A recurring question from customers referring to AP numbers being completed is “Why so many APs?” Often these are from customers who want to cover small offices, schools or academies. Over 90% of the time, the answer is capacity. Customers do not always plan their Wireless Networks around the number of expected users, but gear them more towards specific signal coverage. This is not always the best solution, especially as we move towards a BYOD world.
In the current environment, wireless users will more than likely carry more than one portable device, which they may want to connect to a wireless network. These include laptops; netbooks; tablets; smartphones as well as other handheld media devices. Under the assumption that a user has a laptop and smartphone, this would mean the network would be required to support more than double the amount of users. We recommend that no more than 40 devices per radio which would suggest a maximum of 80 devices per Dual Radio Access Point (AP model dependent). So in an open plan office of 50 users (over 100 devices), 1 AP could easily provide coverage, but we would recommend a minimum of 3 APs are visible, to allow for bandwidth over the air, load balancing, resiliency and accommodate any additional users which may enter the office, i.e. Guests.
Customers rarely take into account the requirement for capacity and tend to focus solely on minimising AP numbers, to reduce costs. This is not always the best way forward, as the ability to add APs in the future may not be as easy as plug and play. In order to obtain the best wireless performance, always take into consideration how many devices you expect to be connected to your network simultaneously, the application, add additional support for guest devices and plan your wireless network around this number.