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Wifi in public areas

Posted on 2007-11-15
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I have a client for who I support their three networks consisting of about 140 PCs and 8 servers. (Yes, I kknow one of the forums this is on is an Apple one - we'll come to that shortly).

They're a family run company and the family own a 70 room house in Suffolk which have been converted into 20 apartments in one wing, 4 offices in another and the main house. It is regularly used for weddings, conferences and special events and they have asked me a couple of times to set it up for wifi. I've held off from agreeing as I have only worked on small wifi installations in the past.  

I would not be working alone, they have a small IT department of four and with any major installations I project manage it. In other words, if anything goes wrong, blame Mike.

I would get a local company to put in network points and Cat6 cabling. But some of the public rooms are huge. Not airport lounge huge, but you would certainly be able to fit my house and my neighbours house into them.    

So I was wondering what places like coffee shops and pubs use for wifi and what sort of price is the equipment? Do they just scatter Access Points/repeaters all over?

Anyway, I put this on Apple as well as others, because Eoin O'Sullivan provided such great help with a MacBook wifi related question, and I did try and sneak this question past him, but got caught out.

Thanks for any ideas.

Mike

Mike
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Question by:mikeabc27
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by:strung
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The new N standard Wifi routers have a much greater range than the older G and B routers. I can't imagine a room big enough that you could not get a signal from an N access point everywhere in the room.
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by:carcenea
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You wouldn't want to use multiple repeaters in this configuration. You'd want setup your access points strategically so that there AP's that are right next to one another don't have the same channels. Normally you'd used some sort of wireless scanning tool to map out something like this ie. AirMagnet. You could use a free tool like NetStumbler but it wouldn't be as robust. The key to setting up multiple AP's within a single site is to make sure that you don't have AP's operating on the same channels within distance of one another.
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by:mikeabc27
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Thanks for your ideas. As a guide close together should access points/repeaters be and how far apart should they be before using the same channel.

Also for a professional installation should I be looking at Cisco products, as opposed to Netgear, D-Link and Belkin? I do like working with Netgear Prosafe routers and access points, would these be up to the job?
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Johnjces earned 400 total points
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I disagree with carcenea on different channels etc but do agree that repeaters are not at all a good thing. You half your throughput at least when you repeat a signal and such should only be used when you cannot get a Cat5 cable to an access point.

In our hotel, we use the D-Link hardened DWL-3200AP and have them spaced on the second floor of the hotel at about every 75 feet. Each is wired to a switch and of course to a very separate WAN to the INternet. Each AP is set to the same channel with the same SSID. I can take my laptop and surf the web from one end of the hotel to the other with no problems.

We do the same with our RV resort except we use the D-Link outdoor access points, which are DWL-2700AP. Now several of our outdoor AP's are wirelessly bridged and also act as APs... WDL with AP is what I think the setting is in these cases. We had to do this as there was absolutley no infrastructure where we had to locate them, other than power. One we had to use a copperlink adapter from patton electronics which allows Ethernet over one pair of telephone grade copper wires.

A great way to start is to obtain one of the APs you are going to use and set it up in an area and test signal strength etc. This will help develop your site survey. You could use NetStumbler to help with this.

And yes the draft N standard AP's are more powerful and have greater range, but not sure what good commercial APs are using that as of right now.

I am pleased with the D-Link units and their abilities.

Hope this helped a bit.

John
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by:Johnjces
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PS... I think I saw the hardened D-Link 3200s for about $160 USD at Insight.

I have seen (like at Intel corp), APs set about every 30 - 40 feet. (They have a huge budget). This however also represented one AP for each room in a large hall that had sliding air doors, the partitions you see in large convention centers.

JJ
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by:mikeabc27
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Thanks John - That's the sort of information I was looking for. You say your DWL-2700AP are wired to a switch but I can't see any ethernet connection on these. The product spec implies they are totally wireless??

What are you using for router and firewalls to your Internet connections?

Thanks,

Mike
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by:mikeabc27
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John - What sort of results did you get when trying the DWL-2700AP unwired, assuming you have tried this?

In an old house with thick walls, around 4000 square feet, would you be able to have one wired to a router downstairs and one unwired upstairs?
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by:carcenea
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Johnjces, I manage an enterprise wide wireless system of over 500 AP's. You HAVE to have different channels between close proximity AP's otherwise you can encounter interference. If two AP's are right next to one another with the same SSID and channel they will, in essence, battle for right-of-way.
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by:Johnjces
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We have like 10 inside APs (DWL-3200) and one of those,  by our conference center is in fact wirelessly bridged to one in our lobby. Thenonly coplaints we receive are due to guests wireless cards or those built into their PCs and being too far away. The farther you are from an AP the slower the transfer rate.

Now, say the APs wired to a LAN are providing a 2 meg transfer rate, (hypothetical as it could be better or worse), half that would be 1 meg which is still T1 speed. So... having one or two wirelessly bridged should not be noticeable.

And yes you can do that between floors as long as the two are fairly close, ~70 feet and not a lot of steel in the way. The frequency of these things is actually microwave and those waves will bounce around.

The bridged APs in our RV park we have few complaints about unless our ISP and link to the Internet is down.

I am going to use another Patton CopperLink to wire up the AP in the conference center and add one more AP to the front to provide better coverage and speed. Wired infrastructure in some areas is almost impossible to get through due to fire walls etc., so I understand the two floor thing.

John

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by:Johnjces
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carcenea,

I have no problems with that. The D-Links can even load balance. There are many other comments on the wireless forum here who have done research and have suggested the same as I. In bridging/AP mode you have to be on the same freq and SSID, by the way. Of course, there are those too that have suggested as you have as well.

