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Ask Slashdot: Best Wi-Fi Solution For a Hotel? 300

Posted by Soulskill
from the we'll-keep-a-flickering-led-on-for-you dept.
dynamo52 writes "I have been tasked with replacing a managed Wi-Fi system for a mid-sized hotel. They have already selected Comcast to provide a 100mbps connection, which unfortunately must come in at one corner of the ~5-acre property. The hotel plans to provide this service for free, so there is no need for any type of billing management system, though it should be secured enough that the parking lot does not become a free Wi-Fi hotspot. Additionally, there is no ethernet infrastructure in place. The existing APs (hidden away in proprietary encasements) seem to be connected via telephone lines and the owners have strongly indicated they would prefer that no new wiring be installed. Have any Slashdotters implemented similar systems? Specifically, what hardware did you use and what special considerations should I take in designing this system?"
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Ask Slashdot: Best Wi-Fi Solution For a Hotel?

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  • by Joe_Dragon (2206452) on Saturday August 20, 2011 @12:33PM (#37154266)

    Well if they getting comcast tv as well then they may need to rewire the cable system as well any ways. Any way more info on how they AP are setup and linked will help.

    And to cut down on free wifi use you can set a password that you just give out to hotel guests.

    • by gmack (197796)

      No need, you can install a VDSL DSLAM where all of those phone cables connect and get a reasonably decent data rate to the hotspots.

      • Bingo. This is how the majority of hotels that dont want to spend the money to run CAT5 do it. I used to work at a company that did WiFi for hotels (among other places), and the VDSL solution running over existing internal phone wiring was the most used method.
  • Juniper's recent purchase of Trapeze gives them a pretty powerful line of wireless hardware with software to support it. One cool feature is the ability to literally draw lines based on floorplan as to where a given AP will allow a client to connect.

    Then there's Aruba. They have some really great management and security features. Browse both vendor's sites and take a look at their literature. I've seen both implemented to good effect in your type of scenario.

    • by flosofl (626809)
      Motorola Solutions (the enterprise network and public safety side of the split) also makes a really good enterprise wireless solution. I like the LiveRF function you can get on some products. If you have a floor plan with AP placements, you can generate a live heat map of your coverage. If you also use their integrated WIPS/WIDS system, you can also do live spectrum analysis, wireless forensics (you can actually pick out a wireless client and watch the history as it moved throughout a location moving from A
  • No Offense... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 20, 2011 @12:36PM (#37154294)

    No offense... but judging by your wording, the hotel should really hire a professional. Mark my words: this will turn well for neither you nor the hotel.

    • by tg123 (1409503)

      No offense... but judging by your wording, the hotel should really hire a professional. Mark my words: this will turn well for neither you nor the hotel.

      I agree this is not something you should attempt without professional advice, you have a nightmare in the making here.

      Have you thought of using internet over mains wiring?

      There are plug packs that that plug into a power socket and have a network connector on one end .

      http://www.solwise.co.uk/net-powerline.htm [solwise.co.uk]

      This would give guests close to the ease of use of a wireless network without the headaches of security concerns and wireless dropouts.
      You could then set up a small wireless network for t

      • good grief no , there is a slight issue that mains wiring has to be on the same circuit to work and even then at a moderate distance (20 meters or so ) the speed will be the equivalent of an acoustically coupled modem connected to two tin cans and a piece of soggy string.

        The advertised distances are a complete joke.

        chances are you will need to run some cables and with the distances some of these probably need to be fibre
        to make it work in any reasonable manner.

        • Chances are, you've had some bad experiences with some bad hardware... I use powerline networking at home... the best link (that's actually a real world application) is about 40m of cable, and pulls 55-65mbit depending on what's running on the circuit at the time. The *worst* link is about 75m of cable between the two adapters, both of which are connected to a different phase of the power line, and pulls about 15mbit between the two.

          That said, I still wouldn't consider powerline networking for the hotel. It

      • Have you thought of using internet over mains wiring?

        "It's as if millions of Radio Hams suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced."

