Geekabit Update Santa’s Sleigh!

You may or may not know that we recently opened up our Wi-Fi expertise to homes as well as businesses, but we were very surprised to get a call out to the North Pole this week to take a look at Santa’s Sleigh.

Okay, not quite the North Pole… More like Winchester. And while the big man in red himself was rather elusive when we visited, we did still get to grips with his sleigh and get it set up with 4G ready for the festive season.

Every year Winchester Round Table take Santa and his sleigh on a tour of the estates surrounding the city centre to spread festive cheer to all and raise vital funds for charitable causes from all over the city.

You might remember that we helped out with Winchester Round Table’s big firework event last month, and were more than happy to team up with them again to help get their sleigh ready for its first outing tonight.

Beginning life as an old milk float from Leicester, Winchester Santa Sleigh was the brainchild of some of the guys (or should we say elves) at Winchester Round Table. They upcycled it and with a bit of help from local companies, 6 months later it was made into the sleigh it is today.

Instead of delivering milk, it now transports Father Christmas around the city of Winchester throughout the festive season, spreading cheer and raising money for many local charitable causes. It’s a wonderful community project, with volunteers from all over the city and the local children get so excited when they hear him coming down their street.

But why does Santa’s sleigh need 4G we hear you ask?

Well, our Wi-Fi experts came to the rescue to update Santa’s sleigh with the latest 4G technology for 2 main reasons.

The Santa Tracker

As you can imagine, families from all over Winchester are desperate to know whereabouts Santa is and when he’ll be going past their house. Giving the sleigh 4G means that it can be tracked and it’s location updated every 5 minutes on the website, making everyone aware of when he leaves the North Pole and which road he’s currently on. The tracker has proved hugely popular and is a great addition to the sleigh.

Mobile Payment Technology

As we’ve mentioned, Winchester Santa Sleigh is not only an opportunity to spread festive cheer but also to raise money for local charities.    As Santa makes his way around the roads of Winchester, his elves are busy knocking on doors letting them know that Santa is coming. These elves have charity buckets to take any donations that people may wish to make, and new for this year they will be utilising the 4G from the sleigh to enable mobile payment technology.

As we all well know we are quickly becoming a cashless society, so using iZettle’s repeat payment feature on an iPhone, WRT, Santa and his elves will be able to take card payments for the first time. This means that they will be able to take donations via card as well as using the traditional bucket shaking method.

We’re now feeling ever so festive – You just never know where you’ll be setting up mobile internet next!

For more information on Winchester Santa Sleigh, head to their website and look out for Santa making his first trip out in the city tonight!


Inflight Wi-Fi – How Does It Work?

Are you one of the 94% of people that travel around the globe thinking that inflight internet would enhance your travel experience? Maybe you’re even one of the 30% of those people that look for this very feature when booking your flights. Or perhaps you don’t want internet during flights at all and you actually look forward to having a break from the aimless scrolling and email bombardment. What it comes down to is that the majority of people now expect to be able to access the internet at 35,000 feet.

And it’s not just beneficial to us as customers – By 2035 it’s estimated that it will be making the airlines an additional £15 million in revenue.

It’s not very surprising then, that more airlines are rushing to update their amenities with inflight Wi-Fi. But how are they doing it? Just how does Wi-Fi work 6 miles above sea level, going 560 mph?

It works one of two ways; Internet can either reach planes via Air to Ground systems or Satellite.


Air to Ground (ATG) system

ATG was the first system to be developed to provide internet on planes. It works just like the way ground-based mobile data networks do – But instead of focusing signal downwards, the mobile towers project them upward towards the planes. The planes have antennas fitted to the underneath of them which receive the signal and then send it on to the onboard server. There are Wi-Fi access points installed inside the plane which provide access to the passengers via a server which has a modem converting radio frequency signals into computer signals (and vice versa). On the ground, there are towers along the flight path enabling information to be exchanged between the ground and the aircraft. Similar to how your broadband internet services providers operate, the towers are connected to control centres run by service providers.

An example of the devices used in an ATG system on a plane would be 2 main antennas under the belly, 2 side antennas, an onboard server and a number of Wi-Fi router antennas inside the plane.

It sounds pretty straightforward but there are 2 main drawbacks to the ATG systems.

  1. Peak data speed per flight is limited to 10 Mbps as they operate on a lower frequency (800 MHz) in comparison to 24 Mbps which is the average fixed line internet speed in the UK, with 50% of houses having access to 100 Mbps or higher. If multiple users on the flight log in, the speed per user would barely be enough to check emails, and even if they could check them it would take a long time.
  2. Coverage of course depends on the network towers, so in areas where there are fewer (or no) network towers, for example the desert or the sea, the coverage is going to be patchy at best. This means that ATG systems are not the obvious choice for international travel.


Satellite System

This is more complicated, but inflight Wi-Fi using satellites is faster and more reliable and largely works in the way you would secure an internet connection in a rural location.

Rather than having the antennas on the underneath of the aircraft, they are installed on top of the plane. Satellites that are orbiting the earth send a signal that is then received by these antennas. In order to successfully receive the signals, the antennas in this scenario have to constantly adjust their position as both the satellite and the plane are moving at such high speeds and are so far apart (approximately 22,000 miles). Instead of under the belly of the aircraft, antennas are installed on the top of the plane. This system still has an onboard server and Wi-Fi access points, but in addition also has a device that controls the movement of the antenna based on the flight location and speed. Similar to the ATG system, the satellites are linked to ground stations which are then connected to operation centres run bu service providers.

