How to configure UniFi? – Increase network coverage

Efficient, secure and by the way intuitive to use WiFi access points from Ubiquiti Networks from the UniFi WiFi series allow you to quickly create the perfect local wireless network. They are available in our shop right away, so you are only a few steps away from building a simple, proven network infrastructure. It uses innovative solutions and refined technologies, depending on selected tools. UniFi devices will be successfully used in demanding home conditions, but they are a dedicated business solution for small and medium-sized companies. Designer’s minimalistic enclosures, simple installation and starter configuration encourage to purchase.unify-001unify-001The automatic settings of the UniFi network are in most cases sufficient, but what can be done when it is necessary to increase the range due to existing obstacles or growing demand? What could be the reason for this situation? Check what are the classic ways of extending the WiFi range, what affects it and how the configuration UniFi controller and AP step by step looks like.unifi-2unifi-2

Classic ways to get better coverage

The problem with poor WiFi coverage, and thus reduced transmission speed or high latency can happen quite often with the current density of wireless networks. Contrary to appearances, it does not only concern poor equipment, it also occurs when using access points or WiFi routers of renowned brands, with excellent parameters theoretically sufficient in the supported area. The standard way to increase network coverage may be:- Enlarge transmission power if possible,- Add signal amplifier at optimal point,- Add next AP or a point in the network with a topology like mesh.

Theoretically, the lowest cost is characteristic of the first solution, often used by Ubiquiti UniFi users. However, in order for the power increase to actually work, you need to be aware of certain limitations and configuration properties of the devices. Not always changing the transmitting power setting from automatic to high or the highest available, set manually has a chance to have a positive effect.unifi-3unifi-3

What affects the WiFi signal range?

The WiFi range is limited not only because of the frequency used and the transmitter power. It is affected by physical obstacles, characterized by different attenuation depending on the material, but also the network frequency. The higher the frequency, the higher will also be the attenuation of materials such as glass, walls, doors or ceilings. When the network signal is at the limit of sensitivity, the connection loses stability or cannot be established at all.

It is also worth realizing that the radiation of antennas, defined as their characteristics is not evenly distributed. What’s more, it may be different depending on the current frequency of the antenna. You can check the details of this issue on UniFi – Introduction to Antenna Radiation Patterns – Ubiquiti Networks Support and Help Center.

However, the standards and regulations for maximum transmitter power also prove to be important for UniFi. While for the 2.4 GHz band the maximum EIRP power can be up to 100 mW in the whole range, already for the 5 GHz band it is limited depending on channels and DFS functionality, Dynamic Frequency Selection. For the device, on which example we show the configuration – UniFi UAP-nanoHD , the maximum power is available for 100-140 channels, the EIRP is 800mW which corresponds to 29 dBm.

Step by step configuration of the UniFi controller

To use the UniFi wireless network, you first need to enter controller settings. In the Settings settings category (gear icon) select Site, where you set the country of use of the equipment in Site Configuration / Country or Territory, and when using the device outdoors select Services / Outodoor Mode “Comply with regulatory domain restrictions”. Additionally, for mesh networks, in Services / Uplink Conenctivity Monitor section you should mark “Enable wireless uplink” and “Enable element adoption” so that the network will be able to communicate and perform self-configuration.

In the Wireless Networks settings option, enter the desired wireless and access network settings:- Wi-Fi network name,- Security level, preferably WPA Personal, strongest with the right secure password,- A kind of access network, usually just LAN,- Advanced settings for network optimization.

In advanced settings it is possible, among other things, to enable Fast Roaming, i.e. to force the use of IEEE 802.11r standard in the network, allowing faster switching of client devices between transmitters. It is also possible to enable power saving options UAPSD|, preferring 5 GHz devices – High Performance Devices, or Legacy Support, i.e. support for outdated devices in the network operating only in the free standard of IEEE 802.11b WiFi connection. After making changes, the settings should be saved.

Verification of device settings

For a correct, optimal configuration it is also important to verify other settings of the device concerning the Internet service provider. In the Settings / Site / Provider Capabilities settings section you should set the maximum throughput that your ISP declares. Additionally, in the Settings / Network / WAN settings section, in the Smart Queues editing option you can set the bandwidth limitation for users by the device. Setting it at 90-100% of the link speed can improve the capabilities of individual connections.unifi-9unifi-9

UniFi AP – access point configuration UniFi

Adoption, i.e. the process of adding a new device to an already configured network controller is not complicated. If the UniFi AP is physically connected to the same LAN, the controller will detect its presence and propose adoption and possible upgrade firmware if a newer version of the software is available. After approval, the process runs automatically. Its completion means that you can proceed to detailed configuration.

Every adopted device can be found in the Devices section, from where it is worthwhile to first configure the hardware to work in the mesh network, if such are planned. Their wireless adoption is not always possible, so it is worthwhile to configure them wired. For a selected device, select the Config option (gears) and then select it:

1. 2G radio configuration:a. Width Channel VHT40 – for using new devices with 802.11n standardb. Channel – if other WiFi devices are used, set the channel at a minimum distance of 4 from the channels of these devices,c. Allow meshing from other access points – on,

2. 5G radio configuration:a. Channel Width standard VHT80 or VHT160 – for those using only new devices with the latest WiFi connection standards,b. Channel – for points connecting to the network wirelessly the channel must be Auto,c. Allow meshing from other access points – on,

Changes must be approved and applied, the device gains the status Provisioning.

Increasing transmission power – extending network coverage

If a pre-configured basic wireless network appears to have insufficient coverage or its bandwidth is not entirely satisfactory, you can verify whether it can be further improved. To do this, check what settings have been made by the devices on the network in Auto mode – the main point connected via LAN. Go into the details of the device – Details and expand the RADIO position (11N/A/AC). There, check on which Channel channel the device is set and what is the transmission power of Transmit Power.

The frequency most often chosen by UniFi is the first two channels, without DFS, so the potential highest power is not available, as it is limited by software adjustments. To use it, it is not enough to manually change the power to Custom 26 dBm. Additional actions will be required. Changing the country to one where there is no limit to 23 dBm EIRP on the selected channel is not legal, so it remains to set the fixed main frequency on the channel from 100-140 with DFS. Although this configuration may cause an increased start-up time at 5GHz due to the need to perform DFS procedures, the transmission power is increased to 29 dBm EIRP. It is worth to reconfigure channels on devices in a wired mesh network, as it may turn out that when propagating new settings, the wirelessly connected device will obtain isolated status and it will be necessary to re-connect it to the network.unifi-10unifi-10Thanks to this configuration of the UniFi network, you can take advantage of the maximum wireless capabilities of the devices operating in the network. However, most often the self-configurable parameters of the wireless network are sufficient, and its extension with new spaces still requires the inclusion of new access points.

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