        Broadband over power line wipes out short wave radio.
        http://www.arrl.org/broadband-over-powerline-bpl [arrl.org]


        .
    • by evanism (600676)

      No offense, but it's people like you that cause offense. He asked a clear question in plain English. He should be rewarded for this.

      It proves nothing to jam a sentence with jargon to make one look smart.

      Rather than a single critique, you could provide a cogent answer, but you didn't. You just created white noise and denigrated a guy who is trying to do his best.

      Offense taken.

  • 100 Mbit Ethernet really requires only two twisted pairs so you might just get away with replacing the connectors on the end of the existing cable which has exactly that number of pairs! The old cable is probably not shielded at all so before jumping on this try it out with a few interconnected hotspots and load the system as best you can.
    • by forty-2 (145915)

      second that, I've gotten away with using CAT3 in a pinch, but testing the longest runs is a good place to start. Hell, it might not even be the end of the world if it negotiates @ 10Mbps. Presumably there's local power @ the WAP location?
      How many rooms? (or 'keys' as they say in the hospitality business)

      • by adolf (21054)

        Is there any reason at all to use greater than 10 megabit Ethernet at all?

        10base-T is made for Cat 3, and it's nowhere near as slow/ugly with modern gear as some of us remember from the dark old days of cheap unswitched networking. Just ratchet the port speed down to 10Mbps and call it a day (with the usual caveats about distance limits and the like).

        Setting the port speed explicitly results in much more reliable communication than just expecting the NICs at either end to just figure it out for themselves,

    • by minkie (814488)

      That sounds like a reasonable plan only if the existing cabling is Cat-5 or better. Most dedicated phone cabling (especially if it's more than about 10 years old) is almost certainly not Cat-5.

  • Policy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Patik (584959) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <kitapc>> on Saturday August 20, 2011 @12:42PM (#37154370) Homepage Journal
    The best hotel wifi experiences have been when I was given the SSID and (simple) password at check-in and, most importantly, the signal reached my room. There's nothing worse than having to go down the hall every time you want a signal, and many people will have smartphones so don't make the password 20 digits.
    • by brusk (135896)
      Amen to that. I just stayed in a hotel where I could only get a signal in the bathroom.
  • Does it need to be an open Wifi or can you set up Bridges?

  • For a mid sized hotel you should be able to mount N class repeaters on each floor. If course that will depend on how big the floors are so you may need more than one. Ideally you would need to place the unit in the middle of the floor for maximum coverage. The network should be secured and the password should be changed regularly. This will keep the wardrivers out of your parking lot and it shouldn't be too dificult for the average end user with a laptop to find the ssid and enter the pin. You probably don'
    • by ZorinLynx (31751)

      Do people still wardrive? I always figured that was an early 2000s "geeky fun" activity that's long since become boring and uninteresting.

      I know I wardrove a bit during the early days of wifi, but these days I find the idea kind of ridiculous and immature. :)

      • I'm not sure. It's been quite a while and free wireless is considerably more prevalent these days but who knows what these kids do today. I know what I'd be doing with that 100 mb connection though. That's good stuff.
  • by braddock (78796) on Saturday August 20, 2011 @12:45PM (#37154388)

    This is pretty much what Meraki was designed to do.

    • by superid (46543)

      My condo association installed Meraki based wifi to service 250 condo units on at least 5 acres. I have no major complaints, other than occasionally I find a coverage dead zone.

  • time Warner cable has in room modems / AP system for hotels that is tied to the hotel cable system. Now I don't know if comcast has them or not but if they do then all you have to do is run a cable off of the tv system to the AP spots. But that may need to have cable boxes in each room and limits on how much analog tv you can have on the system.

  • by ZeroNullVoid (886675) on Saturday August 20, 2011 @12:46PM (#37154398)
    Setup your own DSL network using existing RJ11/Phone cabling.

    You will place dsl modems in each area you want access points.

    You can even have all rooms or some premium rooms with hidden away dsl modems and a network cable coming out.

    You just need to setup a dslam after the modem and configure routing.

    You would want a login interface so users have to accept terms and conditions.

