Why smart antenna is the clever choice for high density Wi-Fi

Wireless networking is becoming more important for all kinds of organisations. In schools and colleges, hotels and cafes, retail outlets and other public places, there is a need to provide secure access for a constant stream of guests. In business too, Wi-Fi access is an essential every-day tool. Staff need and expect to be able to access the network and the web wherever they are in the building, as will any visitors.

Often, each user will connect with several devices and they may be using their connections to access cloud-based apps and services, take part in video conferences and make voice calls. At all times, they will expect stable, reliable and clear connectivity. And they’ll expect it everywhere.

As the number of associations and the richness of the content rises, increased strain is placed on the network and performance may start to degrade. At this point, the obvious answer is simply to throw more access points at the problem.

But increasing the density of APs can also bring some challenges. If you get too many connections trying to run over the same channels, you start to encounter problems with interference. While multi-user MIMO (MU-MIMO) and beamforming are often put forward as a solution, these take a somewhat theoretical approach and the practical performance improvements will be limited, except in all but the most optimal of environments.

To break free of the natural limitations of the available channels and bands, we must find other ways to enhance the speed and stability of wireless connections.

Zyxel’s answer is smart antenna technology. This uses a completely different technique, that constantly checks for the best signal pattern (from the hundreds available) between the user device and the antenna at that moment. This is being reassessed and reassigned every few hundred milli-seconds. As result, when people move around with their devices, they always get strong, reliable performance. Interference is minimised, as every connection is given its own radio pattern, which in turn maximises performance.

Coverage can also be an issue for organisations with a growing need for wireless connections. Up to now there has always been a trade-off between coverage and capacity. To get better performance, you can add more APs. But to avoid interference between them, you may need to turn the power down, which weakens coverage. This is not necessary with smart antenna technology, so you get coverage and higher capacity without any compromise.

Smart antenna technology is also device-agnostic. It does not matter whether you have an old laptop or the very latest smartphone, it will work! With beamforming, you need a device that will support the latest technology and only about 20% of client devices out there at present will do that.

Very few vendors offer any kind of smart antenna technology and Zyxel’s has been proven to be the best available. While there is a premium to pay over standard equipment, Zyxel’s smart antenna products are by far the most affordable on the market.

Smart antenna technology can make a tremendous difference to user experiences, especially in high density environments, such as hotels, conference or exhibition centres, or universities. In fact, just about any organisation that uses Wi-Fi intensively will benefit from deploying smart antenna – if not everywhere, at least in zones where there are likely to be many users with multiple devices who are moving around all the time. It’s certainly an option that’s worthy of serious consideration.