Basic WAP Installation Guidelines You Need to Know

October 16, 2019 | Blue Wave Communications

Every modern organization needs to provide stable and secure internet access to their employees, guests, students, customers/clients, etc. Modern consumers (and even employees) have come to take Internet access for granted. Wireless connections, in particular, have become a standard expectation for many.

Wireless access points (WAPs) provide a convenient method of connecting people to the internet. A WAP allows for multiple wireless connections between people and web-based resources. Though, ironically enough, even wireless access points require data cables to connect the wireless network to the world wide web.

The Difference between Wireless Local Area Networks and Mobile Wireless Technology

It’s important to note that there is a major difference between the local area network (LAN) created with a WAP installation and mobile wireless technology offered by a cellular carrier. Cellular carrier networks offer a connection method over a large area using 3G, 4G, or LTE (long-term evolution) data connections that are routed through a cell phone tower, then relayed to the wider internet from there.

Meanwhile, WAPs create a wireless local area network that is generally confined to a smaller area. The advantage of WAPs over using cellular data is often that the wireless network of the access point is free for users to access, whereas a cellular network may cost money to use (unless they’re on an unlimited data plan, in which case they may face data throttling after hitting a certain data limit).

Additionally, not all mobile devices have a cellular data option at an affordable cost—requiring users to employ a mobile hotspot device or to rely on local wireless networks. So, it’s important for organizations of all kinds to provide a wireless network option.

Here are a few WAP installation guidelines to help you optimize your access point installation and return on investment for wireless networks.

How Many Wireless Access Points Do You Need & Where Should You Put Them?

When planning a WAP installation, it’s important to carefully consider how many access points you should have in a structure and where they should be placed to ensure consistent wireless connections throughout the facility. To do this, you need the following information:

  • The size and shape of the coverage area in square feet;
  • Layout of the area and which construction materials the walls use;
  • The total number of wireless users you can expect during peak use; and
  • The application/throughput requirements per user.

For example, if you want to cover a larger area with thick walls, odds are that you’ll need to install more wireless access points to ensure consistent coverage and connection. If you’re expecting to have a lot of people who use data-intensive applications, you’ll probably need more access points with higher data transfer speeds to avoid slowdown and other issues with the wireless connection (keep in mind that the data cables you use to connect WAPs to the internet may also be a limiting factor).

Prior to selecting where your WAP installation points will be, consider conducting a predictive survey and/or on-site survey with a professional to determine what your needs are.

Having a professional assess conditions at the WAP installation site can give you a much clearer picture of how many wireless access points your facility needs, as well as provide optimal placement tips to ensure smooth and stable connections throughout the facility. As an added bonus, a professional installer can help you assess your projected consumption as your organization grows so you can future-proof your WAP installations—avoiding having to make an expensive upgrade or new installation when needs increase.

In the absence of the above information and assessments, a good general rule of thumb is that there should be at least one WAP device installed in a honeycomb pattern for every 1,600 square feet of floor space. However, this rule of thumb does not account for any interference from walls or objects that may be in a facility.

Getting the Data Cables Right for WAP Installation

One of the most frequently-forgotten elements of any wireless network installation is the need for data cables to carry traffic from the wireless access point to the network switches typically installed in the Telecommunications Room (TR). Here are a few basic guidelines for specifying data cabling for a WAP installation:

  1. Consider the Data Rate of the Cable. A data cable should support, at a minimum, a data rate of 1Gbps (1 gigabit per second) to accommodate data transfer speed requirements to the network switches. Ideally, data cables should be able to accommodate even higher data rates (such as 10Gbps) to allow for increasing bandwidth demands.

  2. Verify the Current Carrying Capacity of Data Cables. Aside from carrying data, cables used for a wireless access point must also be capable of handling electrical current sufficient to meet “Power over Ethernet” (PoE) standards. This allows for the installation of extra equipment without requiring extra electrical infrastructure (though there are limits to PoE power). Legacy PoE standards provides for 15.4 Watts of power to a single Powered Device (PD). Current standards provide for 30 Watts per PD and newer standards can provide for 60W or more. Therefore, it is important to make sure the cables installed to each WAP device are capable of supporting these higher wattages.

  3. Follow TSB-162A Requirements. TSB-162A is a TIA bulletin that establishes guidelines for telecommunications cabling for wireless access points. Within TSB-162A, it is noted that Category 6A twisted pair cabling or OM3 optical fiber cabling is recommended for wireless LANs, among other recommendations. Following these guidelines can help to ensure a smooth WAP installation and ongoing stability for an installed wireless network.

  4. Think about Both Current and Future Network Needs. When provisioning cables, consider both your current and projected network needs. Installing just the minimum required amount of cabling now can lead to performance problems and expensive reinstallation work in the future as your needs grow and upgrades are implemented.

  5. Leave Some Room for Slack in Cable Allocations. When using the square footage rule of thumb listed earlier, or even when using a predictive survey, it’s important to leave some slack in the provisioned data cables on the device side. This allows the WAP device to be relocated if the on-site survey determines that it needs to be relocated elsewhere for optimum performance.

  6. Consider Your Cable Termination Options at the WAP Device End. There are a couple of different ways to terminate cables for a wireless network device:

    1. Traditional Method. This uses a standard females RJ5 jack that requires patch cables to connect to the actual WAP device.

    2. Direct Connection Method. This method uses a male RJ45 plug to connect directly to the WAP device—eliminating the need for patch cables.

  7. Verify if You Need Shielded Cabling. As the name implies, Shielded Twisted Pair cable (STP) has a shielding layer that helps to minimize alien crosstalk and other outside interference that can negatively impact performance.

Need help with provisioning cables for a WAP installation? Want to know more about the different requirements for a wireless network? Reach out to the Blue Wave team for information and advice.

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