Back to the Basics: Troubleshoot or Design?

Troubleshoot or design? Design or troubleshoot? No matter which task you are executing there are some fundamental issues that arise.  Recently I find myself troubleshooting networks more often than design. I was shocked to find that the issues identified during troubleshooting are not complex or exotic, but merely a simple reminder of the basics. With a few tweaks, better planning, and a little knowledge of how wireless functions, these issues would be non existent.  

So I thought I would share the three biggest issues I have encountered during troubleshooting:   

1) The improper use of Channel Widths
2) The misuse of AP transmit power
3) Poor AP placement.

Channel Width

As technology evolves and becomes “smarter,” it allows us to access our world at the touch of a button.  We want it faster, and we want it now. That type of integration requires speed on a fast network. Simple right?  You would think bigger channel widths would be a great thing and yield this desired result. In some cases it does, however, in most cases using 40MHz or 80MHz wide channels (I’m not even gonna talk about 160MHz) is more harmful to your network than helpful. We all know, when designing a wireless network you are striving for your coverage areas that are on the same channel to not overlap. This also includes your neighbors APs as well. In most cases 20MHz wide channels will provide a better user experience. So in words of Keith R. Parsons, “Use as wide a channel as you can without affecting frequency reuse.”


The most sound advice I ever received when starting out, was “Never use a milliwatt more than you need.”  Over the years, I find myself reciting this mantra in my head when analyzing the power on a network. In my experience, although this advice relates a pretty firm sentiment, I say, “it depends?”  Every situation is different, and I am constantly reminded that the amount of power you use is vastly important and often overlooked or misused to assumedly fix a problem.

AP Placement

We all have seen those networks that make you feel transported to Dr. Seuss, “Oh the places you’ll go.” Need better Wi-Fi?  We can put it here, we can put it there, we can put it anywhere. NO! AP placement, along with channel width and power, is critical to a high performing, functioning network.  Environments have a huge impact on placement of your APs, and can create some interesting challenges. However, plan, plan, plan! Planning the placement of your AP is a critical component and can either make or break your network.  

As wireless professionals, we need to let this serve as a reminder,  “Go back to the basics.” These issues, while seemingly small and easily fixable, can be crippling to a companies’ day-to-day operations.  

As a transition to wireless trends across industries, getting back to the basics is as critical as ever. As the demand for faster, high performing networks continues to increase, wireless has become a must have instead of a nice to have. So remember, use the right channel width for your environment. You don’t have to crank up the power and AP placement matters.

Written by: Rowell Dionicio at Packet6

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