In this post we will discuss a step-by-step process for validating WiFi infrastructure for an existing or a newly set-up network. Validating WiFi networks involves many steps and is not isolated strictly to new deployments but also to an existing WiFi network.

We’ll cover the physical installation and post service analysis of a validation, how to analyze client behavior, functional validation tests, and the resources that are available to assist you during this process.

Validate Physical Installation

  • Walk through the facility
  • Validate
    • AP installation
    • Antenna orientation
    • With the customer
    • Telco room location

Post Deployment Survey

  • Use your survey laptop and try to use a business critical business device as well (VoIP phone, handheld scanner…)
  • Connect to the infrastructure. Use the most business critical SSID
  • Use Ping or iPerf to test connection, roaming, throughput.
  • Things to look at while performing the exit survey:
    • What band is the survey laptop using?
    • What band is the client device using?
    • Am I roaming as expected
    • RSSI of both your laptop survey and the client device
    • If you use ESS, you can also connect 1 or 2 dBx antenna to perform a parallel spectrum analysis. (Detect noise and major interferences)

Things to look at after the survey:

  • Coverage
  • Channel distribution / Channel re-use:
    • See if some Tx Power need to be adjusted
    • See if some radios need to be disabled (2.4GHz)
    • See if more 5GHz channels are needed
    • Making sure that all the configured channels are being used

Spectrum Analysis

  • Study both bands: 2.4GHz is usually where you will find the most external interferences
  • Stay still at one location. If you see something unusual, move around to pinpoint the exact location of the source (this might not be easy). Be sure to plan for a little extra time.

Packet Capture

  • Get a better idea of the RF environment (using Eye P.A.). Thing to look at:
    • Retry rates
    • Channel airtime utilization
    • Data rates
    • How the neighbors can be affecting some channels
  • Being able to see more advanced radio configurations such as:
    • Data rates
    • AP capabilities
    • Client capabilities (big one)
    • Being able to spot unusual behaviors
    • Being able to troubleshoot some client issues

Analyze Client Behavior and Configuration

  • Make sure all the client devices of the same model have the same WiFi NIC drivers
  • Make sure all the client devices of the same model have the same WiFi configurations
  • Make sure they manage to connect to the WiFi network (check delays, does it take a long time to connect?)

Perform Functional Validation Testing

  • Grab a client device, roam around the facility (especially where the device will be used)
  • Validate how the client roams
  • Validate on what band the client connect to
  • Try to ping the application server and see if you lose any pings (make sure it does not affect production)
  • Validate voice quality if it’s VoIP
  • Validate throughput if the requirements need it (try to use the same applications as the one what will be used on the WiFi)

Validating a WiFi network infrastructure can be a tricky process. We hope that this guide was helpful to validate existing networks, as well as plan new installations! Please listen to the Clear to Send podcast for further insight into this process!