Wi-Fi RF automation is a hot topic. Not because it’s new (it’s not) but because there are strong believers and non-believers. The discussion lacks facts and measurement data, which we will cover in this 2-part blog.
7signal worked in cooperation with Avans University of Applied Science to characterize 802.11ac Wi-Fi performance and behavior in their environment. We compared and contrasted the RF automation behavior of two market leading Wi-Fi companies.
The test environment consisted of two learning centers on the university’s campus. The existing Wi-Fi access points were replaced with each vendor’s solutions for one week each. Wi-Fi performance was measured by 7signal’s system of Sapphire Eye sensors and Mobile Eye apps for devices.
Learning Center 0
Learning Center 1
Special focus was on 5 GHz channel selection operation.
Each week began with four fixed 20 MHz channels and fixed power levels, with no RF automation enabled. Channel power levels were equal in both cases, following the manufacturer’s recommended power level settings. All other access points in the Learning Center used this configuration over the testing period. Each test period lasted from the previous week Friday afternoon until following week Friday afternoon.
Tuesday evening, RF automation was turned on and all allowed channels (European channel allocations) were enabled. In addition, power control was also enabled. The default settings for RF automation were utilized and channel bandwidth was kept at 20 MHz.
Some interesting and important observations were made. We will label the vendors as A and B. You can have a little fun guessing who is who.
Below are graphs representing the power levels from 7signal’s Sapphire Eye sensors. You can see on floor 0 and floor 1 how the levels quickly changed once RF automation was switched on.
Floor 0 Power Levels
Floor 1 Power Levels
My Key Takeaways
One of the key promises for RF automation is to allocate channels in a balanced manner at any given time. Let’s take a look at these allocations at different times.
The chart below displays the 4 static channels that were used before the test period, as well as during the test period, but outside our test environment.
Now let’s look at the average channel allocation with RF automation switched ON. In the chart below, both vendors are compared for each floor.
Floor 0 Channel Allocation
Floor 1 Channel Allocation
My Key Takeaways