    Using the dsl method, you can setup access points at whatever strength seems secure enough wherever there is a phone connection or wiring, and you can splice the wiring if necessary.  You will need to place cheap filters on every normal phone connection, but that is a minimal cost.

    You can also look at ethernet over power line, but there are lots of variables and speed issues that makes this not ideal.
    • by arisvega (1414195)
      I find your lack of fonts disturbing.
  • If the wiring is already Cat5, then you should be good to swap out the proprietary boxes and find the other end for the router/network closet.
    If they are really telephone-grade wires, find the other ends and pull Cat5 through (by tying string/cat5 to the existing wiring.)

    Whatever the right thing is, do it right the first time and the hotel will save money either fixing it or dealing with unhappy guests. It may cost more initially. Really unhappy guests don't return.

    IMarv

  • by v1 (525388) on Saturday August 20, 2011 @12:47PM (#37154406) Homepage Journal

    The existing APs (hidden away in proprietary encasements) seem to be connected via telephone lines and the owners have strongly indicated they would prefer that no new wiring be installed.

    It's possible that running cable through the building is a nightmare. The owners may have painful memories of how things went when the last APs were installed. Talk with them and find out what went badly. There may be a better way, or maybe not.

    You may be forced to do wireless repeating. This is going to make a significant increase to the cost, but that may be the only option. First thing I'd do is start scouting around to see where good spots for APs are. The current ones may have simply been spaced evenly with no signal planning/testing whatsoever. Try the roof. You may not be able to run cable around IN the building, but have NO problem getting up onto the roof, and scatter APs around above people instead of in the hallways, thus avoiding the cable running problem. (you'd also be farther from the parking lot)

  • I've done this at a small (~70 room) hotel/conference center with three Linksys WRTG54Ls, one master and two repeaters plus three sets of high gain antennas.

  • Hi,

    Right this is only going from personal experience. At work we've bought UniFi access points.
    Not to plug it overly but the roaming for clients between access points and easy provisioning system is a treat including the handling of the "guest" network with user/pass sign-on in the browser.

    As far as cabling etc goes if you've got any largeish distance to cover then a simple wifi bridge should do the trick?

    All of this of course depends on the amount of clients you are expecting to be online at one given time on the network. If you want to use this as an meshed network then you will obviously get a higher latency the further you go from the core node.
    The above example would not be suitable for a very large hotel, and if you want to cover large outside areas then the antennas will cost a few buck not just in hardware but testing coverage / installation.

  • Get a few routers (I like Linksys), set them up as repeaters, and find strategic places to set them to get the coverage you need. Set up each with an easy to remember password (which will allow anyone "in the know" to use the network).

    And you are pretty much done. If you want to do something more fancy for logging in, DD-WRT has many options. I have no personal experience with them, however.
    • by paulsnx2 (453081)
      Grrrr.... Left out the step where you flash your routers with DD-WRT firmware (http://www.dd-wrt.com). But I guess that is obvious from the title.... I hope....
    • wrong advise. I don't even know where to start. Oh, I do. Get a professional to do this.

  • Wha? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PCM2 (4486) on Saturday August 20, 2011 @01:02PM (#37154596) Homepage

    As usual for "Ask Slashdot," you have left out key details that would allow people to give you meaningful responses. For example:

    1. What is the hotel using now and why does it want to replace it?
    2. What is a "proprietary encasement," and who put the APs there? Are you expected to put new APs in the same encasements? What will happen to the old APs?
    3. You say the hotel doesn't want to lay any new cable. That might just be too bad, but it also seems to imply that there is already some cable somewhere. Why not use the existing cable? You say the APs "seem to be connected by telephone wire," but you don't sound sure. Perhaps it's just long strings with tin cans at each end? Is there any way to find out?
    4. If the existing network is as strange and nonstandard as you make it sound, why is that? Was there something unique to the property that made that the best solution, and is it smart for you to ignore that?
    5. Before you begin, have you verified that the hotel's contract with Comcast actually allows it to offer Internet access to the public?
    6. You say the hotel wants to provide the network for free, so there's no need for any billing management system. Are you then comfortable with the idea that there will be no logging of the network at all, and no record of who might have used it and when? Is BitTorrent OK? How about botnets?
    7. If the patrons aren't expected to pay for the network, can they expect it to exist at all? That is, do you have a plan to test and verify that every room will have equal access to the network, and that a guest who came last summer won't return this summer and find out that the hotel doesn't seem to have WiFi anymore (when in fact it's just their new room)?
    8. Are you aware of FCC regulations regarding signal strength of your antennas, for those portions of the property that might be natural dark spots?
    9. Does your task include just replacing the network or does it also include managing the network, making repairs, etc.? How much time do you plan to devote to that?

