UniFi - Which UAPs to Use for High Density Situations


Not every UniFi Access Point (UAP) is the right choice for every scenario. This article describes which generation of UAP should be used in high density environments: such as a concert venue, an outdoor fair, or any large event where many clients are expected in a relatively small space. 

The UniFi product line introduced a third generation of APs with the addition of the UniFi-HD—the first UniFi Wave-2 access point (see more info here). And now with the introduction of the UniFi UAP-SHD, which just like the UAP-HD, is especially designed for high density situations. The SHD however, has a security focus, specific for those scenarios where sensitive information
such as RADIUS authentication, is being transferred over the network. Some use cases may be banks, hospitals, universities, among others. See our UniFi - Introducing the UAP-SHD for more information.

Models within each generation share some characteristics, but not all. It is best to verify what generation each UAP model belongs to here.

Generation Comparison

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There are some important differences between our Gen1, Gen2 and Gen3 device. It's important to understand their characteristics to take full advantage of what each has to offer. 

In high density situations, Gen1 devices are not recommended. For starters, they are slower than their Gen2 and Gen3 counterparts (802.11n vs the 802.11ac of Gen2 and Gen3). But really, it all comes down to channel availability. Gen1 devices are exclusively 2.4GHz band, whereas Gen2 and 3 are dual band, functioning on both 2.4GHz and 5GHz. And although the 2.4GHz band has its uses and situations where it might be preferable, a high density scenario is not one of them.

Here's why:

1. One of the advantages of the 2.4GHz band is that it has a larger range, which can be great in some cases, but not when you have several UAPs in close proximity (which is the norm in these types of events). Self-interference will be much more likely with the 2.4GHz band.

2. The 2.4GHz band only has three non-overlapping channels, which will become saturated very quickly when you have many clients using the network simultaneously. On the other hand, Gen2 and Gen3 are dual band so they have a total of 28 non-overlapping channels (three for the 2.4GHz band and twenty-five for the 5GHz band). Obviously, more clients will be able to connect to the dual band devices. And this will translate to considerably more users with connectivity in a dense-user support situation, where there is more than one access point in the same coverage area.

Another advantage of the 5GHz band is that it will allow smaller cells (the aforementioned coverage areas), so you will be able to have more clients connected in a smaller space. Perfect for those packed concerts.

This is the breakdown for each generation:

Gen1  3 independent channels in the 2.4GHz band 25 users 50 users 75 users 150 users 

28 independent channels (3 channels in the 2.4GHz band + 25 channels in the 5GHz band)

70 users 125 users 1750 users 3,500 users 
Gen3** 28 independent channels (3 channels in the 2.4GHz band + 25 channels in the 5GHz band) 250 users 500 users  7000 users 14,000 users 

*This is the maximum number of station associations each radio supports. It is not recommended to run the radios near the association limit; it is recommended to run at under 1/2 this limit.

**UniFi Gen2 and Gen3 can scale to hundreds of thousand of users with use of channel reuse techniques and effective planning for high user counts. See our high-density deployment guide (here) if doing installations over the max users listed here. Gen3 was introduced with addition of UAP-HD, and is optimal for high-density deployments.

To see which UAP models fall under each generation, please see our related articles below. 

info_i_25x25.png Note: there are some Gen1 devices that are dual band (UAP-Pro,UAP-AC, UAP-AC-Outdoor). Even so, we do not recommend these models that came at the end of what we consider Gen1 for high density situations, simply because technology evolves, and our newer models are faster and better equipped to handle high client-load.


Related Articles

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UniFi - Which hardware generation is my UniFi Access Point (UAP)?

UniFi - High Density WLAN Scenario Guide

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