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DRIVE TESTING: RF engineering activity that ensures optimum network performance that meets the set Quality of Service

(QoS) targets such as: Coverage of Service Area: Urban areas, In building, Suburban areas, Roads, Rural areas etc Call Success Rate Handover failure Rx quality RF Optimization service for the network operator are increased revenues and reduced costs. Network quality is maintained resulting in higher speech quality index. Stronger competitiveness resulting in higher customer acquisitions. Satisfied customers resulting in low churn Efficient network utilization resulting in reduced investment costs. RF Survey, Optimization and Comparative Drive Tests RF Engineering services for all wireless networks such as GSM networks, CDMA Networks. To ensure that the network design meets the network performance objectives of the Customer, Aster's RF engineering specialists use state-of-the-art Design / Planning / Testing / Post Processing tools as follows:- Planning Tools TEMS Cell Planner Universal (TCPU) Asset 3G TEMS Link Planner (TLP) Pathloss 4.0 Network Optimization Tools TEMS Investigation Agilent E6474A Neptune CDMA Air Interface Tester (CAIT) TEMS DeskCat Actix Analyzer. An other popular post-prossesing-tool is Webconnect Europe's tool RAT, Radio Analyzing Tool. Drive testing for wireless networks. The data collected during field measurements can include information such as: Signal intensity Signal quality Dropped or Blocked calls Other anomalous events Call statistics GPS location co-ordinates Network independent measurements are also critical to obtain a complete picture of the RF environment. That is, to detect neighbouring cell sites/ sectors and measure interference both from within the network and from external sources. Benchmarking offers a complement to the evaluation of a network. With the use of benchmarking tools, network comparisons and positioning information can be obtained to evaluate the performance of a network with respect to its competitors. Wireless service providers (especially in the USA) to build maps of signal strength for designing networks base stations, use a mobile setup with a spectrum analyzer, antenna and drive through the areas, thereby creating these signal-strength maps. This is called drive-testing. Drive Testing or wireless data collection can also be used to provide coverage analysis, network weakness information and to aid in finding specific problem areas reported by consumers. During the design phase of a wireless network, drive testing is used to aid RF engineers in model tuning. Drive Testing can be conducted at any time on a live network and very rarely will there be any network intrusion. Most drive testing tools are specifically designed to perform many task and to be as user friendly as possible to accommodate the skills of basic technicians.

RF SURVEY: A wireless site survey, sometimes called an RF site survey or wireless survey, is the process of planning and designing a wireless network, in particular an 802.11 Wi-Fi wireless network, to provide a wireless solution that will deliver the required wireless coverage, data rates, network capacity, roaming capability and Quality of Service (QoS]). The survey usually involves a site visit to run tests to determine the presence of RF interference and identify optimum installation locations for access points. This requires analysis of building floor plans, visual inspection of the facility, and usage of site survey tools. In addition, interviews with IT management and the end users of the wireless network are important to determine the design parameters for the wireless network.[1] When conducting a wireless site survey, it's very important to identify an effective range boundary, which defines the minimum signal levels needed to support the intended application. This involves determining the minimum SNR needed to support performance requirements.[2] Independent studies have shown that most of the Wi-Fi wireless networks installed today are not optimally designed or installed, and many do not provide the service that they were intended to. Because of this, stringent wireless site surveys, planning and design exercises are becoming essential, especially to support the new breed of wireless services such as Mobile VoIP and real-time location services. Wireless site survey can also mean the walk-testing, auditing, analysis or diagnosis of an existing wireless network, particularly one which is not providing the level of service required.

How to: Define Minimum SNR Values for Signal Coverage

By Jim Geier, Independent Consultant, Wireless-Nets, Ltd. Questions? >>Contact the Author>>
When performing a RF site survey, its important to define the range boundary of an access point based on signal-to-noise (SNR) ratio, which is the signal level (in dBm) minus the noise level (in dBm). For example, a signal level of -53 dBm measured near an access point and typical noise level of -90 dBm yields a SNR of 37 dB, a healthy value for wireless LANs. Dont let the unit dB throw you it merely represents a difference in two logarithmic values, such as dBm.

