Affordable wireless can be a godsend if carefully installed.

Is a wireless solution like Ubiquiti capable of handling serious video surveillance applications – for instance, a large site or a town centre?

A: If you need long haul links over many kilometres with hundreds of Mbs of bandwidth you’re better off going with a high-powered solution but around town, a low cost wireless mesh might work if it’s thoughtfully installed taking its performance characteristics into account.

Be sure you don’t overload access points. You need to do plenty of tuning and testing prior to commissioning to make sure bandwidth is constant or there are likely to be strange periods of latency caused by environmental factors that end users won’t appreciate. Operators of council surveillance solutions don’t care about technical challenges – they just want the system to function consistently.

Make sure you stay within the specification – a little less than the spec if your customer’s environment features lots of noise, heat, buildings, strong reflections, trees and other enemies of wireless. Some of these issues will be unclear to you until commissioning unless you undertake testing in advance. One thing is sure – if you take low cost links to the limit in good conditions they are going to play up when times are tough.

In short, you’ve got to pick the product that suits what you are trying to do. For small point-to-point links, lower cost solutions can work well, while more challenging link environments may need another solution. Even if the application can be done with a low cost wireless network, there’s still work ahead of you – it comes down to designing a wireless solution to meet your customer’s needs.

For instance, you might have a bunch of access points beautifully installed all over the place but the design of the system means they are not efficient. In this case, you might need to consider a sector array and antennas on the roof – or anywhere they deliver the performance the customer requires.

Planning and commissioning will make performance better but you also have to stay on top of link performance. Unlike cable or fibre, wireless propagates across open space so it’s exposed to evolving interference. Wireless is not set and forget and your customer needs to understand this and to balance ongoing link management against the fearful cost of thousands of metres of side-boring.

Something else to consider is the capability of the link hardware to withstand the elements – heat, rain, dust. It only takes one call-out with a hired scissor-lift and 2 techs over the life of a wireless link to cancel out any savings you made on hardware.

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