A Wi-Fi horror story in Rural North Wales

Affinity has just come back from some proposals in North Wales and Ayr, Scotland.  4 days on the road to visit and survey the sites so we can provide accurate pricing for the venues.  We normally charge for a full site survey and equipment list, but we opted to carry these out Free of Charge as we wanted to prove a point and knew there would be a blog article in it.

So, we arrived at the first site, obtained the spec from the client and then excused ourselves so we could carry out the first survey.  This one was in Wales, and the park already had a Wi-Fi solution but it wasn’t working well:  it was slow, kept dropping out and caused a lot of complaints.

Poor mounting locations 

The first issue was quick to spot – the Wi-Fi equipment has been installed on existing lighting columns.  Nothing wrong with that per se, but let’s face it, Wi-Fi needs to be where it needs to be, and there is never a handy lighting column in the exact places where it’s required, so a compromise had already been made resulting in dead spots.

Overpowered Equipment.

The Engenius equipment that had been installed was running at 28dB power output, with an 8dB Omni antenna attached, resulting in a signal that would surely attract Ofcom if other sites had problems.  Lucky it was a rural location!

Planned for Signal, Not Capacity.

Most of the site did have coverage if you relied on up Ekahau (Which the electrical contractors maintained they used as they were experts).  Much of this was down to the use of the overpowered equipment, and many 2.4ghz panel antennas flooding the area with signal.  But in terms of capacity, each AP was having to deal with 30 odd connections but the SNR was way too low and the APS too low specced to deal with this.

Overlapping Channels

All the Gear , No Idea is an ideal term for this one:  The contractors had placed each AP cluster onto different channels which is fine assuming they are non-overlapping channels.  Alas, they weren’t, and only channels 10,11,12,13 were used resulting in massive cross-channel interference and channel utilisation.

Poor Bandwidth

Bandwidth to the site was also very poor, just 7MB on an ADSL site, hardly enough to provide 1 family with broadband, let alone a Holiday Park with 75 families on.  A leased line was very much needed if the park wishes to provide a service that met the needs of the owners and holidaymakers bearing in mind it was a paid for service.

In Summary, the installation was poor and showed that the contractors had little to no understanding of what they were doing.  That didn’t stop them from charging the Holiday Park a pretty penny to install and manage the installation.

Please:  Seek professional advice when installing your outdoor Wi-Fi network.  You will likely pay a little more in the short term for a high specced, high speed, low latency network that delights your guests and increased your parks trip advisor score.  But I assure you, you will pay a lot more over 3 years for a poorly performing service that frustrates your visitors.