SNR impacts performance

The SNR of an access point signal, measured at the user device, decreases as range to the user increases because the applicable free space loss between the user and the access point reduces signal level. The

same goes for the signals propagating from the user device to the access point. An increase in RF interference from microwave ovens and cordless phones, which increases the noise level, also decreases SNR. SNR directly impacts the performance of a wireless LAN connection. A higher SNR value means that the signal strength is stronger in relation to the noise levels, which allows higher data rates and fewer retransmissions all of which offers better throughput. Of course the opposite is also true. A lower SNR requires wireless LAN devices to operate at lower data rates, which decreases throughput. A SNR of 30 dB, for example, may allow an 802.11g client radio and access point to communicate at 24 Mbps; whereas, a SNR of 15 dB may only provide for 6 Mbps.

Real-world values
My company, Wireless-Nets, has performed extensive testing of wireless LANs at various SNR levels. For instance, weve run user-oriented tests to determine the impacts of SNR values on the ability for a user with a typical client radio (set to 30 mW) to associate with an 802.11b/g access point and load a particular webpage. For various SNRs, the following is what we found for the signal strength (found in the Windows connection status), association status, and performance when loading a particular webpage from a wireless laptop. We measured the SNR value from the same laptop and client radio using AirMagnet Analyzer. To ensure accurate comparisons, we cleared the laptops cache before reloading the page: > 40dB SNR = Excellent signal (5 bars); always associated; lightening fast. 25dB to 40dB SNR = Very good signal (3 - 4 bars); always associated; very fast. 15dB to 25dB SNR = Low signal (2 bars); always associated; usually fast. 10dB - 15dB SNR = Very low signal (1 bar); mostly associated; mostly slow. 5dB to 10dB SNR = No signal; not associated; no go. These values seem consistent with testing weve done in the past, as well as what some of the vendors publish.

SNR recommendations
Based on this testing, we recommend using around 20dB as the minimum SNR for defining the range boundary of each 802.11b/g access point. That ensures a constant association with fairly good performance when performing typical network functions, such as web browsing and email synchronization. Keep in mind that 802.11n may require different range boundary definitions. If you plan to deploy voice over a wireless LAN, then youll likely need a higher minimum SNR. For example, Cisco recommends 25 dB for their wireless voice telephony systems. Also, a larger margin (i.e., higher SNR), may be necessary in some venues, especially where there is a great deal of multipath signal propagation, such as manufacturing plants and where airplanes park at airports. Keep in mind that the corresponding level of performance only occurs at the boundary of each access point. Users associating with access points at closer range will have higher SNR and better performance. When measuring SNRs, use the same client radio and antenna as the users will have if possible. A variance in antenna gain between the survey equipment and user device, for example, will likely result in users having a different SNR (and performance) than what you measured during the survey. Also, some client

radios have better transmit power and receive sensitivity than others, which can throw off your results if you dont use the same client radio as the users will have. Changes made in the facility, such as the addition of walls and movement of large boxes will affect SNR too. Thus, its generally a good idea to recheck the SNR from time-to-time, even after the network is operational. This can be done easily with commercially-available tools. For example, the figure below is a screenshot taken from AirMagnet Survey, with the green and yellow colors indicating acceptable signal coverage areas of an 802.11g network with the tool set to a range boundary of 20 dB. If you find that the SNR is below the minimum value in some areas, such as the gray-shaded areas in the figure, consider installing additional access points or moving existing ones better distribute the signals and fill in the holes.

Concluding thoughts
The use of a particular SNR value as a requirement for signal coverage is certainly a good practice, and the rules of thumb given in this tutorial are a good starting point. Be sure, however, to perform testing in your own environment to determine acceptable range boundary definitions. Before making the system operational, always perform thorough verification testing of the applications, such as web browsing, email, and voice telephony, using typical client devices and radios that will actually utilize the network. This provides reassurance that the system will indeed satisfy coverage and performance requirements.

