Eka-what? Ekahau!

Wireless networks today require that we wring every drop out of the cloth. Users today expect to work when and where they want, and to be able to move around the office without losing connection to the network, all the while expecting no difference in speed in relation to when connected to their docking stations.

And it all starts with planning where to place access points. Wireless controllers today can make a channel plan and adjust signal strength themselves, however, trees do not grow in the sky. Without a proper radio design, there is not an algorithm in the world that can solve your wireless problems.

When I started working with networks, planning a wireless network was like drawing a building plan with a ruler and compass. ”One access point covers x number of metres, and just beyond …”

In the years after paper and compasses, a great deal of time was used on AP-on-a-stick site surveys. Basically, taking an access point connected to a telescope pole and measuring its coverage of the office, then moving the access point and measuring again. The advantage was that the access point was physically in the actual environment, and you got pretty correct measurements. The disadvantage was that you only saw a small part of the radio design at a time (one access point) and of course, it took days to go through an entire building.

Simulated designs

In recent years, simulated radio design has increasingly taken over. Simulated design is based on a scaled drawing which is filled with information about materials and attenuation. An access point and antennae are then selected from a list which contains more or less all manufacturers on the market, big and small. The advantages are that it is fast and agile. It is easy to change an antenna and see how it will affect the expected coverage, overlap and capacity of a given area. And you have a total overview of the whole design in 3D. The disadvantage is that the simulator is only as good as the information you feed it.

And this is where Ekahau comes into the picture. Ekahau Site Survey in my eyes, is one of the absolute best tools for simulating Enterprise wireless designs. Also, Ekahau Site Survey is brilliant for making Site Surveys, called floor walks, and documenting how it looks in terms of coverage, noise, channels, interference, etc.
Until autumn 2017 this was done by connecting a couple of USB adapters to your laptop, holding it in your arms and sliding rug after rug. Luckily, after just a few hours your laptop would lose battery power just in time for a well-deserved break.

Floor Walkman

But in autumn 2017 Ekahau announced Sidekick. “Sidekick,” you say? Yes! All wireless superheroes need a Sidekick.

Sidekick looks very much like a Discman from the 90s, but don’t be fooled. It contains two high-performance 802.11a/b/g/n/ac wireless adapters, dual band spectrum analyzer and enough battery capacity for 8 hours of Site Survey. And I forgot to mention that the spectrum analyzer is 4-10x faster than other WiFi spectrum analyzers.

Conscia has been using Ekahau’s software for many years now. We have delivered a number of RF designs and AP Installation Guides for projects with our customers. At the beginning of 2017 we put 12 customers through a 4-day course instructed by Keith Parsons, at our premises in Brøndby, and they left in good cheer as Ekahau Certified Survey Engineers.

At the beginning of 2018 we officially became a Ekahau-partner and reseller.

Want to see a demo of Ekahau Site Survey Pro, Sidekick or simply know more about Ekahau? Get in touch with us

By Ralph Olsen, Systems Engineer, Conscia
Ralph Olsen is a man of experience in networks, and since 2000 he has worked as a network architect for both LAN and Wireless. Over the years Ralph has acquired a plethora of certifications, and he is now CCDE-, CCIE-, and CWNE-certified.Certifications: CCDE #20180014, CCIE #20652 R&S and Wireless, CWNE #246.