An example of the devices used in a satellite system are a satellite antenna, on-board server, a device to control antenna movements, a device to convert signals and multiple Wi-Fi access points within the plane.

There are 2 major advantages of using satellite-based inflight internet which are:

  1. Unlike ATG systems that can’t provide coverage over desert or sea, internet through satellite systems is available everywhere except the North and South Poles. Even during long-haul flights the antennas are unlikely to have to reposition themselves to a different satellite more than once. For international travel a satellite-based system is the obvious choice.
  2. The bandwidth is significantly higher than ATG systems due to it operating on higher frequencies, allowing more speed. The two main frequenciesallocated for satellite internet are Ku-band (12–18 GHz) and Ka-band (26–40 GHz). These two bands allow peak bandwidth between 30 to 100 Mbps per aircraft.

As with most things, it’s not all plain sailing (or flying) and there a few drawbacks to this system as well.

  1. It’s not pragmatic for smaller airlines or those flying regional routes as it is more expensive. The equipment, maintenance, and bandwidth costs are rather higher than the simple ATG system.
  2. Whilst the internet speed is faster, there is an increased latency due to the distance the data has to travel being extremely high. (Latency is the time it takes data to travel between its source and destination in milliseconds, so even though the overall speed is faster with a satellite system, there will be a delay between when you click on a link and when the page starts to load. Once it starts to load however, it will be almost immediate). The difference between this and ATG systems is that an ATG system will start to load straight away (because of the lower latency) but will take significantly longer to completely load (slower internet speed).
  3. There is also a hidden cost (in addition to equipment, installation, and maintenance costs) – it also impacts fuel costs. The placement of an antenna on the outside of the aircraft might sound like just a small difference, but the change in shape actually puts the plane at a aerodynamic disadvantage. Thus, there is an increase in drag which increases fuel consumption. There is work going on by service providers to decrease the size of the antenna to lessen the impact of this.


Economics of inflight Wi-Fi

Some service providers will set the price, handle customer experience, and collect the revenue, sharing a portion of it with the airline. Then there are some airlines who collect the revenue and pay the service provider wholesale prices for the bandwidth used.

As we’ve outlined above, there are significant costs involved with providing Wi-Fi on planes, hence there are very few that offer this as a complimentary service. Most not only see this as needing to be a chargeable service, but see it as an additional revenue generating opportunity. The costs of providing this service are high, but airlines are savvy and know that they can get away with adding their own margin on top as well. Generally, it’s going to be business customers who are utilising this service, keeping up with emails whilst in the air and landing without being behind. This means that they are not personally paying for it, and it will be the actual employers who pay the bill, hence they are more likely to subscribe to the service. It can also be used as a means to give higher tier customers an additional perk to their experience by offering free Wi-Fi.

It might all sound quite complicated, but it’s actually pretty straightforward to get a plane equipped for offering inflight Wi-Fi. For an ATG system, it can be installed overnight, and for satellite-based systems it can take just a few days.


So What’s Next?

As with most technological advances, the future is looking faster and more reliable for inflight Wi-Fi. High throughput satellites will use the given satellite frequencies more efficiently and by employing a new antenna technology that relies on spot beams rather than wide beams. Traditional satellites use a wide beam that can cover areas as large as a country with just a single beam. This might sound good but it’s actually not – the disadvantage of this is that all flights within this beam have to share the bandwidth. With spot beam, HTS satellites can focus on a single aircraft and multiple such beams can be broadcast by the satellite, enabling much higher bandwidth per aircraft.

Soon enough, through better satellites, better antennas, and more service providers, you’ll be enjoying the same internet freedom in the air as you do in your home. For 94% of you that’ll be great news! Not so great for the remaining 6% though that will no longer be able to use ‘Sorry I was on a flight’ as an excuse for not replying to all those emails.


Event Wi-Fi at Winchester Bonfire and Fireworks

We started off November working with our sister company Sprechen on Winchester’s largest one-day annual charity event, Winchester Round Table’s Bonfire and Fireworks. Sprechen have been heavily involved with this event for many years volunteering their time, and this has enabled us to join the team of volunteers and lend our Wi-Fi expertise to help make the event a success.


This year the event raised in excess of £60K – A phenomenal community effort, and one everyone involved should be immensely proud of. There are so many great causes and vital work that this money will go towards in the local community of Winchester and we couldn’t be more thrilled to have volunteered our time and expertise to be a small part of that.


You might be thinking; what does a Bonfire and Firework event need Wi-Fi for anyway? Well, this is no ordinary bonfire and fireworks night. Every year, Winchester Round Table host around 20,000 people for an evening of entertainment, food, drinks, and of course the legendary bonfire and fireworks spectacular.


An event of this scale calls for reliable Wi-Fi, and that’s where Geekabit came in. We have a  wealth of experience and expertise in this area that we were more than happy to volunteer to this great cause.


We put in a temporary 4G network with point to point links. This allowed us to install wireless access points on all the important parts of the field. As you can imagine, having 20K people in a field can create some issues in terms of network coverage, but when mobile phone networks became unavailable our wireless network overcame the issues. This also meant that that the Wi-Fi we provided aided the event control room on the night as well.


The event also offers ticket pick-up on the day from a Ticket Booth based in an outside location in the city centre. Due to the volume of people that need to pick-up tickets, it’s not possible to borrow a building or utilise a shop as the crowds and the queue would be too big.