Wireless Site Survey : The process of planning and designing a wireless network, in particular an 802.11 Wi-Fi wireless network, to provide a wireless solution that will deliver the required wireless coverage, data rates, network capacity, roaming capability and Quality of Service (QoS). There are a number of factors that determine the final placement of access points (AP) throughout a facility including:

1. Required throughput - What sort of data will be transmitted between the access points and the client devices? A cutoff point in kilobytes per second should be determined prior to the actual survey. 2. Number of clients - How many end users would be connected to a single access point (AP) at a time? If you're installing a wireless network in a 500 seat lecture hall filled with users demanding high bandwidth you can easily criple a single AP. What sort of load can a single AP handle, and how many will be needed in highly dense client environments. 3. Facility Environment - Into what sort of environment will the APs be installed? Will there be materials that will absorb signal (large rolls of paper, dense products), which may require more APs? Is there high metal racking that may limit the horizontal reach of the signal? 4. Indoors or outdoors - Will you need to use certain weatherproof enclosures or antennas to battle harsh weather conditions? Will you need to put the hardware in a heated enclosure? 5. Geographic location - What country are you testing in? Different countries have different allowable frequencies in which the network can occupy. 6. Neighboring networks - Is there a large amount of interference coming from nearby 802.11 networks? If so, is this interference on the 802.11 b/g (2.4ghz) spectrum, or the 802.11a (5ghz) spectrum?
There is no amount of research that can substitute for a physical site survey. Performing a physical site survey involves setting up an access point and taking real time readings of throughput between the temporary network, and the client device. Throughput will be affected during the tests just as it will be affected when the network is in place.


1. Obtain facility blueprints - It is important that you have an accurate blueprint of the facility you are surveying so you can diagram coverage zones and access point locations as the survey is performed. 2. Perform an initial walk thru of facility - More often than not, the person performing the survey has been contracted, and has no familiarity with the area being surveyed. Doing an initial site walk thru will familiarize the surveyor of the facility. It will also let any on site IT or management point out areas that may not need coverage. 3. Visually determine a starting point - An experienced surveyor will be able to analyze a facility and determine a starting point. This starting point is in no way set in stone, but provides for the first zone to be tested for data throughput between the temporarily installed network, and the client PC. It is best to start in a corner of the building and work to the other side.

4. Install first zone's access point - Using a lift, you will now temporarily install the access point and chosen antenna to the ceiling. Depending on the environment, you will choose either a Dipole, Directional, or Omni-Directional antenna. Other considerations would be the Peak Gain (dBi) of the antenna. 5. Determine data transfer rates between AP and client PC - Using software to send data back and forth between the installed network and the client PC, you will now walk through the facility and monitor actual throughput. Measuring actual throughput will give you the best representation of what to expect when your completed network is in place. 6. Determine first coverage zone - As you walk further from the AP you will see the throughput rates begin to drop. As soon as they have dropped to your allowable throughput cutoff rate you have found the end of your zone. You should try to test the entire zone and determine the exact perimeter in which to use as a cut off area. The throughput rates should be determined prior to the site survey and depend on what sort of data is being transferred on your network. 7. Repeat process for next zone - With zone one completed you should have a good idea of the coverage to expect. Take down the installed access point & antenna, and reinstall in a neighboring zone. Repeat the steps to determine coverage area. Continue this process until the entire building is covered. Keep in mind that all zones will not necessarily require the same antenna type, or dBi. 8. Determine channel selection for APs - Each AP can be configured on a different frequency - or channel. The available channels on the B/G spectrum (at least in the US) are 1 - 11. The only non-overlapping channels would be 1, 6, 11. To minimize interference between your access points it is important to develop an AP layout that uses only these channels, and keeps the same channels as far away from one another as possible.

Site survey concepts

The ultimate goal of a wireless site survey is to determine the number and placement of access points (or mesh nodes) that provides adequate signal coverage throughout a facility or city area. With most implementations, adequate coverage means support of a minimum data rate or throughput. In order to perform a successful survey, youll need to relate the required performance to a value that survey tools measure, such as SNR. A wireless site survey also detects the presence of RF interference coming from other sources that could degrade the performance of the wireless LAN. The need and complexity of a wireless site survey will vary depending on the facility. For example, a small three room office may not require a site survey. This scenario can probably get by with a single Wi-Fi access point (or router) located anywhere within the office and still maintain adequate coverage. If the access point encounters RF interference from another nearby wireless LAN, you can likely choose a different channel and eliminate the problem. A larger facility, such as an office complex, airport, hospital, or warehouse, or an outdoor area like a city, generally requires an extensive wireless site survey. Without a survey, users will probably end up with inadequate coverage and suffer from low performance in some areas.

