number of desired clients per AP or coverage size per cell. But these fall well short of providing a solid foundation on which an entire WLAN design will be built.
There has to be a better way. We need a methodology that:
- Provides an accurate analysis of capacity requirements in order to determine the appropriate number of APs to meet current and future demand, while not overbuilding the network.
- Integrates frequency re-use as a critical design element during RF planning in order to ensure that the AP density required can be implemented successfully without causing significant co-channel interference (CCI).
- Includes accompanying resources that simplify some of the complexity in the Wi-Fi eco-system and makes successful Wi-Fi design more attainable for everyone, novice and expert alike.
I am releasing the Revolution Wi-Fi™ Capacity Planner completely free to the community with these goals in mind. It is accompanied with a user guide that outlines the methodology and explains the concepts used in the tool. This follows previous resources that I have published on WLAN capacity planning, including presentations (PDF slides), video blogs, and worksheets.