Beam me up, Scotty!

What better way to spend a 38 degree (Celsius, or 100F) Brisbane summer day than to relax in the air conditioning and enjoy a Star Trek marathon?

Or, I could put my wireless nerd hat on and satisfy my curiosity as to whether my AP (Cisco Meraki MR33) and computer (Surface Pro 2017) were utilising beamforming.

The CWNP courseware does a great job of explaining and analysing beamforming, however I came across a great chapter in the book “802.11ac: A Survival Guide – Wi-Fi at Gigabit and Beyond” by Matthew Gast which goes into greater detail.  I’m not going to digest and translate the entire chapter here (though I highly recommend reading it), though I will provide a brief overview and I am going to illustrate how I confirmed if my stations were beamforming or not.

Continue reading

Wi-Fi Monitoring & Assurance with NetBeez

Opportunity

I see a growing demand for Wi-Fi performance analytics (location, content, and experience analytics are a separate discussion piece) and assurance to form more robust and accountable service level agreements with wireless service providers.  Customers want to know if their network is performing properly, and the wireless network is no exception.

While wireless engineers can perform surveys to check coverage and interference, and perform packet analysis in various locations to assess operations and the user experience, and monitor network management system logs and reports; it is expensive to send engineers onsite at the hint of any wireless issue (and as we know, more often than not it can be an issue with the client device as opposed to the wireless network; or an issue further down the line in the wired network infrastructure), and it is difficult to replicate issues and correlate them to certain points in time.

I also see a strong use-case for post-implementation performance baseline establishment.  Performing post-implementation wireless surveys, end-user acceptance testing, throughput and packet analysis, and application tests are all necessary components of verifying if a wireless network is operating as per design.  However it would be great if there was a way to perform longer-term testing of the network to establish normal and expected operating conditions over say a two week period, perhaps pre and post-go live. Continue reading

Wi-Fi Calling

Wi-Fi Calling is a carrier-offload feature which enables compatible mobile phones to make and receive cellular phone calls in poor coverage areas over a supported Wi-Fi connection.

A growing number of carriers and devices now support Wi-Fi Calling and I think it is a great feature when implemented properly, as I will discuss in this post.  Consideration is needed for a good experience with this feature especially as it is increasingly available in enterprise wireless networks, it is not as simple as being enabled at both the carrier and device ends.

Recently a customer reported issues with Wi-Fi Calling dropouts on their network after updating their firewall configuration to allow the service.  It turned out while the network supported the transport of Wi-Fi Calling packets, the wireless network was not designed to support Voice-over-Wi-Fi (VoWi-Fi)!

So I will provide some details around what is needed to ensure a good Wi-Fi Calling experience with reference to some WLAN vendor documentation and packet captures. Continue reading

Casual Wi-Fi Analysis

I’m sure I am not alone with my fellow Wi-Fi professionals in that when at a public venue I like to scope out for wireless access points; assess the installation location, positioning, and quality; and also do a quick connectivity and usability test.  Sometimes I might go as far to run a quick scan in the iPhone AirPort Utility to see signal strengths and channels in use.

Recently I purchased a MacBook Air and have had a lot of fun using Wi-Fi Explorer.  I saw that Adrian had posted instructions on how to import AirPort Utility scans into Wi-Fi Explorer – this could be useful!

I visited a brewpub here in town the other day and found some horrible configuration on the 2.4GHz bands with channels other than 1/6/11 being used.  I ran a scan for a few minutes and emailed myself the results.  As you can see below the emailed results don’t display in easily readable manner.

airport utility.PNG

So when I got home I followed Adrian’s instructions here to paste the data into Wi-Fi Explorer, and it conveniently organised the scanned BSSIDs and RF information into the default columns presented in the UI.  I could now easily see the AP vendor as well as signal strengths and channels configured, much to my dismay.

wifi explorer

I will definitely be using this import functionality more frequently in future!