    There may be more to this job than you have considered.

    • Re:Wha? (Score:5, Informative)

      by dynamo52 (890601) on Saturday August 20, 2011 @01:53PM (#37155032)

      OK, while others here have provided good suggestions you are the first to ask specific and relevant questions.

      What is the hotel using now and why does it want to replace it?

      They are using a third party provider that manages the entire system. This system includes a paywall that they no longer feel is advantageous to their business. Additionally, they are bringing in Comcast to provide telephone and television services as well.

      What is a "proprietary encasement," and who put the APs there? Are you expected to put new APs in the same encasements? What will happen to the old APs?

      The existing APs are located in individual bottom floor rooms in two story buildings. They are placed in boxes sealed with tamperproof bolts. The only lines in are what appears to be a standard telephone line and a power cable. There is also a telephone line coming out connected to the telephone. Presumably, the company who manages the current system will take the old APs. The existing networking equipment is also protected from closer inspection though does connect through standard telephone punchdown blocks.

      You say the hotel doesn't want to lay any new cable. That might just be too bad, but it also seems to imply that there is already some cable somewhere. Why not use the existing cable? You say the APs "seem to be connected by telephone wire," but you don't sound sure. Perhaps it's just long strings with tin cans at each end? Is there any way to find out?

      If new cabling is required then so be it. The owners would just rather it be kept to the absolute minimum necessary.

      If the existing network is as strange and nonstandard as you make it sound, why is that? Was there something unique to the property that made that the best solution, and is it smart for you to ignore that?

      I think the primary reason again was the desire to avoid new wiring.

      Before you begin, have you verified that the hotel's contract with Comcast actually allows it to offer Internet access to the public?

      Yes

      You say the hotel wants to provide the network for free, so there's no need for any billing management system. Are you then comfortable with the idea that there will be no logging of the network at all, and no record of who might have used it and when? Is BitTorrent OK? How about botnets?

      The ability to centrally manage the APs is a strong plus. Additionally, logging is not highly critical but the ability to ensure that bandwidth is distributed as equitably as possible would be nice. Yes, I would like the ability to restrict botnets and other undesirable traffic.

      If the patrons aren't expected to pay for the network, can they expect it to exist at all? That is, do you have a plan to test and verify that every room will have equal access to the network, and that a guest who came last summer won't return this summer and find out that the hotel doesn't seem to have WiFi anymore (when in fact it's just their new room)?

      It should be available throughout. I do plan to test signal strength from every room.

      Are you aware of FCC regulations regarding signal strength of your antennas, for those portions of the property that might be natural dark spots?

      Yes, I will add APs as needed

      Does your task include just replacing the network or does it also include managing the network, making repairs, etc.? How much time do you plan to devote to that?

      I will be managing the system also. I do not wish to devote a tremendous amount of time to managing this system once it is in place. A central management console will be highly valued.

      • Re:Wha? (Score:4, Informative)

        by dynamo52 (890601) on Saturday August 20, 2011 @02:50PM (#37155466)

        Other relevant info:

        There are currently ~15 APs on site

        The coverage area includes approximately 350 rooms, two courtyards, and the lobby area.

        There are four two story buildings that house the rooms.

        The total dimensions of the property are ~100m x ~200m

        • Judging from this info, you'll probably get away with 1 AP per floor located centrally and one for each courtyard and one for the lobby if you have high-gain antennas on the individual floor access points.

