Wireless Internet in a Shared Space (Part 1)

All Spaces Are Not Created Equal

There are several wireless spaces that we encounter during the work week; the home or home office, the coffee shop, the football stadium, the college campus, the corporate office… These spaces use different technology to provide wireless coverage over a given area – and each environment is different. Someone may easily be able to connect to the wireless space at home or the office, but the coffee shop is always slow, they can’t connect at the stadium, and the college campus shows a connection, but there doesn’t seem like there is any throughput…

The Shared Workspace

This article focuses on the wireless struggle in the shared workspace. This is an area that offers a working environment alongside all sorts of businesses. Some call this environment a business incubator, an offsite meeting facility, a remote employee worksite, or a great co-working space. Regardless of what it is called, it is a location that receives mobile technologies that rely on a wireless connection, and at times, there can be a very broad range of those mobile devices. We are talking about laptops, smartphones, tablets, and the thousands of variations between them.

The Wireless Expectation

Having a healthy and realistic expectation of how wireless should work in this sort of an environment is key for a shared space. If the expectation is that this space should meet the bar that workers have at their home or corporate office, that is an unhealthy expectation – because all wireless spaces are not created equal.

The Definition Of Wireless Success

This must be laid out. The employees of the shared facility need to understand it and be able to speak intelligently about it to their Patrons. Here are some guidelines:

• Wireless Strength – The strength of the wireless signal should be enough to have a quality Voice Over IP conversation – such as a Skype Call. So, the goal would be for signal strength to be within -30 to -67 dBm. Okay, so those numbers are Greek to most folks – but if you run or work at a shared space, you need to understand it! Here’s a good run-down.

• Wireless Coverage – Look at your floor plan. If the shared space is several thousand square feet with enclosed offices, you are going to need some strategic wireless access point placement to make sure you get that strength in every nook and cranny. Can a space achieve 100% coverage? Yes, but it may not be practical – especially if there is a room with walls made of brick. Our suggestion is to shoot for 95% of your floorplan to make exceptions for areas that may just not be practical.

• Wireless Capacity – This ultimately comes down to what each physical access point is capable of handling. Wireless protocol theoretically provides 2007 connections per AP – but that is without physical boundaries. Most consumer grade access points can handle about 10 concurrent connections max, and enterprise grade can safely juggle 40-60, so use the highest number of connections that may be used in a given space of coverage to determine how many access points are required.

We’ve established some basic guidelines for success with wireless internet in a shared space. Part 2 will share some insight on supporting both your wireless network and your users. Stay tuned!