How to Build Well-Designed WiFi in Hotels

Designing a good and efficient WiFi network for a hotel or big buildings in general isn't easy. There are multiple mistakes you can make and the network differs a lot from a simple home based solutions. It's vital that the network is designed by a professional that knows all the radio network quirks.

woman sitting on a hotel bed with a laptop

Either so here is few points that you should consider when thinking about a hotel WiFi network:

  • You should set neighboring access points to work on separate channels (1, 6, 11 and repeat) so that their radio emission doesn't interfere with each other - either by using the same channel or one next to it.
  • 2.4GHz band is crowded with other radio emissions, so you really shouldn't expect groundbreaking performance in it. There is a small pool of devices limited to 2.4GHz, but most modern devices should already be compatible with 5GHz networks.
  • Access points working on 5GHz can provide network in smaller areas, which is great for avoiding radio interference between access points.
  • With 5GHz you have a choice between 20 or 40MHz bandwidth. It's advised to use 20MHz and take advantage of greater transmitting power. 20MHz also gives greater channel count (which may be handy when dividing access points between channels). Also, not every consumer devices can use the 40MHz band.
  • For 5GHz you also should use Dynamic Frequency Selection (DFS) which causes access points to change channels if they detect weather radars. Those radars operate at frequencies used partially by the 5GHz WiFi (few channels), and IEEE 802.11h compatible routers can detect their radio emission and change channel to avoid interference.
  • It's also desired to disable low transfer rates of 1, 2, 5.5, i 11 Mbps (802.11b-only). It will prevent very old 802.11b devices from connecting but will greatly improve overall network efficiency.
  • Signal strength (RSSI) isn't the key value of a good network. You should want a good signal to noise ratio, or SNR. The better SNR, the faster back and forth radio communication can be completed. If, for example, you have too many access points that interfere with each other, then RSSI is very high but SNR is very low and the error rate causes WiFi to work poorly.
  • Home-use routers are good for just about that - homes. For big areas with multiple users at once you'll need some better grade equipment.
  • Radio communication works best when there are no obstacles between devices - don't hide access point antennas from sight.
  • No one likes when WiFi quietly stops working after some time - mobile social apps or mail clients stop working with no notification, and only the web browser reveals that the device was logged out and the user must log in once again for no reason.
  • The most handy place for an access point may not be the best one. For example corridors are bad as access points will have clear sight of each other and radio interference could easily occur. Either place them in rooms or use directional antennas.
  • Do not block VPN usage - for user security and best service quality.
  • Be sure that you have a sufficient IP pool in your DHCP for guest WiFi network.
  • Having multiple guests using WiFi means you need to have a very good Internet service provider. No one enjoys lagging YouTube clips that buffer forever. The same is true for band limitations - if the network doesn't work, the customer won't be happy.
  • When you have a working network - keep an eye on it and constantly ask for feedback. Hardware failures or unexpected changes to network performance can happen very easily and leave you vulnerable at the worst possible moment.
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