      • by SpzToid (869795)

        Given these stats, I agree with the poster who earlier suggested you use dd-wrt as the firmware solution, flashed onto relatively cheap commodity routers. Via the dd-wrt shop are some 'exotic' APs, with weather housing, etc. Most importantly is the router database of supported commodity units. Basically you configure as many as needed to achieve saturation, spreading channels, etc. Using modern routers with dual-frequencies, N, and what have you; it should not cost much, and these units might just drop in t

      • Some more questions I'd like to ask you to help with your project. and a few suggestions

        Is this hotel apart of a hotel chain or is it owned by individuals? Most hotel chains much use companies that they recommend for setup and support for their hotels. Some chains require this others only suggest it I'm sure they know this, but it wouldn't hurt to ask.

        Does the company use Comcast Business class internet? If not, do they know there's a 250mb cap on the internet?

        Is this hotel Enclosed ie. (walk ways
        • by dynamo52 (890601)

          Is this hotel apart of a hotel chain or is it owned by individuals?

          I am not exactly sure of the ownership structure but it is not a chain. Management has full discretion.

          Does the company use Comcast Business class internet?

          Yes, Comcast is fully aware of this circuit's intended purpose.

          Is this hotel Enclosed

          No. All walkways are outdoors. The existing APs are in bottom floor rooms.

          On top of the internet they are getting do they have a gateway already setup?

          No. I am replacing the entire network. I already have ideas for switches, gateways, etc, but why not solicit free outside advice if possible? :)

          If your looking to support this your self are you aware most hotel guess don't come in until either very early in the morning or very late at night,

          I do work with associates to provide 24/7 availability to clients. I would obviously prefer as centrally managed a system a

      • Re:Wha? (Score:5, Informative)

        by Solandri (704621) on Saturday August 20, 2011 @04:12PM (#37156092)
        I've put together a wired/wireless Internet distribution system for a hotel.

        The existing APs are located in individual bottom floor rooms in two story buildings. They are placed in boxes sealed with tamperproof bolts. The only lines in are what appears to be a standard telephone line and a power cable. There is also a telephone line coming out connected to the telephone. Presumably, the company who manages the current system will take the old APs. The existing networking equipment is also protected from closer inspection though does connect through standard telephone punchdown blocks.

        This is just a regular DSL/DSLAM setup. Basically the hotel is acting like a phone company providing DSL, and the phones in the hotel rooms are the "DSL customers". You go to where the hotel's phone switching equipment is at, and hook up a DSLAM which is connected to your public Internet router. You then use that to "provide DSL" to each of the rooms where you want a wired network drop. The chosen rooms (or tamperproof proprietary boxes in your case) have a DSL modem, which splits the ethernet from the POTS.

        You can piggyback this over your currently existing phone lines (that's the whole point of DSL), or you an run new Cat 3 lines just for the DSL (if you don't plan to offer wired network service in the rooms, and don't want customers messing with the hardware). Most hotel phone systems have plenty of extra capacity and lines for you to do this without having to install new cable. The reason for using DSL is that ethernet's specs limit it to 100 m, about 85 m in real life in my experience. That's way too short to reach from one end of a hotel to the other. DSL on the other hand is good out for several km.

        It's pretty straightforward stuff if you've done any networking setup. The same stuff about regular DSL applies (e.g. use filters on any extra extensions). And unlike DSL from the phone company, you have to deal with both ends of the service. Most hotels use VDSL/VDSL2 because it allows higher bandwidth over a shorter distance. ADSL is really optimized for Cat 3 distances of several km, which isn't necessary for a hotel, and its max uplink throughput may be insufficient for a heavily used public WAP. I'd provide links but I did this about 5 years ago, so the links I have would likely be outdated.

        The ability to centrally manage the APs is a strong plus. Additionally, logging is not highly critical but the ability to ensure that bandwidth is distributed as equitably as possible would be nice. Yes, I would like the ability to restrict botnets and other undesirable traffic.

