This is a follow-up on the recently published Packet Pushers Show 221 – Marriott, Wifi, + the FCC with Glenn Fleishman & Lee Badman.
Let me begin by stating my role in the ecospace:
I am currently overseeing the expansion of broadband into Indianfield Co-operative Campground (indianfieldcampground.com) in the town of Salem (A less populous & more rural town in the state) in the US State of Connecticut. The campground is co-operatively owned by the residents of it’s 228 “sites” or units in the park & is open seasonally (April-November). In addition to it’s 228 “sites” the park has several common areas and buildings for use by the campground community(Lakeside beach, Tribal Hall for events, outdoor pavilion, bath houses, office building with laundry & sitting areas). There is a governing board elected by & within the ownership to set park policy & direct hired management in the day to day operation of the park. I have chaired study committees on various aspects of broadband deployment & been the park’s chief representative in discussions & relations with vendors on various solutions & products the co-operative has investigated over the past 2 years. The park has been pursing broadband deployment for it’s members since the park is rural lacking high speed broadband choices(above 1.5 mbit) & sufficient mobile network coverage. The park is also looking to develop a park wide network for use by the co-operative for connectivity for mobile/computing devices which are used by employees of the co-operative (Tablets, Laptops & Smartphones) as well as connectivity for future automation devices (smart thermostats for co-operative public buildings, monitoring system for park water well etc). Most of these said discussions have revolved around Wi-Fi “solutions”.
When I originally heard of the claims against the Marriott, my interest was immediately sparked as this has been a key component of my work lately. Packet Pushers Show 221 sparked my interest in this subject even greater.
When I began the broadband expansion project at Indianfield, I began by performing “research & development” with many products (Access points, wireless backhaul, wired networking equipment) & methods(access point locations, clients per access point etc) to determine what deployment model & technology should be used (Wired-VDSL type solution using the telephone cables in the park, parkwide Wi-fi, point to multipoint fixed wireless etc). After testing all of the mentioned technologies I came to the conclusion that parkwide Wi-fi was the best deployment model/technology. The main proponent behind parkwide wi-fi was/is service mobility as the membership in the park moves around the park quite a bit (going to common areas mentioned above, going to friends & family’s units). Park wide wi-fi provided would provide for the needs of the park as well as the connectivity needs of the co-operative. The backhaul for the wireless system could be used to provide connectivity to planned automated monitoring elements (not yet deployed) in the park as well as provide secure connectivity to network services which co-operative employees need access to (Accounting/payment systems, Security systems, communication system among others).
I ran into some interesting challenges. First off, this is an outdoor/ indoor environment making the deployment complex. An outdoor access point model is needed in this particular instance bringing traditional design challenges from a wireless prospective (RF planning, signal propagation etc). It also brought interesting challenges due the layout of the park.
- Access point backhaul: There are not any open conduits in the ground as the telecom wiring which does exist in the park is direct buried so fiber would have to be direct buried resulting in trenching etc. I also investigated using various methods of point to point wireless backhaul, some which operate on unlicensed airspace proprietary technology & others using 5ghz wifi.
- Wireless Spectrum (This is where the Marriott issue became very interesting for me):
- Many folks in the park have purchased basic dsl access (1.5 mbit max available) from the local exchange carrier SNET (Owned by AT&T, now Frontier) which by default came with AT&T’s 2wire 2701HG wireless gateway. These gateways broadcast on various channels on the 2.4ghz spectrum, most overlapping-(2,3,4,8,9 being the common ones), which creates an quality of service issue for both co-operative devices & member devices.
- There are also some consumer-grade routers that campground members have at there units which are dual band-broadcasting on both the 2.4ghz & 5GHZ as well as those pesky after market portable hotspots referenced to often in the Packet Pushers show linked to at the beginning of the post. The 5GHZ is far less congested than the 2.4GHZ but the same issues still apply, the channels they are on are not planned out so they may cause issues.
- The amount of devices in the park sharing the airspace at any given moment in time changes. Laptops turn on & off all day, with them beacons go on & off. Smartphones are constantly moving around the park hunting for previously connected wi-fi networks & unencrypted ones to connect to. Hotspots turn on & off as people use wireless devices.
- Potential load & wi-fi spectrum usage in the campground shifts throughout the day-One warm summer day as part of a pilot, there was 50 devices connected to one access point at our office building by the lake-my best estimates told me they were on the beach by the lake. 4th of july is the peak point in the the year for the park with potential client load nearing at least 600 devices including those of guests of the park members. As people congregate in different locations (waterfront during the day, tribal hall/ pavilion in the evening night as well as campfires) the spectrum conditions will change. At the end of the day, the guests leave which typical wi-fi planning really doesn’t account for this as high traffic & spectrum use is not sustained, it is very bursty.
- Upstream bandwidth: Since the park is rural, the bandwidth available is limited. Fiber access is avaiable but due to the distance the cost of buildout is almost $100,000. The main office building currently have coaxial cable internet service(only location in park which has it)
Seeing as though the environment was so challenging, the decision was made by the board to authorize me to seek out a managed services provider to build & manage such a system-I am currently in that process now.
The Marriott case brings to light an interesting & important set of parameters. Unlicensed airspace as it stands currently is very unstable in environments like the campground. The main driver behind this is the unlicensed airspace was never intended to provide the kinds of services & reliability we expect of it today. The original 802.11 protocol was designed as a short range extender to the wired network, both in the home & business. It was not designed to handle modern use cases. Maybe a different protocol which can operate on unlicensed spectrum should be used which takes more resemblance towards LTE & carrier class spectrum for these type of use cases, including the hospitality market-like the Marriott.
We as an industry need to plan to live in the wild like the mobile carriers do instead of controlled environments of the enterprise. More resilient devices & better protocols will be needed regardless of how the FCC directs it’s guidance as wireless becomes more prominent & unstable with devices wanting more airspace. The issue can not be avoided forever. The world is converging, time to address the issue as a whole, not one item (radio communication) or another (data services).
More to come on this subject…..