This therefore makes it necessary for the booth to be in a location that will cause as little disruption as possible. Due to outside location of the ticket booth, and the nature of the service it is providing, it’s necessary for there to be reliable Wi-Fi. Geekabit made this possible, which enabled access to live spreadsheets, order information and incoming emails and social messages throughout the day of the event.


On the night itself, we also helped power the social media screen which is hugely popular with attendees, and great to encourage posts on social media channels giving the charity event even more exposure. Thanks to the Wi-Fi we provided, attendees could share photos live at the event and see their photographs on the big screen.


Having Wi-Fi on site also meant that new mobile donation technology could be tested with a reliable connection, helping to improve it’s use ready for next year’s event.


Reliable Wi-Fi throughout the day of this event was vital for production purposes and the smooth running of critical processes.


Working with Winchester Round Table Bonfire and Fireworks was a privilege and a pleasure. Year on year there are more things that require a wireless connection to ensure the smooth running of an event, and we hope to be on hand again in the future to help this to happen.


For more information on our Event W-Fi services get in touch with one of our Wi-Fi experts and we can show you how we can help make your event a success.


Get in touch here.


Photo credit to Joe Lillywhite Photography.

Wi-Fi Interference – The Top 5 Myths

Wi-Fi Interference – The Top 5 Myths

In order to monitor and address Radio Frequency interference, you need to understand what causes it – And what doesn’t.

Technology is ever-evolving and moving forward. Year on year, the number of wireless devices grows with a prediction of more than a trillion networked devices being in use by the year 2025. This also means that more wireless networks are being created, and thus, the need for understanding RF interference grows. RF interference is a common network problem, and one that network managers need to address – It’s imperative that they understand the causes of it, the impact it has and how to solve the issue

So when does RF interference happen?

RF interference occurs when the performance of an electronic device is impacted by picking up other electromagnetic radiation emissions. When the wrong signals are picked up it can result in service loss or delays – potentially big problems for a network connection.

It’s important that you or your network manager are in a position to take the right action at the right time. Unfortunately, there are some misconceptions about interference which could knock you off course, so below are the top 5 myths about interference.


Myth #1 – Interference is all man-made

Devices and networks themselves cause interference problems, and are generally the biggest cause of interference in a network. However, not all interference is man-made. Natural occurrences can also affect how electronic devices operate, and there’s not a lot your network manager can do about lightning or solar flares!

Myth #2 – Having many access points will protect against interference

Often, access points are deployed in high numbers to try and protect against RF interference. While this is good for network capacity (it will be greater with more AP’s), it doesn’t actually guarantee protection against interference. In some cases, each access point can interfere with one another causing co-channel interference. To try and avoid this issue, in a dense area the power of each access point should be reduced.

Myth #3 – If the network is working, there is no interference

It is a common misconception among Network Managers that as long as the Wi-Fi is working, successfully making transmissions, then there must be little to no interference. However, the even though transmissions are going through, the throughout and capacity of the Wi-Fi can be impacted. This is because if a device detects interference before starting a transmission, it puts it on hold until it’s gone. Similarly, the packed will be resent if interference happens during a transmission. So yes, the wireless devices generally do get the transmissions but any interference problems can cause underlying fundamental issues that can often go undetected at first.

Myth #4 – Your Access Points will always detect interference

You may think that interference is a bit of a non-issue as it’s now possible to deploy testing equipment to help manage interference within your network. Access points can automatically change channels to respond to any detected signals outside of 802.11. But, in some cases such as where broadband devices cannot be improved with a channel change, this wouldn’t solve the problem. In order to properly deal with any interference, it’s important to locate the actual source. While automated interference responses can be helpful, they don’t always solve the issue where it originates. This means that the underlying problem would never be addressed.

Myth #5 – Interference is only caused by other Wi-Fi networks

Similarly to myth #1, all interference does not come from one source. While other networks can indeed cause interference on your network, that’s not going to be the only source of it. Devices themselves, co-channel and adjacent-channel interference can create significant problems.

To limit issues caused by this, you could try reducing the number of devices you have on the 2.4GHz band. This is used by many Wi-Fi devices, but most access points can use both 2.4 and 5GHz. So by connecting them to 5 GHz instead, you would be moving them away from a more interference0prone 2.4 GHz band.


If you’re worried that your network could be experiencing interference but you’re unsure of the source, get in touch with one of our Geekabit Wi-Fi experts here.

Improve Your Wi-Fi With Clever AP Placement

At the risk of sounding rather dramatic, getting the placement of wireless Access Points right can really make or break a business’ Wi-Fi network. The top things you want from your Wi-Fi in your business (or home) are:

  • Good connectivity
  • Seamless roaming
  • Minimal interference
  • Efficiency
  • Speed
  • Adaptability

And you can get all of this from properly planning where your AP’s are going to go. Without the planning and forward thinking, you could be doomed to an inefficient network with poor connectivity, dead zones and interference. Cue lag time and frustration – Nobody wants that.

You may be wondering when the best time is to sort all this out, or worrying that you’ve missed the boat. You could be moving into new premises and starting from nothing, or perhaps you are expanding your organisation and need to cover a wider area, or maybe you’re just looking to upgrade your wireless network. Whichever situation you find yourself in, in order to optimise your network you need to properly consider where to place your access points. You don’t want one corner of the office to be a thriving hub of activity, and the other side struggling to load anything

So what exactly do you need to think about when designing the placement of your AP’s?


What’s the first thing you do when you start the design process something? You identify what it’s being used for, by whom and where it’s being used. This is especially true for AP placement, so here are some things to think about to ensure seamless connectivity.

