Wi-Fi Checklists:

Historically speaking – the Wi-Fi industry is about 25-years old… a mere toddler in the grand scheme of things. But we have now matured to a place where we should be strong enough to accept the use of Checklists!

Checklists Backstories

Back before World War II – the US Army Air Corp requested a new type of long-distance bomber… and Boeing developed a prototype called the 299 – which would later become the famous ‘B-17 Flying Fortress”.

In one of the early trials to share this new flying wonder to those evaluating the new airplane, in front of the press, and those evaluating the plane – it took off and promptly crashed in front of everyone. NOT a good way to impress.

At the time, someone in the press wrote, “It was too much plane for one man to fly”.

But after conducting the post-crash analysis – it was found a very simple thing – a ‘gust lock’ on the elevator was left on. Both Boeing, and the Army Air Corp realized it wasn’t a problem with the prototype, or really with the pilot’s skills – but a simple thing that was merely overlooked.

Thus, pilots ever since have been following Checklists before, during, and after every. single. flight!

One of my son’s is an F-16 pilot, and he follows checklists every flight.

Another late comer to the world of checklists was the surgical rooms in hospitals around the world.

It wasn’t until 1999 when pressure started to lessen the number of deaths caused by hospitals themselves.

It took until 2008 for the UN’s WHO organization to publish a “Surgical Safety List” – which resulted in over a 1/3 of those deaths to be reduced by merely having surgeon’s and their team follow simple checklists before, during and after surgeries.

Another of my son’s is a Registered Nurse and works in surgical suites every shift. They also follow these simple checklists for every procedure.

When I asked my children about this topic of checklists and why we are finally putting this together in the Wireless LAN community, they asked the following question:

What took you so long…?

My answer was something along the line of, “We have a world of super-smart, yet cocky engineers who like to be right all the time, and don’t really get along all that well…”

The Pilot son’s response was, “Have you never met a fighter pilot?”

And my RN son’s response was, “Have you never met a surgeon?”

So perhaps our industry can accept and start to use Checklists like so many other industries have already adopted.

How to NOT Have a Wireless Problem

For the past 15 years or so, I’ve been using a simple ‘checklist’ to help in the installation of access points. It was designed to NOT have a wired problem look like a wireless problem. Any issue with the cable plant, switch fabric, or network infrastructure will present itself as a “Wireless Problem” – even though it may have nothing to do with wireless.

This short checklist for BEFORE and AFTER an Access Point is installed was designed to keep non-wireless issues from cropping up. Once your access point is installed… EVERYTHING is a “Wireless Problem”.

BEFORE Installing an Access Point

Then AFTER Installing an Access Point

By following these simple steps, you can prevent non-Wireless Issues becoming a “Wireless Problem”.

On To The Main Event…

The bane of Wi-Fi Engineers everywhere is the dreaded, “It Depends”!

Yes, yes, yes, and one more yes for good measure. Yes, we all know Wi-Fi is complex, and there are so many variables. And coming up with any sort of ‘rules’ or ‘best practices’ has been a daunting task indeed. Getting consensus between all Wi-Fi Engineers – not happening.

After over five years of working on this project with scores of other Wi-Fi folks… here is a possible solution to our ‘checklist problem’ – we just came up with a system that can have ‘variable metrics’ – you can enter in your own choices for the specifics metrics you have engineered in your own WLAN design.

Wi-Fi Checklist (Top 25)

For each individual topic, you can use the following to evaluate your Wireless LAN.

Some metrics should be ON or positive, some should be OFF or negative, and others may have a specific metric to measure against.

We have filled in some sample metrics that should be good for 85%-90% of the situations – but feel free to change them to what you think is correct in your own situation.

Each of these is also specific to RF Band, as in there are things in the 2.4 GHz band that may have no relationship with 5 GHz or 6 GHz, or vice-versa.

For each of the items, there is a description with more details.

Those items with a flag of ^ are items where in various drafts have caused some ‘discussions’ between the various Wi-Fi Engineers we worked with. So take those recommendations, realizing not everyone agrees.

Extended Wi-Fi Checklist

In addition to this first base list of the top 25 items used to evaluate your Wireless LAN, there are also an additional group of lesser-known variables and situations you may want to also use to evaluate your network. These additional 41 items should also be used to make sure your network is as tuned as possible to meet your pre-defined requirements.

Wi-Fi Connection Checklist

We also realize these are very Wi-Fi-centric… as designed. But our Wireless LAN’s are not merely Wi-Fi, and need to be connected with a larger network. So we’ve also included a shorter checklist for testing connectivity not only over Wi-Fi, but also to test other network issues as well.

This checklist can be used to connect a target client device and document further network interactions that need to be working properly.

Work in Progress

These are all a works in progress.

Your input and feedback are invaluable to help improve the product.

In that light, we have freely shared all these checklists, with their associated Excel spreadsheets with the community. In hopes as a group we can start to improve Wi-Fi everywhere.

We have also included a set of resources that are precursors to these checklists. Supporting documents and graphics that are the foundation underneath many of these items listed on the checklists.

Below is a list of the individual items that are available to download and use within the community. If you want to use these in your own works – please just give appropriate attribution to where they came from.

Supporting Resources

WLAN Troubleshooting – Bubble Diagram
WLAN Troubleshooting – List of Potential Causes
2.4 GHz Spectrum Chart
5 GHz Spectrum Chart
6 GHz Spectrum Chart
MCS Chart – 802.11n & 802.11ac
MCS Chart – 802.11n, 802.11ac & 802.11ax

Wi-Fi Checklists

How to NOT have a Wireless Problem – PDF & Excel
Wi-Fi Checklist (Top 25) – PDF & Excel
Extended Wi-Fi Checklist – PDF & Excel
Wi-Fi Connection Checklist -– PDF & Excel