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Real-Time Location System Design for a Big Airport in Africa


My latest, and most exciting, project has been to design a Real-Time Location System (RTLS) for a new big airport in Africa. This was no easy task.

My main challenge was in the diversity of spaces, the cluster of walls and the scale of the project. With a tight schedule at hand, you can't simulate the entire airport. So, I selected 4 random, yet different, locations where the ceiling height, cluster of walls and the number of people connected differed. Luckily, after simulating these 4 areas, I came to the following conclusions when it comes to access points spacing:

1) A 12-15 meter spacing would be sufficient for areas where walls are clustered.

2) A 25 meter spacing would be sufficient for an open and double height space with the presence of high number of users.

3) A 30m spacing would be sufficient for a normal open space area and the presence of a high number of users. 

Choosing one huge area containing the above mentioned space diversity, using Ekahau 9.1 and 802.11n/ac access points, the results were highly satisfactory: 

The Space:


Space data: Area (6,467 m²)

Coverage Requirement: Location Tracking (RTLS)

Signal Strength Min

-65.0 dBm 

Signal-to-noise Ratio Min

22.0 dB 

Data rate Min

15 Mbps 

Number of Access Points Min

3 at min. -65.0 dBm

Channel Overlap Max

5 at min. -80.0 dBm

Round Trip Time (RTT) Max


Packet Loss Max

5.0 % 

Capacity Requirement


Generic Smartphone [Very High SLA (10 Mbps)]


Generic Laptop [File Sharing, Normal (10 Mbps)]


Generic VoIP Phone [Very Low SLA (256 Kbps)]


Generic Tablet [Normal SLA (2 Mbps)]

Total: 1690 (13,700 Mbits/s)


Above capacity requirements were calculated according to the number of seats and offices

Signal Strength at 2.4 GHz:



Signal Strength at 5 GHz:



SNR at 2.4 GHz:



SNR at 5 GHz:



Network Issues (areas covered in yellow are mainly bathrooms and stairs, the ones covered in red are shafts):



We can confidently say a 95% satisfaction was achieved! I wish had the time to simulate the entire airport, but when tight on time, you have to find ways to achieve the best results possible with the least time and efforts. I'm personally happy with these results.

See you next time!

Edmond Shami