What are the demands on your network?

Think about the needs of your network – How fast does the internet need to be? What will the internet be used for? Downloads/ uploads? File size? How many employees will be using it? Imagine 2 very different businesses: A small accountancy firm with 5 employees, and an international architecture firm with hundreds of employees. The number of staff, the type and size of files, the size of the offices are all very different and thus the demands on their networks very different

How many users will you have?

How many users will be connected to the network at any given time? And how many devices will each user be using? These are important questions to consider. A general rule of thumb is one AP per 25-30 users. You also need to bear in mind that each user will have a few different devices – Those connected to the network will likely be using a smartphone, a laptop and maybe a tablet.

How big is the space?

This is the main part of AP placement design. Not only is the square footage important, but also the shape of the space and what building materials have been used to construct it. It is important that knowledge of these elements is known ahead of time to ensure network optimisation. If the space is an odd shape, then there may be areas that could lose signal. Likewise, if certain construction materials have been used then they may cause interference in those areas.

Who will be responsible for installation?

You may be thinking that your IT team can deal with this, and they may well be able to. But it is important to ensure that whoever you instruct to install your wireless network has experience of AP placement and network design. The above suggestions are a great starting point to begin discussions – And may also expose any inexperience that could cause problems later down the line. This process can be straightforward, but also relies on experience of network design and proper AP placement. If you’re not confident that you have the expertise in house, consider outsourcing it to a Wi-Fi professional (like us here at Geekabit – But we would say that wouldn’t we…)


AP design and installation

So you’ve assessed the uses of your network and identified any potential challenges you may face from your users and the what they need the internet for. The next step before installation is to carry out a wireless Site Survey to provide a more extensive check of usage intentions, challenges, business needs and space. This is necessary whether it’s for new premises or just an upgrade – Better to identify potential problems before the design stage rather than during or, worst case, after installation.

In which rooms is Wi-Fi going to be used most?

Do you have conference rooms? Individual or communal offices? Anywhere like this where usage is likely to be high will need an AP. This will ensure adequate coverage in the areas that demand it the most.

You might be thinking why not place one in a hallway? This is actually quite a common mistake. Yes, it’s likely to be a central location so we do understand the thinking behind it, however contrary to the belief that the signal can reach multiple places at once, it can actually cause interference from walls and building materials. This would have the opposite effect by causing a significant reduction in signal and range. The best places for AP’s are where people actually need them – People don’t work in hallways, they work in offices or meeting rooms.

Where should I place AP’s – Walls or ceilings?

This really depends on the type of building. To avoid any interference from pipes or ducts, you’ll often find AP’s below the ceiling or mounted on walls just under ceilings. If you have tall ceilings like a warehouse, then you may need to consider mounting the AP’s on the walls instead to make sure that the signal can reach the floor. You could also use a directional antenna to overcome any problems with distance.

Don’t forget the cables!

It’s not just about finding the best location space wise – You also need to be able to run a cable from that location back to the telecom room. This means that construction materials within the walls and building design needs to support the installation and running of cables. It’s not as easy as just choosing a location and sticking an AP there – If the cables aren’t possible, then that location won’t work.


Certain materials, like brick, metal and concrete, can adversely affect signals by blocking them and reducing their range. Other materials can also cause problems, such as thick glass or drywall, so it really is important to identify the materials used for the construction of the building before designing your network and assigning AP locations.

Be careful with overlap

A bit of coverage overlap is necessary in the deign of a network, especially in areas of high use or places surrounded by the materials we’ve just mentioned. Too much overlap, however, and you could be looking at interference.

This is where the design process of mapping out where the AP’s will go helps to highlight how much overlap is needed and where. If you’re placing AP’s in multistorey buildings or in rooms next to each other, then make sure that they are strategically staggered to provide coverage optimisation and minimise overlap.

Do you need coverage in outdoor areas?

With the likes of Google offices offering business premises of dreams for employees, an outside area that could be used for working might be preferential .If you do require coverage outside, then make sure you choose weather-proof AP’s. These are also a handy little device if you need to provide a wireless network within an area of refrigeration, heat or condensation.

If you only need coverage indoors, then you generally place APs on interior walls. If you don’t need any coverage outside, then placing AP’s too close to exterior walls would just waste signal by pushing some of it outdoors. You also want to avoid any potential security risks – If your network is accessible from outside it could mean that someone outside your organisation can gain access without the proper safety in place.


Why does AP design matter so much?

Hopefully what we’ve written about above will have answered this question already. We were dramatic when we started so we’ll finish on a dramatic note too – Your business could be completely transformed with a well-designed network and properly thought out Access Point placement. Just think how much more efficient your employees could be if the internet coverage was seamless and fast with no interference? Your whole business could move faster. Placing AP’s with thought and clever wireless network design is such an important investment to make for your business – big or small.

Our Wi-Fi Experts from Geekabit offer assistance for the whole process; from Site Surveys, to Network Design, through to Installation. If you’re not confident that your in-house IT team can effectively take your organisation through this period of change, then get in touch for our expert advice. Contact us here.

Wi-Fi Dropping Out? Here’s a Guide to 5GHz  

Last week we had a call out to a customer reporting Wi-Fi dropping out on their 5GHz Frequency band only Wi-Fi network in central London’.

This got us to thinking that a quick guide to 5GHz in the UK would make a handy blog!

Before we start, here’s a bit of help with the lingo used.

Indoors – This means that the access point hardware may only operate using the channel in question if it remains inside a building.

