WiFi Access Points

 

An access point based on the 11n standard can logically control up to 255 devices. But, in practice, a single access point (AP) could have trouble handling so many. As the number of devices increases, the overhead on the AP also grows. This decreases its performance, and limits the absolute performance per device. So, in practice, manufacturers set AP capacity limits that are lower than the maximum limit of 225 devices.

The real question, however, is this: How many devices can access a single access point before performance begins to degrade? The answer: Not many. A rule of thumb is that, above 16 devices, performance starts to drop significantly. In any case, it is important to consider that the Wi-Fi connection is not like a cellular wireless connection: Usually, the amount of intelligence in the wireless router is not enough to provide great priority management. This is both a virtue and a disadvantage for Wi-Fi. It’s cheap because it’s less complex, but less capable as a result. The advantage, however, is that it is relatively easy to simply place a bunch of access points in a given area, and, paying attention to things like coverage and overlap, achieve a relatively smooth user experience.

Fortunately, there are tools to help you analyze coverage considerations. Simulation software can give you a feel for dead zones, and what kind of performance you will get at your location. However, the software is relatively expensive, and may not be widely used after installation. If you know you are going to expand or modify your Wi-Fi coverage in the future, simulation software can be a good investment. On the other hand, if you are planning a fairly static environment, purchasing the software might not be financially justifiable.