        Once you get the DSLAM and DSL modems set up, they act as a bridge and are transparent. The WAPs will show up on whatever LAN you have plugged into the DSLAM. If you want (and I would recommend), you can make it its own subnet. Assign static IPs to the WAPs so you can manage them. The fancier models will even let you set up VLANs, so you can do fancy things like limit direct access to the WAPs to a VLAN that's not available to customers connecting over the wireless (provided the WAPs are VLAN-aware). You will also have to handle QoS and bandwidth throttling, to prevent a single customer from using up all the bandwidth. But that's a given.

        • by dynamo52 (890601)

          Very useful post, thank you!

          Do you have any specific vendor recommendations for the multiplexor and modems?

          • by Solandri (704621)
            I used Zyxel. We only needed 24 ports, and they had the cheapest VDSL DSLAM with 24 ports at the time. Didn't really have any problems with them, and based on talking with the current hotel staff it is holding up just fine. The only gotcha was their VDSL modems used an AC adapter which has 9V AC output. If someone equipment expecting DC had the same plug, you could fry it by plugging in the DSL modem's AC adapter. Oh, also, they don't make VDSL modems anymore. They've moved on to VDSL2 modems. They'r
          • by Solandri (704621)
            I should add, though the DSL modems use standard RJ11 jacks, most DSLAMs do not. If it has a significant number of ports, the DSLAM will use probably use an RJ21 jack [wikipedia.org]. You will need to learn about phone punchdown blocks [wikipedia.org] and using a phone punch tool [wikipedia.org] to send the DSL signal over the appropriate phone line. It's not that difficult if you're at all tech competent, but it does represent a small learning curve. If you know how to make your own LAN cables, this stuff will be easy to pick up.
            • by dynamo52 (890601)
              Again very useful. After a little additional research this seems like the most viable solution.
      • If you want to do this properly, it won't be cheap or easy.
        Companies like Cisco have some incredible products that will do exactly what you want, but you probably won't be able to configure them yourself.

        You will probably need to run new cabling to the wireless access points, but if it's done properly this time, it'll be relatively future proof.
        Install one run of cat5e or cat6 cabling to each area where you need an access point, probably in a ceiling cavity or something like that. Install the access points,

  • by IonOtter (629215) on Saturday August 20, 2011 @01:07PM (#37154636) Homepage

    Disclosure: I work for a major service provider/telco.

    Don't worry about the wi-fi system so much, there are plenty of solutions for that. Instead, worry more about the connection.

    You can have the best wi-fi in the world, but if your connection is down, then you've still got a hotel full of angry customers.

    Some things to consider?

    1. Network diversity. If you are going to get a multi-T1 setup, then make sure you request network diversity. Yes, it costs more, but if you have all of your T1 connections riding the same sets of DS3s to your hotel, you have a single point of failure. I work with this my entire shift, every day at work. The customer bought a 6-T1 MLPPP ckt to make sure their business had enough bandwidth, but all six are riding the same DS3. The DS3 craps out and *poof*. And DS3s crapping out is dreadfully common. Also, having your circuits come to you from different central offices is also a good idea. Again, it'll cost more, but it'll be worth it when some idiot takes out a telephone pole or punches an auger down through the F2 pairs.

    2. Employee training. I cannot stress this enough. Every single hotel we do business with all has one, maybe two "IT people", and everyone else in the entire hotel cannot tell the difference between a Cisco or a Black & Decker (router). And trying to find that "IT Person" at 1AM is like trying to find chicken teeth. In the meantime, I'm sitting at my desk, getting escalations from your senior management, pulling my hair out and waiting for SOMEONE on-site to pull the cable out of the RJ48X so I can test to a loop.

    Teach your employees where the smartjack is located and what the lights on it mean. Teach them what the CSU/DSU is, and what the lights on that mean. Show them how to do a hard-boot (unplug-replug), how to follow the cables, how to "exercise the jack" (unplug-replug). And if you REALLY wanna give me a warm fuzzy, make a loopback plug, show them how to use it, and leave a few of them hanging on a peg in your telco room.

    I know that sounds like a lot to ask from your "associates", but if I can teach a grocery store manager how to do it over the phone, you can certainly do it too.

