Wireless LAN setup for hotels

Phifer discusses the requirements for WLAN setups in hotels.

I need help in setting up a Wireless LAN for a hotel, in order for guests to have Internet access when they enter...

the hotel premises, and even in their rooms. How many antennas and APs can I use for this one square mile piece of resort?

I wish there were a simple answer to this question, but unfortunately wireless propagation is heavily impacted by environment. Coverage of a given AP depends on where it is placed in the building, building materials, and other objects that absorb radio energy -- including human bodies! An AP's transmit power and antenna can alter coverage as well. You will also need to consider capacity: how many guests do you want to support concurrently, and how much bandwidth will each require on average?

In the hotel industry, it is not uncommon to find one or two APs providing WLAN service in the lobby, restaurant, or another relatively small area. This reflects how difficult it can be to blanket a large, distributed building with radio coverage. It also reflects economics: would covering all of those hotel rooms earn enough revenue (or add enough intangible value) to offset the cost of deploying all those APs, and the power and Ethernet cables to connect them to the hotel's core network and Internet access server?

I recommend using a wireless site survey to assess the physical characteristics of the property you want to cover. Once you have that baseline, wireless modeling tools can perform a "what if" analysis, where you provide input parameters (e.g., number of users, throughput per user) and the model suggests AP placement to meet your needs. Several example WLAN site survey and planning tools are listed here. You may also want to contact a wireless vendor who sells APs and gateways to the hospitality industry (e.g., Nomadix). They can provide case studies to show what other hotels do, and may even be willing to send someone to your site to do a mini survey to give you a rough idea of what you'd need.

This was last published in August 2006

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