Office Filled With iPads? Triple The Wireless Access Points

Using your iPad in the workplace seems easy: hook up to the wireless network and you're good to go. However, an analysis by Gartner suggests that offices switching away from notebooks to iPads might need to dramatically increase the number of access points or see major performance issues.

Picture by Bark

In a recent paper, analyst Tim Zimmerman doesn't mince his words:

Although larger touchscreens and improved user interfaces appeal to many users, the limited transmit power and throughput of these devices mean that enterprises need to deploy 300% more access points to get the same wireless performance characteristics as industry laptops.

The issue is that the iPad's transmission power of 10mW is a lot lower than a typical laptop, which generally runs between 30mW and 50mW. That means that iPads will lose connection speed more rapidly than notebooks as they move away from an access point, and may not work at all in some areas even when other devices can connect. That doesn't mean that iPads can't be used effectively at work, but it does mean that larger organisations need to plan their networks carefully.

Experienced iPad networking issues in the office? Share your experience in the comments.


    At a private girl's school in Perth we've just rolled out 80 iPads to teaching staff. We've had to handle issues with WPA2 compatibility (requiring specific software hacks on our wireless nodes), moving to 5GHz from 2.4GHz and using certain wireless channels to combat interference (for laptops as well), connection drop outs and the iPad basically lying about having a decent connection. The update to ios5 did admittedly help to some degree though.

    Suffice to say it's been a nightmare but we've finally got it stable and happily running through a squid proxy. We knew it wouldn't be a flawless roll-out but never guessed how difficult it actually would be.

    I would be interested in reading the paper though, is there a link we can access it from?

    Obviously the iPad is the go-to device for businesses but I've experienced the same thing with my Acer Iconia A500 (Honeycomb). I've seen reduced connectivity strength and speeds where my laptops have always been fine.

    Running your wireless network on 5ghz makes a big difference, since it has far more non-overlapping channels. This means you can pack your access points really densely without interference issues.

      Although 5ghz has a shorter range than 2.4ghz, so you do really need to pack them more densely

    "deploy 300% more access points" mean quadruple the number of access points, not triple.

    Part of the problem here may be that many enterprise wireless networks are poorly designed in the first place. Companies scatter around a handful of AP's and hope for the best. The same issue exists for wifi voip handsets and mobiles that fall back to wifi when in the office.

    In order to properly handle this kind of traffic you may need to deploy some kind of Wireless Controller on the back end that will adjust channels and RF power. You would also need to think about environmental (microwaves are fun!) and how many AP's you really need for proper coverage.

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