DFS – Dynamic Frequency Selection. Units labelled with this must have DFS enable.

TPC – Transmit Power Control. Unit must be operating under these parameters.


The Usable 5GHz Channel Numbers Increase By 4 Each Time – Why?

Common question, and this is why. Each channel in the 5GHz spectrum is 5MHz wide, but only every 4th channel is usable. It’s important that there is no overlap between channels, which is why there are gaps – To ensure adequate spacing.

Let’s do an example. If we take the centre frequency of Channel 40 in the 5GHz spectrum, we have 5200MHz (or 5.2GHz). If we were to make this a 20MHz channel, we you would make this frequency the central point of the channel and extend 10MHz in either direction above and below this. This would give you the range of 5190MHz-5210MHz for the 20Mhz wide channel. We have used up 2 x 5MHz wide channels in each direction by extending the channel 10MHz in each direction. These would have been Channels 38, 39, 41, and 42). This is the reason why these channels are not considered usable. To avoid any potential overlap, most hardware won’t allow you to select them. You could very easily end up with co-channel interference if you were to go ahead and use them.

A Bit More Info on Band A (Channels 36 – 64)

Band A is 200MHz wide and offers 8 channels at 20MHz or 4 channels at 40MHz. However, Band A breaks down further into 2 bands. These are UNII-1 Lower and UNII-2 Middle.

Band A UNII-1 Lower (Channels 36 – 48)

Within this set of 4 channels there are 2 options – 4 non overlapping 20MHz channels or 2 non overlapping 40MHz channels. All will be well as long as you keep to the 200mW output limit.

Band A UNII-2 Middle (Channels 52 – 64)

This set of 4 channels also allows for 4 non overlapping 20MHz channels or 2 non overlapping 40MHz channels. The difference here however, is that DFS and TPC need to be switched on. This is to ensure you stay compliant with Ofcom regulations. This is important and thus many hardware vendors won’t give the option when using these channels other than to have these settings switched on within the firmware.


Dynamic Frequency Selection (DFS)

Radar such as military and weather uses frequency space. DFS allows 5GHz hardware to operate within the same frequency. If you have an access point, or a bridge unit in access point mode, with DFS enabled, it will listen for a short amount of time first, ensuring it doesn’t pick up any radar signals.

If it does detect radar, then a different channel will be used. If it deems the airwaves to be clear on that channel then it will stay put. If radar is detected later, it will also change to a different channel.

Any channel switching is kept as seamless as possible by the access point using protocols specified in 802.11h. This means it will broadcast to the attached stations that a channel switch is taking place which enables them to react without any hiccups. If a device has detected radar and moved away from it, it will avoid that channel for a defined period of time.


40MHz Wide Channels

Some devices only support a 20MHz channel, so 40MHz wide channels are created by bonding together 2 of these. These 2 channels must be adjacent channels, and are known as the Primary and Secondary channels. The secondary channel may be above or below the primary channel. Any devices that support 20MHz wide channels will connect to the primary channel. Within your hardware you will select this primary channel, with the secondary channel being above or below the primary. It’s worth noting however that the primary channel mustn’t be on the edge of the usable spectrum in this case. When the secondary channel is above the primary it is sometimes specified as “Channel 40 +1” or “40 -1” if below.


5GHz Is Your Friend in High Density Environments!

You may already be aware that 2.4GHz only allows for 3 channels with no overlap. These channels are 1, 6 and 11. In high density environments this can cause issues, as if you have any more than 3 access points transmitting 2.4GHz signals in a confined area you’re more than likely going to encounter some co-channel interference.

This occurs when you have 2 devices trying to transmit at the same time as each other. Only 1 device may use a channel space at any one time to do so reliably. It’s literally like a butting of heads. If they try to transmit at the same time, they collide and result in both devices having to try again after a random amount of time. Not conducive to a reliable wireless environment.

This is why 5GHz is really rather great. Picture 500 people all in one room, sitting together using various wireless devices. If you have an enterprise level access point capable of handling 50 clients on 2.4GHz radio reliably, and you have 3 of these access points in the room using 3 non- overlapping channels (1, 6 and 11) then you have the capacity to cope with 150 users.  But that leaves 350 other users wanting Wi-Fi too! So we change these 3 access points into dual radio 2.4/5GHz. This means that each of the 5GHz radios can take on 50 users as well. So now we’re up to 300 users catered for. 200 to go. We’ve used the 3 non-overlapping  2.4GHz channels ( we can’t use them again as it’s one room with no way of attenuating the signal) but we do have a larger number of 5GHz channels that we can use. We can add in 4 more access points, but these will only have their 5GHz radios switched on, which let’s you look after 50 more users per AP, taking us to the 500 users being able to use their wireless devices to their hearts content.  No channels have been reused with 3 access point radios on 2.4GHz and 7 radios on 5GHz.

This is a pretty no-frills example, and does assume that their wireless devices are dual band devices (ones that support both 2.4GHz and 5GHz). If you have the know-how, a bit of smart design and some trade-trickery then there is the possibility that you could re-use some of your 2.4ghz channels with the right power and directional access points whilst still avoiding issues. But this is a simple demonstration of how it works.


5GHz Is Your Friend Yet Again for Outdoor Point To Point Wireless

If you’re looking for a friend for outdoor point-to-point links then 5GHz is your man again. 5GHz is a great choice for this as is high output power (upto 4W) is allowed.

