Tech Talk with Wireless Nick: What is the Perfect Wireless Design?
Perfection is always something we hear a lot about but we know is almost impossible to achieve. The perfect game in baseball, an undefeated season, completing Super Mario Bros. with a single life. It is hard to get there, but a few have over the years. But what makes the perfect wireless design and how do you go about doing it?
Wireless designs and deployments are as varied as the engineers that implement them. Those of us that have been doing this for 20 years or more are definitely set in our ways and have our little tricks and trade secrets on how we look to do configurations, etc. We all have best practices we stick with, RRM configurations for Cisco, antenna combinations for stadiums, making pretty designs in Ekahau. All of this adds to our diversity as individuals. This has never been more apparent than sitting in a room with more than a dozen of the brightest at Ekahau Masters while having 30-minute debates over the simplest things. But that is what makes our industry and community so special. We can have people from three different manufacturers, people from competing service organizations, and strong personalities in general come together, disagree vehemently with one another, and then have a drink afterwards and laugh until we cry. If all of this is the case, and this group of people cannot even agree, how can we actually put a box around what a perfect design is?
I think our friend Sam Clements puts it best with the most well known quote in the industry, “It Depends”. A perfect design depends on so much. Yes, the RF and physics are important, but what about the other issues we are trying to solve for? Did we capture the customers requirements and actually listen to what their problem is and what their version of success looks like? Did we make the least-capable device work properly?
If you keep up with the community I am sure you have heard Keith Parsons say at some point or another that if you meet the customer requirements then it is a success. You do not have to deploy the latest and greatest of everything all the time to make this true. Just because a customer comes to you and says they need to have an ax network, do they really? Our jobs are to help them understand what is out there, how wireless actually works, and to listen to what their problems are and advise them on how to deploy a system to address those problems.
I know this sounds like blasphemy, but think about how many times you have seen something on BadFi or in life in general and said you could have done that so much better. But do you know the requirements or constraints the customer put on the engineer? There have definitely been times I have installed something in a way I was not happy about, but I had limitations put on me by the customer around aesthetics, etc. and had to do the best I could. The same goes for designs and configurations. I may look at a configuration someone else completed and say, "What were they thinking?" but I was not in the meeting with the customer to get the requirements for the network and to hear what problem they were looking to solve. When I meet with a customer during a kickoff for a remediation or a new network, I always ask the same questions. I may repeat a couple of those questions because during the course of those meetings, you may get different answers from the customer, or new things may come up that were not apparent at the beginning. This is where we start to design the perfect wireless network.
There is a lot of discussion these days about what number CWNE someone is, or what version of the IE you are studying for. I am all for certifications, but don’t make the mistake of putting your knowledge and understanding ahead of the customer’s needs. In my opinion, when you do that, no matter what it might look to others, you have created the perfect wireless network. Because it was for that customer and that customer alone.