By Jim Portaro, Founder and CEO
In 2019 the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) world has exploded into an average of three wireless capable devices per user, and most places we’re being encouraged to connect to the corporate WiFi network. Whether users are bringing their own or using required devices to do their jobs, we are seeing many more connected sessions iPhones, iPads, MacBooks and even Apple Watches. In leading hospitals, college campuses and some of the prominent manufacturers we see sensors and additional connected technologies. It has become necessary for IT infrastructure teams to design and develop an open access network that is secure and delivers the required Quality of Service QoS .
Apple devices constitute a significant presence in the enterprise, but even more, they have pushed the industry on advanced wireless services like Voice over Wireless LAN (VoWLAN), which on a shared medium like WiFi in a critical environment and sometimes life-safety requires RF (physical layer) consideration, planning and expert design. The organizations that simply try to add VoWLAN to an existing network that did not start with an RF Survey and at best was designed for other purposes is usually in a daily network firefight in some part of their facility. And that’s just VoWLAN, additional services like location tracking, imaging, video streaming, mobility, secured texting, high density, performance, indoor, outdoor seamless roaming, security, segmentation, and IoT sensors, cameras and access devices. In some industries and environments there is a “legacy” clients requirement, which also requires legacy data rates, this affects overall bandwidth if it is not managed.
RF-Works maintains detailed best practices for our customer’s network and wireless network administrators related to iOS devices, configuration settings and implementation considerations on an 802.11 WLAN and further breakout for Cisco. Apple and Cisco entered into their first technology partnership in 2015 focused on optimization between the network and iOS devices, but further collaboration continues each year. Best practices are not as important as getting a grip on your environment and on your requirements. They are helpful related to configuration, but getting all your wireless options in place for the best possible service for your “iDevices” given all the different factors that should be considered, that is the approach to “Wireless Done Right” in your environment and for your Users.
One quick look at the Healthcare segment only; Apple is at the forefront of mobile devices in use in Clinical applications, and they are still very focused on this segment with their technologies. We have been privileged to work with Voalte (recently acquired by Hill Rom) since the beginning a decade ago. Voalte reinvented “Clinical Communications” and Apple was their first partner, we helped them for the last 10 years to enhance roaming across Wi-Fi access points (AP). Although it has gotten easier with 802.11r,k&v – we are still one of the best resources in the country if you’re focused on wireless in hospital environments.
Our best practices has general guidance for iPhones 6s and later, iPad Pro and later, IPad 5th generation and later. Devices using iOS 10 or later, with new features such as Adaptive 802.11r, 802.11k and 802.11v, secure authentication, WLC AireOS8.3 or later and optionally QoS Fastlane.
Summary of RF-Works Recommendations
- Perform a current RF Survey in your environment with consideration for current & future devices, services and overall requirements
- 5 GHz is recommended for iOS devices
- Upgrade all iOS and MacOS devices to the most recent release
- Disable lower data rates if the RF design supports it, if not move them with legacy clients to a separate SSID
- Channel utilization should be below 40% and a minimal signal to noise ratio SNR of 25dB
- 802.11 retransmissions should be under 15%, packet loss under 1% and jitter should be less than 100 ms
- Understand and utilize MIMO, channel bonding for wider bands, finer modulation and select attenuation to increase overall throughput
- The minimum RSSI coverage area should be at -65 dBm signal level or better with 15% RF overlap for roaming and ensure coverage at the cell edge
- 802.11ac or ax should be used in Apple deployments where possible
- 11ac 40 MHz should be used in channel restrictive areas and 80 and 160 MHz in areas needing heavy bandwidth
- “Band Select” should be utilized to maximize connections to 5 GHz if 2.4 GHz remains
- Consider “ClientLink” even with it’s overhead as a solution for legacy clients
- 11k should be used for deployments utilizing RRM
- Apple devices should be connected to a WLAN with a QoS of “Platinum”
- Apple devices should have a WMM setting of “Required” for advanced services
- Fast Transition clients should have separate WLANs for PSK and 802.1x respectively
- Implement ISE or a similar approach to protocol EAP for authentication ease
- Always test your changes – in addition, we recommend rolling certifications because of the dynamic nature of environment, operating systems, wireless network and device components
- Do a new wireless assessment and make sure you receive an outline of a plan to modify your existing network into state of the art network matching all your requirements, you may find out it is budget neutral over time.
These are general highlights and recommendations; they do not fully address your bespoke set of requirements. We offer free consultations with our expert sales team.