5GHz can be legally used to transmit up to 10db more than 2.4GHz in Band A or B and 16db more in band C.  In Band A and B the 5GHz signal is able to travel around 15x further than 2.4GHz and in Band C a massive amount further.

Most household networks are 2.4GHz and have a whole host of these signals being sent out all over place, so another benefit of using 5GHz for wireless bridges is that it is also less likely to suffer from interference. 5GHz in the home is less common and if it is present is going to be on the lower transmit power offered by band A or B leaving band C free to use.

5GHz also scatters and reflects better than 2.4GHz which can be useful for near lines of sight situations – Another benefit.

Hopefully you can see from this article that 5GHz is a very useful wireless tool.

Using our expert knowledge on the above we were able to quickly identify and fix last week’s clients issues quickly. Their problem was that one of their access points was broadcasting on a DFS channel and was turning off every time it could sense radar.

If you’re having some wireless issues and you’re not sure where to start or who to turn to, then give our Wi-Fi experts a call and see if we can get you back online.

Contact us here.

Which Should I choose, Ubiquiti or Cisco?

This is a question we get asked a lot. There are a handful of big players when it comes to professional-grade wireless hardware, 2 of which are Cisco and Ubiquiti.

We don’t really have to introduce Cisco do we. If you know enterprise networking then you’ll know Cisco. So when you’re looking for highly configurable enterprise-level access points then Cisco might well the be way to go, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s just always the best choice.

Enter, Ubiquiti. For wireless aficionados who enjoy straightforward setup, Ubiquiti has become a household name itself. It may have previously been known for prosumer-grade equipment, but those days are gone – For the better.

Of course, both Cisco and Ubiquiti have their individual strengths and weaknesses and which is best for you will very much depend on your network set up. During this blog we’ll discuss access points from both Cisco and Ubiquiti, comparing them on their hardware, configuration, management and support.

Cisco Aironet 2800 Series vs Ubiquiti UniFi AP PRO-HD

Cisco has two wireless access point lines (Meraki and Aironet) in comparison to just the one line from Ubiquiti (UniFi). The Meraki units are probably some of the most powerful wireless units out there, but they are cloud based so in this article we will be comparing the Aironet with the closest equivalent from Ubiquiti which is the UniFi AP PRO-HD and commonly used in business networking environments.


Obviously we’ve chosen 2 products to compare because they are similar to each other in many ways. When it comes to selecting hardware, there are many things to consider so this is what we’ll look at here.

Additional hardware options

The thing that could make Cisco take a step forward as the stronger choice is the add-ons that it has. These are the Smart Antenna and the Cisco Wireless Controller, which deliver the following capabilities.

Signal boosting. Perfection is hard to come by, and not every WAP placement can be the ideal one. For anyone that’s trying to place an AP and coming up against a brick wall, the Aironet Smart Antenna connectors are their new best friend. By boosting the gain, they give the users stuck behind a wall more of a chance of connection.

Controller. We’ve listed this as an add on, but actually it’s not really an optional extra if you need to manage 10 or 20 Aironets. Manually configuring each one individually would be a bit of a mammoth if not almost impossible task, so you would be needing the Controller which doesn’t come cheap.

So based on hardware, it’s a bit of a close call between the two. As we said, we’ve purposely chosen two products for their similarities so when comparing the AP specs, Ubiquiti and Cisco are pretty much even. We said at the start that it will come down to the network size, but it also depends on other factors like configuration, management, support and price.

Configuring and Managing Your Network

When you’re choosing AP’s, there are many factors to consider in terms of configuration and management. Whether you have a larger network or not, you don’t want to be manually configuring and managing every individual AP. The following comparisons will be based on a clean install.

Cisco: A Known Element

We mentioned the Controller above – An important part of the Aironet configuration and management. For finer control and configurability, Aironets might be the first choice. Additionally, Cisco has deep command line configuration. However, whether you need all those fine tuning details really depends on your network and environment. In which case, Ubiquiti UniFi might be the one for you.

Cisco might be the way to go if you have a large network with multiple SSIDs, disparate connectivity requirements, guest networks, and any other advanced features. However, this is taking into account the use of the wireless controller again rather than just an individual Aironet unit.

Ubiquiti: Price and Ease

So you might be wondering, what does Ubiquiti offer in place of the Controller? Well, they have a free web-based software that customers can use. This software enables you to manage and configure your wireless network. If you acquire any new units you can just plug them in and the software will detect them. If what you’re looking for is a good price and ease of use then you’ve probably found your winner – Ubiquiti.

Again it comes own to your network, environment and what you are needing to get from your hardware. In a mission critical role, Ubiquiti has been scoffed at by some networking professionals in the past. However, they have been refining their enterprise features. It may be more basic than Cisco, but that may not be a deal breaker for your network.

In hardware terms, things were pretty similar but when it comes to configuration they’re quite different. If you’ve got a large network which needs fine control in the management and configuration, then Cisco is going to be your best choice.

If what you need is something that won’t break the budget and which is easy to use, then Ubiquiti is going to be the way to go. Their software is straightforward and it’s easy to get going with their units.

Although it’s not quite an enterprise product yet, for 80 percent of small networks  Ubiquiti offers a great hassle-free product.


Let’s face it, no one wants to be needing to turn to support. But if you do, then you can rest easy that Cisco support is thorough and so is their documentation. If you’re unable to find what you need through those means, then you can open a TAC Case online and also utilise a support email address and phone number. If you do need to call them, then you’ll reach a knowledgeable technician on the other end.

