Vela Blog WiFi

RF Design in the Age of Social Distancing

Velaspan's innovative approach to site surveys during the pandemic.

The importance of site surveys to RF design can’t be overstated. Beyond testing and mapping radio frequency coverage, site surveys offer engineers an in-person look at other key factors that drive wireless design: Building materials, ceiling types, aesthetics, user density, and space usage.

Cue COVID-19. Travel and social limitations and Velaspan’s own cautionary measures have made in-person site surveys challenging if not impossible to complete

Meanwhile, not all business has ground to a halt. Some industries (manufacturing, consumer goods, distribution, healthcare) are growing, not slowing. Areas considered essential are operating at full tilt. High performance wireless is as critical – if not more critical – than before.

But those aren’t the only businesses thinking about Wi-fi during a pandemic. Many non-essential businesses want to take advantage of empty buildings by having networks assessed and upgraded now, when work won’t be disrupted. Beyond obvious benefits, acting now lets them outpace equipment shortages and delays that are predicted to strike when social distancing mandates lift and new deployments begin to return to a pre-COVID pace.

The question becomes, then: How can we design wireless networks without site surveys? How can engineers familiarize themselves with physical spaces they cannot see in-person?

Velaspan has found a way.

At its core is predictive modeling – the use of software to predict network performance, and in-turn the number and ideal placement of network access points, all based on simulated data. Under normal circumstances, predictive modeling precedes an onsite survey as part of the larger design process for facilitating a construction schedule. In this age of social distancing, we are leaning on predictive modeling more heavily, refining it with practices and techniques that compensate for the fidelity typically lost in the absence of an in-person site survey. 

Luckily, the primary predictive modeling tools used by Velaspan (Ekehau and iBwave) have improved dramatically in recent years. While not a 1:1 substitute for site surveys, when supplemented by photos, live and pre-recorded video tours, building plans, virtual tours, collaboration, consulting, and meaningful communication, they allow Velaspan to design clients’ networks remotely, without surveying facilities in-person.

Do the results always meet our usual standards? No. It’s why networks installed and upgraded mid-pandemic will undergo validation surveys and post-install site surveys later on – ideally, once shelter-at-home mandates loosen but before people return to buildings en masse. At that point we will refine and optimize the design for peak performance. 

With Velaspan, RF design is feasible even in this age of social distancing and stay-at-home orders. Out of necessity, Velaspan has created reliable workarounds, letting clients track toward high performance wireless even during a global pandemic, when site surveys aren’t a safe option.

Velaspan are experts at RF Design, contact us today to discuss your network’s needs.

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