Measure & Proactively Manage AP Capacity, Airtime & RF Conditions

by | April 13, 2022 | Networking

AP Capacity Planning and RF Management Made Easy

Some aspects of RF management have long been considered a “dark art,” requiring specialized knowledge, years of experience, and a near-superhuman ability to juggle information from multiple tools.

As you can imagine, people who meet the job description above are few and far between. Local or regional ISPs are not likely to have (or be able to afford) this type of expert on staff. And even if they did, this highly technical know-how is often difficult to communicate to other staff members.

All of which got the Preseem Team thinking. What if there was a better way? Can we help remove the guesswork and save the hours of manual work spent by ISPs cross-referencing multiple systems?

Well, we don’t have a magic wand to remove all network problems. However, we did recently launch some features for Preseem that solve some previously time-consuming and tricky questions.

To be specific, these are:

  • Where can I find underperforming CPE radios in my network?
  • How do I tell which of my APs are out of airtime?
  • How can I accurately determine AP capacity?

In this blog, we’ll compare how the issues above would typically be addressed without Preseem. Then, we’ll show how they’d be tackled by ISPs using either our Essentials or Plus packages.

Essentials is designed for ISPs who want to investigate, understand and improve their subscriber quality of experience (QoE). In other words, you get all the information needed to investigate QoE issues without having to consult other vendor tools. Plus, meanwhile, is for rapidly-growing or larger ISPs who want to proactively improve their subscriber QoE and optimize ROI.

How Can I Find Bad CPE Radios in My Network?

Without PreseemWith EssentialsWith Plus
No QoE metricsQoE metrics: suspect CPEs flaggedQoE & RF Scores (yellow/red)
“Gut check” (expertise required)Easy flowchart workflow, but manual cross-correlation
Instant ranking, no expertise needed
Complicated link between inputs and actionable resultsCross-vendor metrics, long retention window
Directly measuring “universal” results

Without Preseem: It’s easy enough to go into your vendor tools and organize CPE radios by a parameter such as signal strength. However, the problem is that signal strength may only loosely correlate with real-world performance. This isn’t always accurate or informative with regard to all possible issues that may be happening. Also, it doesn’t address the impact a customer is having on the rest of the environment.

Without Preseem, it’s impractical from a time-and-expertise perspective to isolate one CPE radio and see how it fits into the whole ecosystem. Traditionally, to troubleshoot individual CPE RF problems or find the customers needing the most attention, you’d access vendor tools, check which customers are using a lot of data, and then check signal strength.

These issues also tend to be dependent on time of year, time of day, and so on. This is where the “dark art” part comes in. That is, you’d have to know from experience what’s normal for a particular piece of hardware at a given time of year, etc. This way is reactive, dependent on extremely specialized knowledge, and not very efficient.

With Essentials: Using Preseem’s QoE metrics, you get a two-year history of data to see the customer’s performance over time. This allows you to quickly troubleshoot and make an informed decision.

Screenshot of Business Value and RF Scores in Preseem

With Plus: This becomes easy thanks to the RF Score. This allows you to easily see which CPE RF situations are in a warning or critical state. You can also use this to be proactive by addressing any yellow or red CPEs ahead of time. With the RF score, all the many dimensions that describe how a CPE should perform have been synthesized and turned it into one number on a 0-10 scale. Being able to sort by this kind of simple score to identify individual RF issues has never been done before. This also helps shorten the learning curve for experts when any unfamiliar new equipment is installed on a network.

How Do I Tell Which of My Access Points are Out of Airtime?

Without PreseemWith EssentialsWith Plus
Traffic volume only, not burden on networkQoE metrics: busy/bad APsQoE & RF Scores (yellow/red)
Manual cross-correlationManually inspect airtime, manually inspect link rates for busy usersBusiness Value score (worst on an AP), AP Health score (worst APs)
No single systemCross-vendor metrics, long retention
Be proactive, no longer have to wait for customer complaints

Without Preseem: This type of analysis is very difficult to do. Addressing this issue would involve looking at how much volume a user is transferring over time. Doing this, you could then try and determine who’s having the most impact on an AP’s airtime.

With Essentials: Using Essentials, you can look at QoE metrics and latency during peak, looking for busy or bad APs. You can then manually inspect remaining airtime and link rates for busy users. The data is there and you can work through it via flowcharts, but there’s a lot of manual work and it’s reactive at scale.

With Plus: The Business Value score shows you how much impact an individual subscriber is having on your network. RF conditions alone only tell you the hypothetical. Customers with bad RF that start to use data impact how many other subscribers you can put on that AP, which affects your bottom line. Plus takes care of all the math and correlation that would have to be done without Preseem and just presents it as a score. This also comes into play in situations where ISPs can’t add more APs due to lack of available spectrum. The scores can help optimize spectrum usage as well as how many subscribers can be added to an AP.

Screenshot

How Can I Accurately Determine AP Capacity?

Without Preseem: To figure out remaining capacity on an AP, you can use vendor tools to look at how much airtime you have remaining. You need to build up knowledge over time as an RF expert to know when a particular AP would reach the congestion point, however.

With Essentials: You can use the ‘Busy Hours’ view in the Wireless Summary, but that takes into account customer traffic and not airtime. As a result, this can be problematic in determining how much capacity there actually is on an AP.

With Plus: This becomes much easier because Plus includes the ability to take things as complex as airtime usage, subscriber behavior, and real-world data, and convert all that complexity to a simple unit (a subscriber) that anyone in the organization can understand. For larger ISPs, this is great because engineering can tell sales which APs can be sold on and in what areas, etc. You can also find out which subs have poor connections that need to be dealt with immediately. That is, those that are really affecting the APs compared to those that don’t have to be addressed right away.

Without PreseemWith EssentialsWith Plus
Airtime onlyBusy Hours assessedAP Capacity quantified
Global user capacityManually inspect airtime, manually inspect peak air limitsExact, local AP and ISP user capacity
Imprecise guessesRough predictions possiblePrecise predictions possible

For more information on what’s included in Preseem and how it helps ISPs solve network issues, visit our Features page. Or, if you’d like to see it in action on your network, book a free demo with us and start a 30-day free trial.

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