Ubiquiti support has a chat window within the controller software and for basic troubleshooting they’re responsive as well as having a good documentation library. Perhaps the best part of their support system is their helpful community. If you were to Google a problem, you would probably end up in their community and it would likely be very useful.

Cost vs. Value

You can pick up a Cisco Aironet 2800 Series access point for around £500 in the UK, compared to the Ubiquiti UniFi AP PRO-HD which you can get for around £150.

So which should you choose?

Well purely based on price, Ubiquiti is cheaper than Cisco, and rather considerably so. Even if you were to have a few dead spots, these would be easily rectified by putting up another UniFi AP or two, and would still end up cheaper than Cisco.

And not only are the WAP’s cheaper, the UniFi controller is also free. For a moderate install this could be shaving off 5 figures. For the price, Ubiquiti is great

Of course, there are fans in both corners. Those that are budget conscious and/or have a small to medium size network would be choosing Ubiquiti. On the other side you have those that don’t mind paying the premium price tag for an enterprise-grade product and enjoy the brilliant support you get with Cisco.

What it comes down to is priorities; existing infrastructure, technical requirements and price. Ubiquiti might lack some of the high-end features that come standard with Cisco, but it also doesn’t come with the high costs. If you’re looking for a straightforward, economical solution for your small- to medium-sized business then you could definitely do a lot worse than Ubiquiti products.

For more information on how Ubiquiti UniFi products could help your home or business Wi-Fi, give one of our Wi-Fi experts a call. We operate out of London, Hampshire and Cardiff and are on call to solve your Wi-Fi woes.

Contact us here.

BDUK Government Scheme for Superfast Broadband

Since 2013, the Government’s £1.7bn publicly funded Broadband Delivery UK scheme has helped to extend “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) networks to 5,076,552 extra premises.

If you’re not familiar with the scheme, Building Digital UK (BDUK), part of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, has been delivering superfast broadband and local full fibre networks to the nation.

The government has:

  • supported investment to provide superfast broadband coverage to as many premises as possible beyond the 95% level achieved in December 2017
  • introduced a broadband Universal Service Obligation so that by 2020 everyone across the UK will have a clear, enforceable right to request high speed broadband
  • provided access to basic broadband (2Mbps) for all for those who do not currently have coverage otherwise
  • supported the stimulation of private investment in full fibre connections through a programme that is currently funded through to March 2021
Superfast Broadband Programme

For over 96% of UK premises, the government has ensured superfast broadband (speeds of 24Mbps or more) coverage. It has also provided universal access to basic broadband (speeds of at least 2Mbps).

If you would like to check whether superfast broadband is available in your area, you can use the superfast broadband postcode checker. To find out more details about what is happening in your local area try using their Google Map.

Do you have broadband access which is less than 2Mbps? If so, you can find out what options are available to you using the Basic Broadband Scheme site.

If you would like more information on the government’s approach to delivering superfast broadband and what is available, have a read of the UK Next Generation Network Infrastructure Deployment Plan.

Rural Gigabit Connectivity Programme

It was identified by The Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review, published in July 2018, that approximately 10% of UK premises, largely in rural and remote locations, would be unlikely to receive gigabit capable (full fibre) connections by 2033. In May of this year, the Rural Gigabit Connectivity (RGC) programme commenced and will run until the end of March 2021.

To ensure that the final 10% of premises are addressed at the same pace of the rest of the UK, the RGC programme takes the the first step of the “Outside In” approach.

Additional funding for Welsh Premises

What with our Director’s wife being Welsh, and having experienced rural Welsh Wi-Fi for myself whilst on holiday over the summer, it interested us to know that from March of this year, businesses and residents in Wales are eligible for additional funding from the Welsh Government towards the cost of installing gigabit capable broadband to their premises when part of a group project.

For small and medium-sized businesses (SME), the Welsh Government will pay up to an additional £3,000 as well as up to £300 more per resident in order to help connect harder to reach places in Wales.

The eligibility rules (and the scheme terms and conditions) are the same as for the rest of the UK – you can check if you are eligible and then look up a supplier in your area through the postcode search.

For funding towards resident-only broadband connections you can visit Access Broadband Cymru. For more information on the Welsh Gigabit Voucher Scheme see

BDUK Phases and Take Up

The take up figures reflect the percentage of homes and businesses that have chosen to sign-up with a superfast broadband network (delivered via FTTCFTTP “full fibre” or Fixed Wireless Access), specifically those which have been delivered via support from the BDUK programme (i.e. % subscribed of premises passed).

At present this data is split between the first two phases of the programme and some related phase 2 extension contracts. Phase 1 was broadly dominated by Openreach’s (BT) contracts, while the on-going Phase 2 contracts have attracted a mix of extension deals alongside BT and several alternative network providers.

BDUK Phase 1 (Finished Spring 2016)

Supported by £530m of public money via the Government (mostly extracted from a small slice of the BBC TV Licence fee), as well as significant match funding from local authorities and the EU. The public funding is then roughly matched by BT’s private investment. Overall it helped to extend “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) services to cover 90% of homes and businesses in the United Kingdom.

Overall 55.25% of premises have adopted the new service (up from 52.4% in September 2018).

BDUK Phase 2 (Technically on-going)

Supported by £250m of public money via the Government, as well as match funding from local authorities, Local Growth Deals and private investment from suppliers (e.g. BT, GigaclearAirband, Call Flow etc.). This phase extended superfast broadband services to 95% of premises in time for the end of 2017, although some contracts are on-going until c.2020 and will reach beyond 95%.

