Jun 14 2023

5 Elements of a University Wi-Fi Site Survey

Before upgrading your network, it’s essential to understand how the Wi-Fi is being used on campus.

In the ever-evolving world of higher education, reliable, fast and secure Wi-Fi has become a necessity. Universities are dynamic environments filled with bustling classrooms, residence halls, labs and sprawling green spaces, all requiring seamless wireless connectivity.

Planning for a Wi-Fi upgrade requires a thorough understanding of the campus landscape. This is where the Wi-Fi site survey comes into play. Here are five steps universities can take to conduct a detailed site survey of their existing infrastructure.

Connected Community ToC image


1. Assess the Physical Environment

A site survey is much like a blueprint for architects. It starts with a map of the campus, which is essentially a bird’s-eye view of where all the buildings and open spaces are located. Knowing the campus layout offers a better understanding of where to set up Wi-Fi access points. Students working on assignments or faculty doing research can become frustrated by constant network disruptions. This can happen if the Wi-Fi signal is obstructed by physical structures like walls or metal objects.

Every university is unique, with varied architectural elements, building materials, and geographic layouts that can significantly impact Wi-Fi signal strength and coverage.

By conducting a site survey, network teams can identify potential obstacles and plan the correct placement of access points. This process ensures reliable Wi-Fi coverage and prevents signal interference, setting the stage for a seamless transition to Wi-Fi 6.

2. Evaluate Current Network Infrastructure

The site survey should include an in-depth assessment of the existing network infrastructure. This involves reviewing current devices, access point locations, cables and available network resources. It’s crucial to understand the current setup to identify any inefficiencies or bottlenecks that need to be addressed.

DIG DEEPER: Consider these design issues before upgrading to Wi-Fi 6E.

With such important information in hand, universities can make the necessary network upgrades. Determining the type and quantity of new equipment necessary depends on the campus layout, number of users and device types. The site survey helps map out these elements and allows universities to invest in the right equipment, such as access points, antennas and routers. It also ensures that the network can handle high traffic and provide robust coverage across campus.

3. Identify User Density and Application Requirements

Today’s universities are more than just physical spaces. They are data-dense environments with users running multiple devices and apps simultaneously. From videoconferencing tools to learning management systems, universities need a Wi-Fi network that can handle high-density use without affecting performance.

That’s why it’s important to evaluate user density, or how many people will be using the Wi-Fi and where they will be located. For example, will the Wi-Fi serve a large lecture hall with hundreds of students using connected devices or a small classroom with only 10 students?

Network teams must consider the kinds of devices people are using — laptops, smartphones or tablets — so they can tailor the Wi-Fi setup to handle them all. Additionally, universities should know what people are doing on the Wi-Fi. Some might just be browsing the internet, while others might be streaming high-definition video. Different apps have different Wi-Fi requirements, so universities need to plan for that too.

Click the banner below to learn more about how to get your campus network up to speed.

4. Conduct Heat Mapping, Testing and Optimization

With the physical assessment completed and user requirements identified, the next step is creating a heat map. This map helps visualize Wi-Fi signal coverage and strength across the entire campus. It involves a series of signal tests from various access point locations to create a detailed propagation model. Heat maps also can help pinpoint dead zones, identify interference issues and suggest optimal access point placement during a network upgrade.

Next comes optimization, which is much like tuning a musical instrument. Optimization could involve adjusting access point locations, altering network settings or replacing underperforming equipment. This step ensures that the network gets the best possible performance and that everything is working as planned.

5. Develop a Deployment Plan

After the site survey, universities should create a comprehensive deployment plan. It should cover all the elements discussed above, plus security measures such as encryption, authentication and access control. The plan also should include a budget and a timeline for the installation and any upcoming upgrades.

Finally, the Wi-Fi site survey should anticipate future growth and innovation. A successful site survey involves future-proofing the network. It should take into consideration things such as capacity planning for increasing user densities, emerging tech trends and potential university expansion.

A Wi-Fi site survey is the cornerstone of a successful Wi-Fi upgrade. Without a comprehensive site survey, universities run the risk of poor network performance, insufficient coverage and connectivity issues. By assessing the physical environment, evaluating the current infrastructure, identifying user and application requirements, creating a heat map, and developing a future-proof strategy, universities can ensure their Wi-Fi networks are prepared for the demands of tomorrow.

Getty Images: busracavus (puzzle), Olga Ubirailo (line), uschools (building)

Learn from Your Peers

What can you glean about security from other IT pros? Check out new CDW research and insight from our experts.