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Aotearoa People's Network

Choosing the best location for your wifi aerial

Location is one of the most important factors to consider when it comes to providing a good, strong, wifi signal.

There are several pieces of equipment that work together to make APNK wifi happen but today we'll be looking at the WAP. The WAP (or Wireless Access Point) is the device that actually broadcasts the wireless signal that is then "received" by laptops, smartphones, tablets and so on.

Placement of the WAP can have a signficant effect on how well wifi-enabled devices in the area pick up the signal. A weak signal can result in loss of connection and this can be very frustrating for customers (and consequently for the staff members who they end up asking for help).

So where in your library should you position your WAP? Here are our tips -

The higher, the better

As a rule, the higher you can place your WAP or wifi aerial within your building the greater range it will have. Ideally wifi users will have a "line of sight" with the WAP. In the same way that you want users to be able to see library signage, you also want their devices to be able to "see" the WAP.

Mind you, height isn't the only thing you have to consider. Take this example, for instance.

A WAP sitting on top of a high library shelf

Here the WAP is definitely up high enough. The wifi signal will be able to clear the the tall metal bookshelves without difficulty. Unfortunately, its strongest signal will be to the wifi users living in the ceiling, of which I'm sure there aren't many. Which leads us to the next tip.

Point your WAP in the right direction

There are different models around but most of the WAPs in APNK libraries are rounded flying saucer devices that are flat on one side. The flat side is made to sit flush against a wall, ceiling or other fixture that it might be mounted on. This side doesn't emit much wifi signal so ideally it should point away from where you want your wifi signal to go.

Let's have a look at a really good place to position this WAP in a library.

A side wall pointing into towards the main area of the library

The arrow indicates a position on a wall of the library. It's high enough that most of the public area will be covered. Behind this wall is a staff area where wifi isn't really needed so it doesn't matter too much that there won't be a strong signal in that direction.

The following isn't such a good option.

WAP on side of library shelf pointing towards an exterior wall

This WAP is mounted on the side of a shelf. It's not quite high enough for really good coverage, but more importantly it's pointing directly towards a concrete external wall. Relatively few wifi users will be able to pick up a good signal from a WAP placed here.

Avoid obstacles

A WAP works best when it's got some room to breathe. WAPs can broadcast through walls but the more obstacles between a wifi device and the WAP, the weaker the signal, so be aware of concrete pillars, tall shelves, corners or other barriers.

This is probably the worst place to put your WAP.

WAP on the floor under a desk

Surrounded on all sides by obstructions, this floor-WAP might be conveniently placed for the person who has to plug it in, since it's handy to power points and network cables, but it's going to give a terrible signal... unless you happen to be sitting in the wastepaper basket. It's also likely to get kicked or trodden on. Another reason that up high is best.

Make sure it's not in the way

As we saw in the picture above, a WAP on the floor is more likely to get damaged than one that is safely out of harm's way. So another thing to consider is whether the device or the cable that plugs into it is likely to be knocked, bumped or tripped over. Any of these can damage the device or cause it to loose connection or power.

WAP on a service desk

Though it may be tempting to place a WAP on a service desk, it's much more likely to be accidentally unplugged or have something spilled on it here. It's also not up very high so its range is lessened.

Where are your wifi users?

Wifi users tend to congregate in areas where seating is available, especially if there are public-use power points too. So you'll want to make sure that these areas have good wifi coverage.

WAP mounted on the ceiling directly above desks

In the picture above, the arrow indicates the ideal position for a WAP - on the ceiling, pointing down towards the interior of the building, and directly above the main public seating area. A WAP placed here should have a good signal through most of the building but will be especially good in the spot the most wifi users will gravitate to.

We'd recommend against positioning a WAP in a back room or staff only area as this usually places walls between it and the people who want to make use of it.

Hopefully this has helped you identify the best spot in your library for optimal wifi signal.

Want to know more about APNK wifi? Then you might be interested in:

Thursday, June 27, 2013

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