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How to plan a WiFi network in a large area

Planificar una red WiFi en una gran superficie es una tarea crucial

When planning a WiFi network in a large area, it is important to consider aspects such as user density, compatibility and protection measures

The physical and digital worlds are becoming increasingly intertwined, a connection that requires an essential link: WiFi. This technology is not only present in homes and offices. It is now commonplace in hotels, museums, shopping malls, stadiums, airports, stations and even amusement parks. But this massive deployment raises a question: How do you plan a WiFi network in a large area?

Signal performance and range must be excellent in immense spaces where a large number of people converge. The same network has to serve hundreds or thousands of devices, and all users expect the connection to be fast and smooth. This is not always a simple task.

In homes, simply moving to another room can cause a noticeable reduction in WiFi strength. For this reason, planning a WiFi network in a large area is a critical task that must be carried out with special care. This planning must take into account a multitude of factors to ensure that the user experience is satisfactory and that Internet users’ expectations are met, avoiding connection drops or dead spots along the entire perimeter.

Four challenges when planning a WiFi network in a large area

Large spaces present great challenges. Therefore, when planning a WiFi network in a large area, four aspects must be taken into account.

To begin with, the characteristics of the area must be considered. For example, whether it is completely covered or whether it has open spaces, such as a parking lot. And, if so, whether you want the signal to reach those areas. If the area is huge, a large number of access points will have to be distributed far and wide to ensure good coverage in all corners. The quality of the connection will depend, to a large extent, on the intelligent distribution of these devices.

Next, it is time to plan for user density. As a general rule, these spaces tend to be very crowded, which implies the coexistence of an infinite number of devices. And the network must be prepared to support this demand. This capacity planning phase determines the standard and the bandwidth they provide, in addition to the number of access points.

Thirdly, the materials used must be checked. In large areas, it is common to find several installations with metal, one of the worst enemies of WiFi. Hence, it is important to avoid placing access points near metal cabinets or air ducts. Materials such as plasterboard, concrete or brick also have a very negative impact on signal strength, while the influence of glass and wood is not as significant.

Finally, compatibility must be ensured in order to successfully plan a WiFi network in a large area. The diversity of devices to be connected is likely to be enormous. For this reason, to improve the network’s overall performance, it is essential to look at the chosen standards and try to maximize compatibility with as many devices as possible.

An infrastructure open to change

A single router is insufficient to cover the space satisfactorily and connect every corner. This is why, as we saw earlier, it is essential to plan a WiFi network in a large area by properly selecting the various access points and antennas.

Strategic distribution is crucial to achieving good coverage. But this task does not have a time limit. Over time, the number of users circulating in the installation often increases. It is also not uncommon for new buildings to be constructed or new premises to be added, which will naturally require a WiFi connection.

On the other hand, the installation must also be prepared to be updated as new standards are introduced. These include improvements in functionality, correction of possible errors and assurance of availability and efficiency without interrupting service.

These continuous changes can affect the signal. Therefore, the quality and range of the WiFi coverage should be constantly monitored with professional tools like Acrylic WiFi Heatmaps, and, if necessary, the installation should be rearranged. However, always ensure its scalability and leave the door open to introducing new access points.

How to strengthen security and mitigate threats

No network is completely safe from cyber-attack. For this reason, it is vital to place special emphasis on security when planning a WiFi network in a large area.

As the size of the network increases, so does the risk of unauthorized access and being the victim of an attack. This is not only because the total number of connected users increases but also because the surface area to access is larger or because the budget to be allocated is more substantial.

The increase in risk is also due to the difficulties of maintaining a large infrastructure, which sometimes involves relaxing security measures or using outdated and insecure protocols or devices. To deal with threats, it is necessary to review all current protection measures, looking for weak points or security gaps to resolve them as soon as possible.

Different measures reinforce the protection wall, such as segmenting the network into smaller sub-networks, strengthening authentication protocols, implementing intrusion detection and prevention systems, managing vulnerabilities, intensifying monitoring or training and raising employee awareness of the most common risks and good digital practices.

On the other hand, it is advisable to hire pentesting services (which simulate attacks on the infrastructure or system to detect possible breaches and get ahead of the attackers), network teaming (which simulate attacks on the organization to infiltrate and test its cybersecurity protocols) or threat hunting (which scan networks to detect threats in real-time before they can pose a threat to the organization).

A set of high-level services that helps to double protection and optimize a task as critical as planning a WiFi network in a large area.