Category Archives: antennas

Ventev Knows- What a Difference That Antenna Makes

Have you ever designed a WLAN for a stadium? Ever taken a tour a of a top-tier professional stadium that has just had a a new wireless network installed throughout? I’ve done both, and the challenges of stadium WLAN have to be experienced before you can fully appreciate them. Regardless of what WLAN vendor you use on the radio side, you have to get the signals to where they need to be and to manage their fidelity in an environment that has great potential to devolve into an RF cesspool during events. Antennas- and their placement- are the keys to success, Daddy-o.

There are only so many places you can stick access points and antennas in a stadium environment’s fan seating areas. Depending on the venue, you might get great bleed-out/in between the bowl area and the concourses and office areas where different WLANs are likely to be found. Then there is the sheer volume of client devices, the other RF systems on and around the field, and whatever hotspot noisemakers fans and media show up with. Precision placement, alignment, and antenna patterns are the stuff of stadium wireless networks, and it’s all gotta be done in a way that protects the WLAN gear and rowdy fans from each other.

Lately, I’ve been fortunate to spend a little time on multiple occasions with Dennis Burrell of Ventev talking about antennas and his work designing them for challenging environments. Let’s have a look at one of Ventev’s specialty solutions, straight from Soldier Field (home of the NFL’s Chicago Bears):

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And now a cutaway of that “handrail enclosure”:

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If it’s not obvious, the advantage here is that the antennas are not below the seats or at some far-away overhead mounting location, but rather at waist-height with more clear lines of sight into the adjacent seating rows, shooting in two directions out of one enclosure. You can read more about the 275 of these units at Soldier Field here.

It’s fascinating to see the stadium challenges get answered by people like Burrell who have the talent, know-how, and empowerment to do what needs to be done. I also wrote this recently, which will lead you to many more of Ventev’s stadium projects.

Finally- let’s see what you might now about the stadium Wi-Fi market. Any idea how many large venues are “out there”? My past blog “What’s the Big Deal With Stadium Wi-Fi?” will help you to appreciate this fascinating space. And in this space, you can bet that the WLAN designers and owners appreciate Ventev’s contributions.

 

How Does Ekahau ESS Stay Current For APs and Antennas?

EkahauSo I’m sitting on a bench at the mall, and this guy plops down on the other end. I can hear him sobbing a little. I’m thinking “poor bastard, must be a death in the family, or his wife split…” But then I hear his kid about 10 feet away say to a pal “my dad is a complete loser- he doesn’t even know how the world’s best Wi-Fi survey and planning tool gets updated for new APs and antennas!”

Then it hit me like a ton of bricks: I really don’t know how it happens, either. I’m a loser too!

But there’s a big difference between me and Sobby Bench Guy. He’s not a gonzo bloggist with a license to ask the tough questions. That’s my turf, and that’s just what I did to get my mind right on the topic. I put on my Interrogator Fez and went gunning for everyone’s favorite European guy, Jussi Kiviniemi. Sure, he’s Ekahau’s VP of Wi-Fi Tools, but I don’t mind running in those circles now and then. I grilled Dr. J pretty good, and he gave me what I was looking for. Read on.

Q. How long does it take to get a new WLAN AP or antenna added to ESS, once Ekahau
has the technical information?
Jussi: Depending on load & urgency, it takes 1 day to 3 weeks to get it done. It’ll be published in next sw release (sw updates about every 2 months).

Q. Does Ekahau have a strategy for retiring old APs or antennas from the software
Jussi: Good question. Not really. Happens organically through Wi-Fi vendor acquisitions. We actually should probably take out the 802.11b stuff if we haven’t already 😉

Q.  How does Ekahau find out about new APs/antennas from the major vendors?
Jussi: It varies. Today, they often send the new or upcoming stuff proactively. That’s good for their business too. If not, we ask. Often customers ask us, then we ask the vendor. 