I invite you to come and see for yourself! I do not know what APs you are using, a metro type system or what, (500 APO is a lot) but it seems to me that a lot of seamless mesh networks are on the same channel and SSID.

I do not know what to advise you or tell you but it certainly works like a charm here!

John
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by:Johnjces
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Forfot, the DWLs I mentioned all have Ethernet ports and Power Over Ethernet. That has made it real nice for us.

On the 3200's the port is on top between the antennas. On the outdoor 2700's the port is on the bottom sealed with a gasket.

John
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by:Johnjces
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carcenea and mike....

I am going to space out our channels on our close proximity APs, whihc are all of them in the hotel and see if there is any difference or if I see a significant improvement in range, speed etc..

Again, I have read that close proximity APs should have different channels, at least 5 channels apart but same SSID and I have read the opposite keeping them all on the same channels, same SSID. The majority opinion, however is to have different channels on close proximity APs.

NOT doing that here works great with our D-Link APs. But, in reading the D-Link manual a bit closer, if you use the load balancing aspect you MUST have different channels. They must negotiate load balancing via the LAN line. Hmmm... I need to research that too.

So.... I will experiment here and see what kind of results are obtained! Even if this forum is closed, I will post back my results.

Anyway, hate to give out bad info but I am learning too!

John
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by:Johnjces
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Alrighty!

What I did was check the entire hotel with NetStumbler and basic link speed stuff, good ol' MS Internet Explorer and a ping utility pinging Google.com continuously every 1 second.  All are about 80 feet apart, going upstairs, downstairs etc. I did my walking regiment today! :). There were about 35 users (guests) on the WLAN. That was part A. Part B was the return trip surfing the Internet. (How boring)! Tough to walk and type.

First Test was the control in the as is configuration...I kept the wireless APs all on same channel.
Second test was manually placing each AP on either channel 1, 6 or 11. I simply pretty much staggered them.
Third test, I allowed the APs to auto scan and select their own frequency keeping the two bridged APs on the same channel, ch 6. The other APs auto configured with either 1 or 11 with one at the far end deciding upon channel 6.

In Test 1 there were very few ping timeouts. Speed was consistent ranging from 11 mbs to 54 mbs, but this is reported as the hookup speed. I never saw it dip below 11 mbs. NetStumbler found each access point as I traveled and signal to noise ratio increased, of course, as you got closer. (Stronger signal less noise). In this scenario, the SNR was similar to the other tests and I could see no discernible difference.

Test 2, I received a lot more time outs in pinging Google. Everything else remained the same other than a couple of very noticeable signal drops when the Laptop, an IBM ThinkPad, would lock on to another channeled AP.
SNR remained the same as test 1.

Test 3, same as Test 2, except since the APs were not set as 1, 6, 11, 1, 6 ,11 etc as you "moved down the line", they were more like 1, 6, 11, 1, 11, 1, 6 etc. There were more noticeable drops and timeouts while walking the floors in this configuration. (By the way, when mapped out, the auto select was actually a better frequency selection based upon actual distance between APs since the hotel makes a Z pattern.

In both tests 2 and 3 the lowest speed got down to 1 mbs. It would soon find a new AP and lock on.

Surfing the Internet, on all three test runs was flawless, except in test 3 when it timed out while changing channels on one occasion.

So... What does this prove? I do not know as I do not know how to determine how the signals are influenced with these DLink APs when in close proximity on the same channels. I could not see it with NetStumbler. There may be other tools out there that could tell me, but I do not own any others nor do I know of any. I could not determine any contention between APs. Maybe the D-Link commercial variety do something electronically if this situation occurs.

I do know that the APs when allowed to auto select, see what other frequencies are in use and they did not decide on the same frequency! SO.....

I will keep it in this manner (the best practices manner as suggested and what the majority advise) for a good period or time and see if we get more or fewer complaints/compliments.

This was fun! I enjoyed it! I hope I didn't tick off too many guests today!

John
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by:Johnjces
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Mike,

In re... "What are you using for router and firewalls to your Internet connections?"

We are in the mountains and we are limited via the telco so have business class DSL for our hotel guests, RV Park and our business use. All are very separate DSL lines. We do not use the DSL stuff the TelCo provides us as we cannot allow anyone entering any part of our network. We are using Siemens Efficient Model 5930 ADSL Business Gateway Routers at least on the hotel side replacing a failed NetGear ADSL router. I will move all of our DSL lines to these eventually as they are very configurable. They have  NAT, firewall, stateful packet inspection... you name it, it seems to have it. It is a nice piece of equipment.

The NetGear ones were OK, very simple, low cost etc.

Hope this all helps you out!

John
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by:mikeabc27
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Strung - I'm sure you have far more experience with N than I have but my experience using pre-N routers on a couple of networks disappointing. No doubt they would work great with proprietory pre-N cards, but outside Macbook Pros most use 802.11g.

carcenea - Thanks for the warning on using repeaters and putting me onto NetStumber, using the trial version and will pay my $79 in a month's time. carcenea: AirMagnet is probably outside my budget for now.

John - the way you have designed you hotel's wifi infrastructure is so close to what I am trying to achieve in my clients "stately home" you've given me the perfect blueprint and saved me many, many wasted hours. You have taken the trouble to go into so much more details than I could have hoped for.

Many thanks,

Mike
 

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by:Johnjces
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Hey, I enjoyed it! Did some more research, as carcenea opened my eyes a bit wider and had a good time experimenting today!

It was quiet in the office!

Good luck! Post later how it worked/works out!

John
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