  • by C0L0PH0N (613595) on Saturday August 20, 2011 @01:19PM (#37154734)
    I spent several months researching wifi hotspots for a similar installation. I settled on the Checkbox Hotspot (http://www.layerfour.net/store/index.php/checkbox.html). It is a "standalone" hotspot router, which means you put out a one time purchase price, it is not an ongoing service. In addition, you can buy "repeaters" which extend the range as far as you want, and are integrated with the main "Checkbox" hotspot router. All the software is built into the router. It gives you options to print "tickets" which can be for any period of time. They can also be preprinted, say for 1 day, a week, a month, etc, etc. You can also specify "tickets" for special events which let all computers attach using the same "code". Also, you can specify "permanent" tickets. The router locks to the MAC address of the connecting computer, and the service expires when the ticket expires. Those are the key features I was interested it, but it also has a number of other features. Definitely worth looking at. I believe the Checkbox router is a "G" series router, if that is an important issue.
    • by dynamo52 (890601)
      This does look interesting. How reliable has this system been for you? Also, how much time and energy have you needed to support this implementation and what are the most common support scenarios you've encountered?
  • that a hotel will actually provide a decent Internet connection to its guests? I don't think I've ever stayed at a place that gave me more than 1Mbps down. I usually have to tether my droid to get a functional connection.
  • You could do like the timeshare [defenderresorts.com] did where we recently stayed at in Ocean City, MD. They boasted free wi-fi. That said, the access point was in the office and was accessible only in the office, on a small bistro-style table (and only when the office was open) or in the indoor pool next door.

    Epic fail.

  • by Kagato (116051) on Saturday August 20, 2011 @01:40PM (#37154932)

    A lot of hotel's use DSL or Cable infrastructure. The back end equipment is more expensive than traditional Cat5+, but that is typically offset by the wiring costs. If you already have Comcast Business Systems or Comcast Telcom delivering the 100Mbit then I would ask them if they have a line up on bridging technology ready to roll.

    The biggest issue you'll have with the actual WiFi is selecting a product that can handle the load in your common and event areas. Consumer/SOHO APs start to crush after 10+ clients.

    While you won't have to have a billing system, you should still have something on the backend that will track the users and make them accept an AUP. Astaro is the cheapest turn key system combining firewall capabilities and pre-integrated APs.

  • by j-stroy (640921) on Saturday August 20, 2011 @01:41PM (#37154948)
    I suggest you shop for a turnkey vendor with an up-time monitoring & support package and signal strength survey as part of installation. That way when any trouble is observed, its logged and dealt with before the front-desk gets inundated with calls. Nothing is going to make you more unpopular with this business than the sheer volume of calls when it stops working. It will be inconvenient for you to drop everything to service this low-markup client. Save tinker toy wi-fi play for hobby time.
  • by gad_zuki! (70830) on Saturday August 20, 2011 @01:55PM (#37155042)

    I feel you're overthinking this.

    Existing WAPs. I'm assuming you have admin access to them. If they're connected to telephone wire that means the hotel has its own DSL network (search for the DSLAM) or some prorietary data over phone solution (weird little dongles on each end). No need to replace these things. 90% of the work is already done.

    Find the DSLAM or whatever router is currently serving the WAPs. Pull you comcast line to there. If the router or switch is aged, consider replacing them.

    Verification, for small businesses I prefer to just give out a WPA key that changes monthly (teach staff how to change them). Ideally, you can have a radius system but that will require API access to their guest management software to pull values like last name, room number, etc. That might be overkill though.

  • IMO Open mesh [open-mesh.com] should do the job. 60$ to 99$ a piece, no dependency to third parties (unlike meraki); free, open source. Zero config, just plug in power and go. You can centrally manage things like bandwidth, splash page, etc.

    Meshes have no practical coverage limits, can be finetuned as you are using many small APs (which connect wirelessly to each other) to customize the coverage areas, only one of them needs a link to the lan/wan.

