Data from the Centre for Cities has found that footfall in UK cities is at just 17% of pre-lockdown levels in the first two weeks of August, making it clear that workers have yet to return to the office. Now though, with a major push from the UK government to encourage staff back into the office we may start to see things change. However, while we could soon see busier city centers, offices will have to be reshaped around the new societal norms we now have in play. One of the areas set for the biggest change is that of Wi-Fi. Social distancing measures coupled with increased video conferencing calls are set to put a huge strain on the connectivity and Wi-Fi networks that businesses depend on.
The importance of good connectivity was recently highlighted too in research from Zen Internet which estimates that employees could be losing as much as 72 minutes of work a day from slow connections alone. It is no wonder then, that connectivity and Wi-Fi in particular are being moved up the business agenda. However, before signing off on a new project and investing in a new Wi-Fi network, businesses must carefully plan and assess their needs. So to get started with the planning process, here are the first six questions you should ask:
Do I really need a tailor-made Wi-Fi network?
Absolutely. Your Wi-Fi network is only as good as the planning you put into it. For instance, it’s worth mapping out your business focus areas and understanding the geography of your working space. This can include looking at the physical make-up of an office such as how thick and dense the walls are or how densely populated the space is. It’s equally important to know the main applications and users’ needs. For example, laptops have stronger built-in antennas than mobile phones, so if your users are predominantly using mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, you will need to factor this into your network planning. All of this will help you avoid network traffic jams. Using predictive modelling platforms will help you visualize your network deployment. Finally, once your design criteria is laid out, always do a post-deployment survey to ascertain its efficiency and make sure your Wi-Fi network works for you.
Do I need a better WiFi network?
When poor connectivity impacts productivity, it is time to review your network. An efficient Wi-Fi network can be an all too important competitive differentiator, especially in the current environment as it impacts your employees and customers experience on a day-to-day basis.
What is Wi-Fi 6 and do I need it?
Wi-Fi 6 (otherwise called 802.11ax) is the latest standard in Wi-Fi. It offers better speed but this is just the beginning. It has superior efficiency; by splitting out Wi-Fi channels, more devices can use the network at the same time with minimal interference. The more widely it is adopted, the bigger the benefits will be. However, Wi-Fi 6 alone will not necessarily result in a better connectivity experience. Good network design is required for it to operate effectively This is why planning and working with providers who can aid this process is so important.
Which businesses are most impacted by the effectiveness of their Wi-Fi network?
High-density environments, like warehouses are especially in need of good Wi-Fi networks. With multiple autonomous robots connected to a network, the sheer density of connections can put a strain on the effectiveness of a Wi-Fi network, and impact business flow and productivity. Multi-tenanted buildings are another example of high-density Wi-Fi networks, only this time much of it is out of your control. Having good analysis and design tools can help you overcome the challenges of “Wi-Fi Noisy” neighbors and help you to be a courteous neighbor too.
What does standard Wi-Fi performance look like?
Two key vectors for measuring any Wi-Fi performance are mobility and coverage. The overall performance is dependent on the applications being used, however around three to five Mbps, and 25 devices per access point is the average. Any increase in applications and devices requiring Wi-Fi bandwidth and low latency, such as those we have seen since the start of the pandemic, will drive the need to adopt the latest standards and deploy better network designs.
Why not just wait until Wi-Fi gets upgraded again?
Wi-Fi environments should be active, not static. Many things do and will change following your initial design and professional implementation. These changes will range anywhere from the physical configuration of space to new networks being set up nearby, or even as users troubleshoot their connectivity issues. Therefore, using tools that measure user experience quality, as well as making regular assessments and updates are a necessity.
The move to reopen offices in a safe and socially distant way is an opportunity that businesses should not overlook. Taking the time now to map, plan and install the right Wi-Fi network will help with productivity and begin the transition to the next normal and future proof business in a way that has never been possible before. The technology and tools to do this are here and ready to help your business build the Wi-Fi network it now needs.
- Rob Clark, Director, Technologies and Solutions Development at Nuvias.
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