Supporting your Wi-Fi - what are the best practices for cabling?

Supporting your Wi-Fi - what are the best practices for cabling?

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When it comes to convenience in our always-on society, Wi-Fi is difficult to beat. It means we're able to check emails, stream video content and make conference calls wherever the little symbol emulating a broadcast appears.

However, one thing that can be extremely frustrating for anyone who uses Wi-Fi for business is the potential quality of the signal within different buildings. Wireless devices can sometimes fail to register any signal at all, while other times, it's possible to see bars yet not actually be able to connect to the network.

This can be costly from a business perspective. For example, if professionals need a wireless network to pull up client information instantly and their device won't connect, it could reflect poorly on the company's customer service reputation.

Wireless Access Points

To get around this, a wireless access point system (AP) is often necessary. This creates a wireless local area network (WLAN) for a whole office or building. Each AP connects to a wired router or hub using an Ethernet cable and then projects Wi-Fi to designated areas.

For instance, if a router isn't in range at a company's reception area, an AP can be installed near the front desk that connects to the server room via an Ethernet cable through the ceiling. They can also be useful in conference rooms so nearby APs aren't strained during busy meetings.

APs can handle more than 60 simultaneous connections, meaning that when they're connected to a whole system of them, users can wander virtually anywhere they like in a building while their devices shift from one AP to the next without dropping the signal.

As such, they're ideal for large offices and buildings where staff need to have Wi-Fi access at all times.

Cabling infrastructure necessities

However, AP can only succeed with the correct cabling infrastructure in place to support it. If you're considering an AP system, Annex A.3 of the ISO/IEC 11801-6 standard provides guidelines that will need to be met to support Wi-Fi and other wireless applications.

Let's take a brief look at just a few of the necessary factors to support APs.

1. Distance

Within the standards, cabling designers will see a list of average indoor ranges that will cover a typical grid, i.e. the radius of each AP.
Designers will need to measure the distance they need to cover within their buildings and then determine where each service outlet (SO) and AP should be placed for sufficient coverage.

2. Bandwidth

Linked to distance but slightly different is bandwidth: the category of cabling must provide sufficient bandwidth to support applications (and remember: with developments like 5G rapidly coming in, they should be future-proof too).
Two category 6A cables should be installed to each SO to support an AP. Each cable will provide channels supporting 10Gbps of bandwidth to 100 metres, so 20Gbps for each AP. 

3. Building design

Finally, remember that building design and construction methods can greatly impact Wi-Fi signal penetration. Cabling designers will need to take into account factors such as ceiling height, as service loops may be necessary in offices with very high ceilings.

ANSI/TIA standards mean systems will fail if horizontal cables exceed 90 metres - and ceiling drops must take this into account, for example.

Similarly, very thick walls may require additional APs around them to prevent the signal dropping out.

Whether you've got a new office that you're looking to fit with cabling or you wish to upgrade an existing building, having a well-planned cable network can make all the difference when it comes to supporting wireless infrastructure and ensuring employees can get their jobs done seamlessly.

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