We asked Josh Thurman, Luxul’s Western Regional Manager to update us on common wireless roaming issues and how to solve them.
IPIQ: Top 5 Common Wireless Roaming Issues and How to Solve Them
By Josh Thurman
Today Wi-Fi has become such a universal feature of our daily lives your average customer expects it to work like electricity or running water. As we all know, Wi-Fi isn’t as straightforward as your customers might think, especially when it comes to today’s apps and homeowner expectations. More than ever, customers need your help to get Wi-Fi to work the way they think it should work, based on how they’ve been marketed to by ISPs and smartphone manufacturers.
Figure 1. Illustration of Wi-Fi signal strength expressed in dBm, from excellent (left) to poor (right).
One key part of your strategy in meeting customer expectations is planning. Every project needs to begin with a site survey that will give you a good idea in advance of how many access points you’re going to need. Equally important: take advantage of the educational resources that Luxul makes available at no charge on our website. The more you know, the more confident you’ll feel in recommending solutions that will provide customers with the connectivity experience they’ve come to expect.
As a third point, it’s good to anticipate some situations you’re going to run into with today’s increasingly tech-savvy consumers. Here are our top five recommendations relating to Wi-Fi and how to solve these situations.
Figure 2. Simulated visualization of Wi-Fi signal propagation. The color white represents the strongest signal nearest the AP, while dark blue and black represent little or no signal. Image credit: Jason M Cole, www.jasmcole.com.
- The customer decided to replace his traditional land line with VoIP phone service as part of a triple play package, and now calls get dropped on his portable phone when he’s walking from the kitchen to the back bedroom.
Here’s what the provider didn’t tell your customer: if the network has more than one AP, there will be a call disconnect without some type of assistance from roaming technology while he’s moving from one part of his home to another. To solve this problem, we offer the Roam Assist™ technology built into our Luxul Wireless Controller. This ensures the phone will stay connected while your customer is moving throughout his space. A little-known fact is that stronger RSSI thresholds are necessary for high performing VoIP via Wi-Fi; there’s typically a 5 to 10dBm difference compared to standard coverage and AP overlap recommendations. Activating airplane mode is highly recommended as well.
- The customer is having problems using apps like Facetime and Skype and doesn’t understand why these don’t work as well on their smartphone as YouTube, for example.
Unlike YouTube, which caches data, Facetime and Skype are real-time resource-heavy apps that don’t enjoy the luxury of a data cache to allow them to stream data flawlessly. If you have any type of latency issues, real-time apps will run into connectivity problems immediately. The solution, again, is the Roam Assist™ technology the Luxul Wireless Controller provides and you, as integrator, install based on the site survey you’ve performed in advance.
- The customer is perplexed because he went on the Internet and bought his own repeater or dedicated access point, but it’s not giving him any faster download or upload speeds, even though his devices now show a full “five bars” of Wi-Fi connectivity.
Homeowners often resort to repeaters they find on the Internet because the 300 MB/s download speeds they were led to expect by their ISP don’t materialize beyond a certain radius from the ISP’s equipment. While this problem is a symptom of diminishing transmit power, a repeater device is not necessarily a real solution. The addition of the repeater may produce five bars on the homeowner’s cell phone, but this indication of signal strength is deceptive as it’s not the same as an indication of data throughput. Repeaters aren’t all that efficient, so even though they’re giving out a strong signal strength that doesn’t mean they’re handling data as fast as a hard-wired remote access point, like the ones from Luxul you can recommend and install.
- Your customer is an “early adopter” who’s heard about “full AC” and 5 GHz coverage, and now he wants that to be available on every square inch of a large estate, using the same hardware installed five years ago.
What your customer may not know is that 5 GHz signals travel less than half the distance of 2.4 GHz broadcasts. Because of this, they need significantly more access points to provide whole home coverage. This introduces many more transitions that must occur for the mobile device to stay connected to a strong 5 GHz network. High power Luxul APs combined with our Wireless Controller will provide the full 5 GHz coverage and seamless roaming your early adopter customer expects while at the same time substantially reducing the number of APs required to provide sufficient Wi-Fi coverage.
- Your customer doesn’t just want Wi-Fi coverage in the house; he needs it by the pool, for wireless speakers, and in a workshop or guest house some distance from the main residence.
Luxul has both indoor and outdoor access points that are compatible with our Wireless Controller. Being able to transition between both spaces with constant network connectivity allows consumers to expand their entertainment areas and move from indoors to outdoors and back without the slightest interruption in service. Here again, it’s imperative to do a site survey in advance. For example, you’ll need to take into account exterior wall construction and availability of line of sight connections between different areas. Some building materials, such as stucco, are harder to penetrate than cedar shakes, and any construction involving water or metal (such as foil lining for fireproofing) will pose special challenges for signal penetration. Fortunately, you can rely on Luxul to make your site survey as painless as possible—with free network design resources you can find on our website and by reaching our tech support experts.
Josh Thurman serves as Luxul’s Western Regional Sales Manager and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.