When conducting a wireless site survey, consider the following:

1. Understand the wireless requirements. In order to identify optimum locations for access points or mesh nodes, you must have a good understanding of specific requirements for the network that impacts signal coverage. For example, maximum range between a client device and the access point decreases as data rate and resulting performance increases. Thus, you need to know the target data rates (and throughput) to correctly interpret survey results. Also, client devices may have relatively low transmit power, which must be taken into consideration when using most site survey tools. Be sure to identify the technologies that the network will implement, such as 802.11g or 802.11n, and perform the survey with these technologies in mind. 2. Obtain a facility diagram. Before getting too far with the site survey, locate a set of building blueprints or city maps. If none are available, prepare a drawing that depicts the location of walls, walkways, etc. Site survey tools import diagrams in various image formats. Of course mapping software is a good source for outdoor city surveys. If all else fails for in-building surveys, consider taking a digital photograph of the fire escape diagram, which is usually present on hallway walls. 3. Visually inspect the facility. Walk through the facility before performing any testing to verify the accuracy of the facility diagram. This is a good time to note any potential attenuation barriers that may affect the propagation of RF signals. For example, a visual inspection will uncover obstacles to signals such as metal racks and partitions, items that blueprints generally dont show. Also, note possible locations for mounting access points, such as above ceiling tiles or on pillars. For outdoor city environments, you should carefully assess the locations and availability of street lights and water towers for mounting mesh nodes and backhaul equipment. These actions will make the later testing efforts go much more smoothly. 4. Assess existing network infrastructure. Determine the capacity of any existing wired networks that can interface the access points or mesh nodes. Most buildings have Ethernet and in some cases optical fiber networks. Check on how much of the existing networks can be made available for supporting the wireless network. This will aid designers later on in the deployment when defining the architecture and bill of materials for the wireless network. 5. Identify coverage areas. On the facility diagram or city map, indicate all areas where coverage is needed, such as offices, hallways, stairwells, utility rooms, bathrooms, break rooms, patios, parking garages, and elevators. Also, identifying where users will not wireless coverage is important to avoid wasting time surveying unnecessary areas. Keep in mind that you might get by with fewer access points and lower equipment costs if you can limit the roaming areas. 6. Determine preliminary access point locations. By considering the location of wireless users and range estimations of the wireless LAN products youre using, approximate the locations of access points that will provide adequate coverage throughout the user areas. Plan for some propagation overlap (generally 25 percent) among adjacent access points, but bear in mind that channel assignments for access points will need to be far enough apart to avoid inter-access point interference. Be certain to consider mounting locations, which could be vertical posts or metal supports above ceiling tiles. Recognize suitable locations for installing the access point, antenna, and data / PoE cable. Also think about different antennas when deciding where to position access points. An access point mounted near an outside wall, for example, could be a good location if you use a patch antenna with relatively high gain oriented within the facility. 7. Verify access point locations. This is when the site survey testing begins. Most wireless LAN vendors provide wireless site survey software that identifies the associated access point, data rate, signal strength,

and signal quality. You can load this software on a laptop and test the coverage of each preliminary access point location. Alternately, you can use a third party site survey tool available from several different companies, such as AirMagnet, Berkeley Varitronics Systems, and Ekahau. Install an access point at each preliminary location, and monitor the site survey tool readings by walking varying distances away from the access point. Theres no need to connect the access point to the distribution system because the survey tests merely ping the access point or read the beacon signal strength. Very important: Definitely consider the SNR range boundary and uplink signal strength when interpreting the results. To make the access point easy to move about the facility, you can mount it on a pole attached to a cart with a battery and DC/AC converter. Otherwise, youll need to haul around an extension cord and always be looking for where to plug in for power (not recommended). Take note of performance or signal readings at different points as you move to the outer bounds of the access point coverage. In a multi-floor facility, perform tests on the floor above and below the access point. Keep in mind that a poor signal quality reading could indicate that RF interference is affecting the wireless LAN. This would warrant the use of a spectrum analyzer to characterize the interference, especially if there are no other indications of its source. Based on the results of the testing, you might need to reconsider the location of some access points and redo testing for the affected locations. 8. Document findings. Once youre satisfied that the location of access points youve identified will provide adequate signal coverage, document your findings on the facility diagrams by depicting the location of each access point. The installers will need this information.