Q.  Why is it advantageous for vendors to get their stuff into ESS?
Jussi: A lot of their partners use our tool (we are tool of choice for Cisco, Aruba, Aerohive,…). And they often want to design using the actual stuff as it is more accurate. 

Q.  What’s the oddest antenna you’ve seen in ESS?
Jussi: At first, the Xirrus arrays were different. I wish we had the planner already back in the Vivato days, that would have been interesting. Also, the Ventev floor mount stuff is refreshing. 

Q.  Any other thoughts on the topic of adding products to ESS?
Jussi: I highly encourage the public and vendors to contact us to tell us which APs or antennas they are missing. It’s a free service to add them. Twitter, web site form or wifidesign@ekahau.com all work. 

We also add things like multi-SSID MAC combining as one radio, and multiple radios into one physical AP.  This requires specs from vendors too. 

And there you have it. Just a little behind-the-scenes information on how a great tool stays fresh. I’ll echo Jussi’s last point: if you see something missing, give Ekahau a shout to get the program updated. ESS is huge tool in the WLAN industry’s toolbox, so keeping it current is a win for everyone.

Additional Resources:

 

Look Beyond Your WLAN Vendor for Antenna Options

Look, Sport- you might get Wi-Fi… But do you really get ANTENNAS? (Maybe you frau-frau types call them aerials… whatever- go drink your Earl Grey and chill out.) If talk of wavelengths, gain, polarity, and the science of turning electrical signals into RF waves bores you, then move along. Stick with your cute little dipoles and be on your way. But if antennas jazz you, and you understand that this important tip of the communications spear can mold and shape your output and reception in the most incredible ways, well then I have some names to drop in your general direction.

Antennas have played a prominent role throughout my adult life. From my decade stint working and teaching Electronic Warfare to the years of subjecting my wife and kids to my latest homebrew ham radio antenna, I’ve learned much about the power of this component. That power is often overlooked in Wi-Fi, where many of my fellow WLAN professionals deal exclusively in captive antennas (the ones that you can’t see because they’re built in to the access point). But when it’s time to venture into the realm of external antennas, you have real choices. And those choices extend beyond the antenna options provided by your Wi-Fi vendor. Let’s talk about that bigger range of choices.

Get More Possibilities, And Maybe Save Some Money

External antennas add to the cost of any Wi-Fi installation. That’s just a fact of life. But the antenna vendors I’m about to mention just might save you a good buck over your incumbent Wi-Fi vendor, while providing interesting alternatives for a range of deployment scenarios. It’s what they do.

  • Ventev  all kinds of cool stuff going on. After all, these are the Terrawave folks that long-time WLANers are likely familiar with. From comprehensive site-survey kits to antennas for any “normal” situations to funky-cool offerings like their raised floor antennas, Ventev is worth being familiar with when you need a creative antenna solution.
  • AccelTex also makes a slew of Wi-Fi accessories and antennas for many industries and pretty much any application. Here’s an excellent video done at the 2016 Wireless LAN Professionals Conference, by Brian Smith of AccelTex on the topic of Dual Polarity Antennas in High Density Wireless Environments. As with Ventev, AccelTex offers many, many options and keeps current with leading WLAN vendors hardware.
  • Then there’s PCTelJust another interesting antenna vendor with a lot to offer.

Typically, when you shop for antennas you can usually find the exact (or pretty darn close) antenna that your WLAN vendor sells for a given application at a decent price from either Ventev, AccelTex or PCTel. If you buy a lot of antennas, the savings can add up. But you also get more than you pay for in that each of these antenna makers puts out top-quality gear.

Maybe antennas aren’t the most exciting things out there, but they are critical in Wi-Fi. If you’re out looking for antennas beyond the standard omni, it usually means that the success of your scenario will depend on the antenna choice and placement you decide on. Placement is up to you, and even the best antennas are at the mercy of the designer/installer for performance. But antenna choices? You have more than you may have realized. Check these companies out.