What is an Active or AP on a Stick survey?

What is an Active or AP on a Stick survey?

The lifecycle of a wireless network is the process of designing, validating, optimizing, and troubleshooting that network to ensure it continuously meets the connectivity requirements for your users. Whether upgrading an existing wireless network or designing a greenfield network, the physical environment plays a big role in how a network performs. Spectrum Technical Solutions will assist by collecting wall material attenuation and RF spectrum activity with an AP on a Stick survey, you’re able to reduce the risk of the unknown and design Wi-Fi with a higher degree of accuracy.

What is an Active or AP on a Stick survey?

An AP on a Stick (APoS) survey is performed by an STS technician utilizing a method of temporarily staging APs at deployment height utilizing a tripod or other mounting options to validate your predictive design before a full site deployment. APoS surveys identify the RF signal propagation characteristics of the environment while providing additional confidence your proposed design will work as planned, reducing the need for costly AP location changes, and validating you have the correct number of APs in your design.

Is an AP on a Stick survey necessary?

With the advancements in predictive Wi-Fi design, network experts are often asked whether or not an APoS is still necessary. One rule of thumb for design validation is to perform a survey if the expected cost of installation exceeds the cost of the actual AP. Between dealing with potential asbestos testing, hard deck ceilings, temporary network outages for impacted areas, union labor, cost of running cable, cost of additional switches, etc., an Active or APoS survey by STS can prevent additional installation costs and provide insurance for business-critical Wi-Fi designs.

3 Key Goals of Performing an Active or AP on a Stick Survey

1. Validate Your Environment

While most greenfield projects have up-to-date CAD files, not all network changes will be that lucky. As companies change buildings and upgrade or expand office suites, site drawings don’t always contain a history of modifications made to the facility throughout the years or get communicated to the wireless team. An undocumented atrium, old x-ray room, or storage closet with dense files and metal shelving can negatively impact Wi-Fi if not accounted for. An AP on a Stick survey performed by an STS technician ensures that we have the opportunity to get eyes on the project, collect data, and validate that the environment is what we predicted. STS would also take the time to utilize a spectrum analyzer and look at neighboring networks to look for interference.

2. Validate AP and Antenna (if applicable) Performance

Network design is an art form. There is no single way to build a great network, but all good networks have one thing in common-validating the AP and antenna performance. When STS is deploying a network, we count on the antenna patterns and signal coverage performing as predicted. Performing an AP on a stick survey with Ekahau by sn STS technician validates the design by answering the following questions:

  1. Does the RF propagate as anticipated?
  2. Does the antenna pattern match what has been laid on in a predictive design?
  3. Do you have the signal coverage you anticipated?

If the answer is no, STS will make sure we have recorded the data so we can go back to your design to make the necessary adjustments.

3. Mitigate Risk

One of the most critical components of network planning—and the costliest if done incorrectly—is determining the number of APs you need and where to put them. Incorrect placement or an incorrect number (too many APs or too few), can create major problems for your network, such as coverage gaps, channel interference, or roaming issues. This can result in costly future network outages, downtime, and a loss of productivity. STS performing an AP on a Stick survey utilizing Ekahau gives you the assurance that your design will perform as predicted. The empirical data collected during testing allows you to either sign off on the project as designed or request alterations before racking up unnecessary overages.

Equipment Needed to Perform an AP on a Stick Site Survey

The equipment needed for an AP on a Stick survey can vary by installation (for example: a tripod may not provide enough vertical reach for a warehouse with 40+ foot ceilings), but the following list should give you an idea of the type of equipment STS would utilize. AP model that was chosen for the project and the External antenna used in your design (if applicable)

  1. Tripod or other telescoping stand to stage AP
  2. External battery pack (Multiple for larger facilities)
  3. Access to a Scissor Lift (if applicable)
  4. STS Technician utilizing state-of-the-art Ekahau heat
    mapping software

Industrial, Manufacturing, and Warehouse Environments
These types of environments present very unique challenges. Not only are there safety considerations (forklifts and large aisles of shelving), but also ceiling heights and mounting options that may go beyond a typical tripod APoS. It’s critical to get the AP in the appropriate placement so that STS can ensure RF reaches where the devices are being utilized. In addition, understanding the inventory the warehouse is stocking (if applicable), and what quantity or level of inventory the warehouse is stocking can significantly impact RF attenuation and design considerations.

Enterprise and Office Environments
Enterprise and office environments have some compounding complexities due to BYOD requirements, security, open collaboration spaces, and aesthetic requirements. In addition, interferers such as wireless cameras, cordless phones, or other wireless devices can wreak havoc on your network. AP on a Stick Surveys allows STS to identify potential interferers in your network.

The term “mission-critical” takes on a whole new meaning when dealing with life-critical mobile devices. Healthcare is a dynamic environment so understanding your network requirements is critical when designing your network. During STS Validating your network it can require a ticket to be submitted to ensure no plenum space is broken, so make sure you have coordinated with facilities and security for access to locations to perform your survey.

Large Public Venues (LPV)
Temporary high capacity is critical in many Large Public Venues, resulting in a challenge to validating your predictive survey. In order to gain real-time insight into your network performance, you can survey during live events or hire a pool of extras to assist in your survey during the venue’s downtime.

Municipalities and government facilities present their own challenges. Oftentimes the challenge is trying to create a “standard” network for a variety of environments. In addition, historical buildings present unique challenges. Lead windows, renovated wings, and the challenge of not being able to alter aesthetics in historical buildings can require significant design adaptation. Sometimes APoS in historical buildings is to determine onsite where the AP can be placed.

In Higher Education and K-12, not only do you have multiple environments, but you will also have to design for high capacity requirements for multiple devices per student. From lecture halls to student centers and outdoor common areas, additional aesthetic requirements are a significant component in designing networks for education.

What is an Active or AP on a Stick survey?


AP-on-a-stick surveys will help STS validate a predictive design. Whether you take the time to have an STS survey and validate the design before you implement, or you rely on real-world devices to validate the design after you have deployed the infrastructure, one way or another it’s going to be tested. Make sure you document everything. Documentation will be your friend whether reporting to your own CIO or CEO, to help them understand the performance of your predictive design. Your biggest priority, and the key reason for performing an APoS, is to validate that your design will perform as predicted. STS will be there every step of the way. Contact STS today to discuss your options.

What is an Active or AP on a Stick survey?