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How to Choose the Optimum Solution for Indoor Environments?

Guest room reconstruction resulted in guest complaints

Near a beautiful coastline, a large number of high-end hotels are scattered. Nick is the boss of one of the hotels but he is not happy recently. His hotel was faced with fierce competition from the surrounding hotels, and guests complained about the weak soundproofing capability of guest rooms. To mitigate guests complaints, Nick decided to reconstruct the hotel and enhance soundproofing capability of guest rooms, with the aim of providing a better comfort environment and improving the hotel’s competitiveness.

After reconstruction, the soundproofing capability of the guest rooms improved significantly. Nick believed that the comfortable environment would certainly attract more guests. However, after just two weeks, IT manager of the hotel reported that many guests complained about the hotel’s Wi-Fi quality. Wi-Fi signals were weak inside guest rooms and guests could not even browse web pages. Nick was very confused and could not figure out why did this happen when they only reconstructed the hotel’s rooms, rather than the network?

The hotel used the traditional settled Access Point (AP) solution which deployed APs in corridors. Each AP covered four rooms. Signals needed to penetrate walls to reach inside rooms, resulting in signal weakening. Despite of all this, signals could meet guests’ requirements for daily Internet surfing. However, during the room reconstruction, soundproof materials such as asbestos boards and marble tiles were added. These materials further deteriorated wireless signals.

In fact, situations similar to this can be seen all throughout daily life. For example, the wall-penetration signal coverage problem often occurs in student dormitories and hospital wards. Signal weakening occurs anytime that signal sources are deployed outside rooms. Therefore, deploying signal sources inside rooms becomes a more favorable choice. Previously, the industry released the wall plate AP solution to resolve the wall penetration problem.

Wall Plate AP Solution

Wall plate APs are deployed inside rooms and signals do not need to penetrate walls. Additionally, wall plate APs can easily install in an 86-type box without damaging the original fitment and building structure. For a guest room of 40 square meters, if 10 users in the guest room access the network simultaneously, each user can obtain up to 25 Mbit/s bandwidth. The wall plate AP solution resolves problems of weak indoor signals and insufficient bandwidth.

Though the solution provides high performance and can be easily deployed, its investment costs are high. Nick’s hotel has 643 guest rooms, each of which requires a wall plate AP. Moreover, each AP requires a license. License costs account for 20% to 30% of the device costs. For a large-scale hotel, the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) increases by 30% compared with the TCO in the settled AP solution. Meanwhile, it is a big challenge for the network management personnel to manage 643 APs.

Generally speaking, the wall plate AP solution applies to medium- and small-scale networks covering 50 to 200 rooms but this solution does not have advantages in terms of investment and management costs. The industry then released the indoor distributed AP solution.

Distributed AP Solution

The distributed AP solution uses Radio Frequency (RF) cables and deploys antennas inside rooms. This avoids signal weakening caused by wall penetration and decreases influence of complex environments on wireless signals. Signals may also attenuate when transmit over RF cables (signal quality weakens 8% to 23% based on the RF cable length, much smaller than the 52% decrease caused by wall materials). Each distributed AP covers eight rooms. The number of needed APs is 13% of the number of APs needed in the wall plate AP solution. The distributed AP solution has advantages on investment and management costs.

However, the actual coverage effect is not satisfactory. During peak hours, the speed of website loading is slow, let alone that of video loading. In fact, two or three terminals in each of eight rooms have accessed a single AP, which overloads the AP. In a dormitory room, an average of eight terminals in each room may access the same AP, where network access experience is even worse.

Upon project deployment, the distributed AP solution also shows disadvantages. RF cables are stiff, making them difficult to deploy. Moreover, wall drilling is required during deployment, which will damage the original building structure. Therefore, it is difficult for a hotel boss who has just finished guest room reconstruction to accept the solution.

The wall plate AP solution resolves problems of signal coverage and performance insufficiency and enables simple installation and deployment. However, the investment and maintenance costs are high. The smart distributed AP solution provides good signal coverage and low investment, but fails to provide high network performance and is difficult to deploy.

Is there a solution that inherits advantages and eliminates disadvantages of the existing solutions?

Agile Distributed Wi-Fi Solution

In scenarios such as dormitories, hotels, and hospital wards with densely located rooms and complex building structure, network performance, network construction costs, and management difficulty are key issues that need to be considered before network deployment. How to achieve balance among these issues is a challenging task. Huawei’s Agile Distributed Wi-Fi Solution transforms the traditional two-layer network architecture of ‘AC + Fit AP’ into a three-layer distributed architecture of ‘AC + Central AP + Remote Unit (RU).’ This three-layer architecture improves the coverage performance of wireless networks and user experience. It also simplifies device management and configurations.

Easy-to-Install RUs

In this solution, RUs are deployed inside rooms. They can be embedded into an 86-type box or be mounted to a ceiling or wall. A person can install an RU into an 86-type box in around five minutes. For areas where the 86-type box is not supported or the reserved box installation position is not appropriate, customers can use customized mounting kits to mount the RUs to a ceiling or wall.

0 Blind Spots, 10-Fold Network Performance Increase

RUs are deployed inside rooms so wireless signals do not need to penetrate walls. Tests prove that when the Agile Distributed Wi-Fi Solution is used, the RSSI inside rooms ranges from -35 dBm to -45 dBm. Compared to the RSSI of -74 dBm in the settled AP solution, the indoor signal strength is improved by 50%.

Under the architecture of ‘AC + Central AP + RU,’ RUs only need to process wireless signals and data, and the central AP performs management and control. Compared with a traditional AP, the modules processed by an RU reduce two thirds, improving the wireless performance by 20%. If four rooms are to cover and each room has ten access users, the bandwidth per capita is up to 30 Mbit/s. This is four times the bandwidth provided in the traditional settled AP solution.

Simplified Management

In the Agile Distributed Wi-Fi Solution, only the central AP needs to be managed, and configurations on the central AP can be automatically delivered to its managed RUs. This ensures low management costs. Each central AP can manage up to 48 RUs. Therefore, Nick’s hotel needs only 14 central APs to cover all guest rooms. Compared with the wall plate AP solution where 643 nodes need to be managed, the Agile Distributed Wi-Fi Solution reduces the number of management nodes by over 90%.

Low Investment

In the Agile Distributed Wi-Fi Solution, RUs require no licenses. Compared with the wall plate AP solution, the Agile Distributed Wi-Fi Solution reduces TCO by 40%.

Conclusively, the agile distributed Wi-Fi solution resolves the problem of poor signals in scenarios with densely located rooms and complex building structure, such as hotel rooms, student dormitories, and hospital wards. The solution provides good signal coverage and simplifies network management at low reconstruction costs.

Huawei Agile Distributed Wi-Fi Solution Improves Signal Coverage and Simplifies Configuration and Management

By Yang Yu