What is a WiFi Hotspot Network?
It’s no surprise that we love internet access, especially when we’re on the go – just look at the growth of mobile apps, the increase in screen time… need I say more? There are 5.11 billion unique mobile users in the world today, up 100 million (2 percent) in the past year. Building a hotspot network is a great way for service providers, telcos, and operators alike to capture these subscribers and expand their customer footprint.
What is a WiFi Hotspot Network?
First things first – a Wi-Fi hotspot is an area with an accessible wireless network, say in an airport, at a park, in a hotel, or in a public area. Consumers can use these to easily get connected to the internet, and typically rely on wifi hotspots while they’re on the go, as they’re exceptionally convenient. These can be public, where anyone with a proper device can join the network, or private, requiring authentication before gaining access to the internet.
A WiFi hotspot network, simply means an assemblage of wifi hotspots, usually built from existing access points in a telecommunications vendor’s network. Typically, wireless access points are configured to segment traffic, such that the access point can service the hotspot network and another use – whether that’s a home network, a business network, or another public network.
What makes a good hotspot network?
Building and maintaining a hotspot network can be tough. There are a few factors that really impact the network’s ability to sustain traffic and continue to perform at a rate that users can appreciate. Some of the top things to think about before deploying a hotspot network include:
- Coverage – ensuring that your network has a sufficient amount of APs to manage the number of visitors the network would have is key. Additionally, ensuring that you can cover enough ground from a geographic perspective to build out a network that will be valuable to on-the-go visitors is important. One of the top reasons people join hotspot networks is because they’re travelling – so building your network to support mobility is key in user adoption and retention.
- Performance – no one likes underperforming networks – this goes for WiFi hotspot networks as well. Verifying that you have optimal radio coverage and high bandwidth connectivity helps ensure you can deliver high-speed internet at all times.
- Flexible Deployment & Scalability – whenever you’re looking to roll-out a new offering, it’s important to plan for expansion and make sure that you have the capacity to scale. Mapping out a strategy that makes it easy to deploy (and manage) new hotspots can save you time and effort later on. Some things to keep in mind are the APs you choose, the software you choose to help augment the hardware you use, and how each of these are able to integrate with other tools. For hotspot networks, manual configuration and management is virtually impossible. Ensuring that you can deploy relatively easily and maintain these APs is key. Ideally, you’ll want to automate part of the process to simplify IT teams’ tasks and reduce human errors.
- Easy Management – since the network is made up of multiple APs (sometimes from different vendors!) it’s essential that these are able to be controlled and supervised from a single interface. Additionally, having granular visibility into the network makes managing and remediating issues exponentially easier. Distributed intelligence across the network is ideal, so that as the network continues to grow, your visibility does as well.
- Security – one of the top reasons why a visitor would choose not to use your public hotspot network is because of security risks. Quell these concerns be making sure you have appropriate measures in place to protect visitors’ devices and data that they pass through the network.
- Affordability – of course, as for any offering, ensuring that you can build and maintain a network that works in your favor from a margin perspective (over time too!) is vital. Total cost of ownership has to allow for updates, upgrades, and subscriber sustainability. TCO can be highly influenced by deployment and management complexity, hardware costs and lack of evolution capabilities – so keep these factors in mind when deciding which products to rely on, and what vendors to work with in building and expanding your network.