    Meraki started nice, but became proprietary and expensive, open mesh retained

  • The hotel plans to provide this service for free, so there is no need for any type of billing management system

    Business conditions can and will change, and at some point in the future management will decide to charge at least some of their guests for Internet access. My point is simply: be flexible. Don't go with a system that prevents charging at a later date. Your best strategy might be to go with a solution that handles payment, and then set the price to zero (i.e., free). Then, at a later date management can set a different price.

  • Check CapturePoint [mw.net]. They have a pretty simple way to do it that puts everything in the router and can extend the network using inexpensive mesh nodes instead of hardwired access points.

  • I do this for a living, so here's a few more questions (I see some were asked by PCM2 already):

    How many buildings are there on the property? How tall is each one? What is the layout (facing each other, central courtyard, one long line)? What is the construction material of the exterior of the buildings? The interior (between rooms)?

    Is there a central telephone room that all the buildings link into? Have you run a line tone to make sure?

    Check each room to see how many telephone pairs are going in. If t

  • by sheddd (592499)
    I rolled out a 35 AP network @ a 345 room hotel by myself; giving support support blows; people are idiots and expect you to fix problems on their end (usually wifi or dhcp turned off); it's nice to have a 3rd party to handle it. If you want to use existing phone lines you're looking at an additional cost per run to go Ethernet --> PhoneLine --> Ethernet. Our system is far from perfect but hey, it's free! It cost ~$25k in Cisco equipment.
  • "must come in at one corner" and " no new wiring" read to me like: You definitely need mesh wifi (really, really good mesh).

    I've installed Meraki at a few businesses (nothing huge like a hotel, granted) and the web interface works wonders. They build in features like QOS, traffic shaping and splash pages. Basically _anyone_ who isn't a total technophobe can manage a Meraki install. Their meshing is, so far as I've seen, very strong. I think you'd want to have more than 1 "gateway" device (That which is

  • First of all, you need something to transfer the data over until it hits the air. For that you have a couple options as to the physical plant -- the stuff the data goes over: phone line wire (cat3), twisted pair (cat5), power lines (with 120VAC on them), fiber optic, and coaxial cable. CAT3 (phone wire) is cheapest, especially if you can reuse existing lines. Cat3 will support 10BASE-T Ethernet and DSL. Cat5 will support 100BASE-T Ethernet. Fiber Optic -- can be ATM or Ethernet. If coaxial cable (RG-59 as u

  • Leases (Score:5, Informative)

    by ktappe (747125) on Sunday August 21, 2011 @12:30AM (#37158666)
    I've read (almost) this whole thread and while everyone is talking about cabling and whatnot, I've not seen anyone mention DHCP leasing. I just spent the last 2 weeks traveling and spending every other night in a new hotel. EVERY place had problems with DHCP leases. That is, you could connect to the WiFi spot(s) but often could not get a lease and ended up with a self-assigned IP. From what I read, this is due to leaving the routers in the factory config. which is for long lease times (I think 4 days is common). That sux when you have guests coming and going daily; the leases take days to expire and the router runs out of IP's to dole out. So whatever you end up doing, please have the routers configured for *short* leases (perhaps 1 hour?) so when guests depart their slots can be reallocated to new arrivals.
  • by Whuffo (1043790) on Sunday August 21, 2011 @05:35AM (#37159704) Homepage Journal

    How many rooms, how many stories. What's the size of the building? What are the walls made of? What's your budget?

    All of these things make a difference in what will be needed to provide a usable WiFi signal to all rooms. Don't do anything less than WiFi; most traveling devices have WiFi capabilities, but many of them do not have LAN jacks.

    Comcast already has cable to the office; have them put their cable modem there - not at the property line. Then you'll be able to secure the networking equipment and make the owners feel more secure.

    Beyond that, distances and construction matter. You're going to need multiple access points; how many and where to put them depends on the particular scenario. Even the height of the access point from ground level makes a huge difference in coverage.

    It's quite possible to do this at a fairly low cost and provide reliable service to the guests. But if you've never planned and installed a network system like this before - run away as fast as you can and let someone else do it.

    The specs on the access points are wishful thinking under the best of conditions; this job really needs someone with experience in wireless installations to plan it.

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