Don’t Run Away From a Wireless Network Audit

 

The word “audit” typically conjures feelings of unease (especially around this time of year), but a wireless network audit is something you should not run from. On the contrary: it’s something that should be embraced.

Put simply, a network audit is a way to do a sanity check to ensure your network is running as planned and designed and providing the intended customer experience. It takes into account the current state of the network — including how changes may have impacted performance — to help organizations better plan their networks for the future. It’s a great way to set up for the network of tomorrow, without sacrificing present day performance.

 

What is a network audit?

Unlike some solutions, which only focus on specific issues, a network audit is designed to provide you with a complete snapshot of how your network is performing. This is particularly important as data usage grows and creates congestion on already clogged networks. It can also be an important factor in laying the groundwork and preparing your network for new technologies, like newly-acquired spectrum or VoLTE.

Network audits account for everything, including coverage, capacity, and overall network performance. They include a walkthrough of your entire set-up, resulting in:

  • A comprehensive overview of your entire physical structure, including utilities, cabling, connections, antennas, and more
  • A look at your outdoor network and analysis of how it may change (may have changed??) (for those who rely on a DAS or Wi-Fi network)
  • A complete overview of your RF environment
  • Benchmark and performance testing reports
  • A final package that includes schematics, photographs, and an overall assessment of network performance and detailed recommendations of improvements that can be made

 

Why is auditing your network so important?

As with anything, wireless networks and equipment change over time. Carriers are continually adjusting the macro network setup, and external network traffic patterns are always changing regardless of what’s constant inside of a building. Each of these factors can lead to network degradation, lending credence to the need for frequent auditing.

Other things can cause degradation, too, from additions to the network to the age of existing equipment. For example, networks can grow as a result of additional spectrum or new equipment. An audit can provide a better understanding of how those changes might impact your network, for better or worse. Conversely, as existing equipment ages it can break down or fail completely. That 8-year-old DAS may be on its last legs and not performing as efficiently as it did on day one. An audit can give you insight into what needs to be done to keep everything up and running, avoiding the need for massive (and expensive) fixes further down the line.

Audits can also pinpoint issues that might not be readily noticeable, such as areas of interference or performance degradation For instance, a comprehensive network audit can show managers how performance may have changed over time. The audit can also provide information on what may have caused the change in performance, helping managers to improve the network.

 

When should I initiate a network audit?

While there’s no hard and fast timeline, here are a few guidelines:

  • Whenever you add significant new hardware – This includes new DAS or Wi-Fi installations
  • Both before and after you purchase additional spectrum – Before, to ensure your network is prepared to take on the additional spectrum; after, to see how the additional spectrum may be impacting network performance
  • Whenever you move – If your business moves to a new location, perform an audit to make sure any physical changes have not caused network depreciation
  • At minimum, every two years – Even if nothing changes, it’s a good idea to perform a full-scale audit every couple of years

Network audits can be time-consuming, but they’re highly detailed and well worth the effort.

— Scott Robertson

 

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