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Should you bother with site surveys?

Jul 14, 20032 mins
Cellular NetworksNetwork SecurityWi-Fi

* Falling costs, automation could nix site surveys

It was evident at the recent 802.11 Planet conference and exhibition in Boston that the wireless LAN industry is still undergoing some technology transitions. While tutorials instructed attendees how to conduct site surveys, sessions down the hall advised not to bother with the surveys at all.

“When wireless access points [AP] cost $2,000 to $3,000 apiece, it was an economic imperative to have technicians walk the floors to determine absolute optimal placement,” asserted Craig Mathias, principal of Farpoint Group, a wireless consultancy, at a “State of the Equipment Market” session at the show.

“However, [with APs down to $250 to $600 apiece] it is now cheaper to just add an AP or two in a given area [to boost performance] than to spring for the survey costs,” Mathias said.

Meanwhile, a number of AP makers – including Airespace, Aruba Wireless, and Trapeze Networks, as well as WLAN “overlay” companies such as AirMagnet, AirDefense, AirWave, Wavelink, Wireless Valley and others – offer tools that reduce or eliminate the manual labor required to determine where to install APs.

Emerging component vendors described in last week’s newsletters are improving the range and throughput of APs by enabling them to automatically adjust to network conditions and avoid interference. Similarly, another new component company, Cognio, announced its Intelligent Spectrum Management (ISM) technology at the 802.11 Planet event. ISM identifies and mitigates RF interference. 

“If you understand the nature of interference, you can come up with a better treatment for it,” said Naresh Baliga, Cognio’s vice president of marketing.

All these efforts add up to enabling APs to “optimize themselves,” rendering site surveys less important.

One neophyte WLAN customer, though, says the real impetus behind eliminating site surveys is dual-band APs that support multimode 802.11a/b/g connections. We’ll take a look at that customer’s installation next time.