Every enterprise going through a real estate or technology refresh is thinking about ways to enhance the work experience and stimulate the creativity and collaboration of its employees by modernizing the office spaces. One of the key components of modern enterprise space is the ability to provide ubiquitous wireless connectivity that is reliable in every corner of the office. All wireless office spaces or in other words spaces with zero visible ethernet cables have gained momentum in the recent years and some of the implementations I worked on taught me the advantages of deploying directional antennae in place of APs with traditional omnidirectional antennae. In this blog, I will cover a few benefits that could justify the additional costs involved in deploying APs with external directional antennae.
Most modern enterprises have an open office design which is bad for WiFi in terms of Co-Channel interference. Without walls, it is not possible to contain signal from omnidirectional antennae and the client device tends to stick to the associated AP longer than ideal. Following is the coverage from a Mist AP41 with integrated omni directional antennae with EIRP at 14 dBm.
The following is the coverage from a Mist AP41E with AccelTex antennae (ATS-OHDP-245-46-4) having the same EIRP.
The use of directional antennae restricts the signal from propagating farther and creates smaller coverage cells which are critical for high performance in an open office environment. Smaller cells help reduce the co-channel interference especially in large open high-density offices where the number of APs exceed 25 (assuming you are using all 25 channels in 5 GHz). If voice applications are used on the wireless network, we need to avoid using some of the DFS channel which will further decrease the flexibility in channel assignment
Optimal Roaming: One of the top things in the wish list of every Wi-Fi engineer is to be able to have control over client device roaming. Directional antennae although do not provide full control over roaming, the smaller cells designed will encourage client devices more often than omnidirectional APs to be always connected to the closest AP.
Flexibility with channel width assignment: Some of the teams require frequent file transfers and the throughput achieved on 20 MHz channels in most cases is less than desirable. In such areas, 40 MHz channels can be configured without having to worry about the channel reuse patterns.
Aesthetics: Every building architect wants to have a WiFi network with highest performance from invisible APs (of course installed above the ceiling). I always found concealed antennae from vendors like AccelTex and Ventev as a great solution to place APs above the ceiling and install the aesthetically pleasing antennae below the ceiling.
Most modern enterprises need to be treated as high density environments. Granted they are not super dense as an arena or stadium but taking into consideration the business criticality of applications, reliability that needs to be delivered and the increased density of user devices, deploying directional antennae can yield the best results. Depending on the number of users and per user throughput SLA requirement, directional antennae with appropriate beam widths can be chosen to come up with an optimal coverage and capacity design.