So far in this phase an overall total of 39.59% (up from 35.7% in September 2018) of premises have adopted the new service and some projects have yet to report.

bduk impact march 2019

Factors affecting deployment

There are many and varying factors that could affect the % of take up.

  • Earlier phases of the roll-out were easier and faster to deploy, so you could expect to see a bit of a yo-yo movement with the take-up % sometimes falling if lots of new areas were suddenly covered.
  • Some contracts are in younger stages than others and hence will take time to catch-up.
  • As it reaches more remote rural areas, BDUK’s roll-out pace has slowed, which will in turn give take-up a chance to climb.
  • Higher prices for related “fibre” services
  • Customers being locked into long contracts with their existing ISP meaning they are not able to immediately upgrade
  • A lack of general awareness about the existence of faster services
  • A lack of interest in the new connectivity e.g. if you have a decent ADSL2+ speed and only basic needs then you might not feel as inclined to upgrade
  • There may be a fear of switching to a different ISP
  • The new service may run out of capacity if the demand is higher than expected. This would mean that those who do want to upgrade could be prevented from doing so until the problem is

For more information on the BDUK Superfast Broadband scheme you can check out this website

Why 5G Won’t Replace Wi-Fi

Whether we’re in the home, on the street or sat at work, the broadband we enjoy is constantly evolving and improving. From the days of dial-up through to broadband, LAN to wireless and 2G to 4G, we’ve always been moving in one, upward direction.

With the need, and indeed expectation, for faster internet comes a drive for big improvements in download speeds, software and hardware all around the globe. These developments for quicker, more reliable internet are not something that will be slowing down any time soon.

Which brings us on to one of the next big developments – 5G. The next generation in mobile broadband and set to take off where 4G has left off. Promising faster downloads and bigger bandwidth for all us smartphone addicts, 5G is set to launch this year.

With the potential promise to transform mobile internet, there may be one question going through your mind – Will 5G replace Wi-Fi?

The simple answer is no. As to why…

Wi-Fi is Wherever You Go

We’ve already said that there isn’t just a need for internet connection, but an expectation for it to be available (and usually, for it to be free). Whether it’s a public Wi-Fi network or private, free or not, Wi-Fi is extremely commonplace and more often found t obe present than not. Globally, Wi-Fi is one of the most common protocols to be found anywhere and everywhere.

There isn’t much nowadays that doesn’t connect to Wi-Fi. The watch on your wrist, the phone in your pocket, the tablet in your bag, the laptop in your briefcase. Most of these devices automatically seek and connect to any available Wi-Fi network.

And it’s not just personal devices. In your home, your heating, lighting, cooker, fridge, and probably even your television are all connected to your network so you can control them remotely or via a home hub.

And here lies the reason that 5G cannot replace Wi-Fi. The way 5G is installed means that it needs specific hardware to be able to connect. Therefore, it can’t be replacing Wi-Fi in homes and business all over the globe.

Last year, over half of the world’s internet traffic was carried over Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi is extremely important, relied upon and isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. And the Wi-Fi Alliance would agree. (Of course they would, it’s their standard).

It’s Not Just Mobile Broadband That’s Improving – There’s Wi-Fi 6 & WiGig Too

Mobile internet such as 4G isn’t the only thing to be getting an upgrade. If you’ve heard of the approach of 5G then you’ve probably also come across Wi-Fi 6 (or 802.11ax) which is also on its way.

Just like 5G, Wi-Fi 6 is promising a whole host of improvements which change the fundamentals of Wi-Fi and greatly improve the user experience. As with 5G, new compatible hardware will need to be purchased in order to utilise the new features

The great thing about Wi-Fi 6 however, is that no device will be left behind. The features will have backward compatibility meaning that Wi-Fi 6 hardware and devices will also work with previous Wi-Fi standards.

Benefits of the new feature will be flexible channel sizes to enable smart network management, support for the 6GHz spectrum, multi-user MMO uplink and downlink plus so much more.

The second generation WiGig standard, IEEE 802.11ay, is expected to be published this year. The next generation WiGig, also known as 60GHz Wi-Fi, will see it’s main improvements in speeds rivalling 5G of 10GB per second

The Impracticalities of Mobile Internet

If you had the choice to connect to Wi-Fi (safely) or use mobile internet, which would you choose? I think the overwhelming response to that question would be connect to Wi-Fi – The thought of having to rely solely on mobile internet is a little uncomfortable. If the option is there, then Wi-Fi will always win and that’s yet another reason why 5G won’t be replacing it.

Impracticality #1. The nature of mobile broadband like 4G or 5G is that customers are tied into long-term contracts and that’s not something that will change. Coupled with this, these customers will also have strict limits on how much data they will be able to use. This will be one of the reasons as to why the answer to our question above will often be Wi-Fi.

Impracticality #2. 5G internet relies upon frequencies that find it difficult to penetrate buildings. They also don’t travel very far. This is therefore a bit of a problem for internal use, making Wi-Fi a much more preferable choice

There is no doubt that 5G will indeed revolutionise mobile broadband, but due to the facts we’ve spoken about above, it won’t be replacing our beloved Wi-Fi.


Ubiquiti UniFi – What are Mesh and Mesh Pro Models?

What is Mesh and what is it used for?

Essentially, Mesh is a grid of access points that are all aware of each other and connected together. They are intelligent which means that if one goes down, the other access points automatically re-connect and continue to talk to each other meaning that they can still route traffic.

Mesh is really useful for situations where you have to cover a large area but there is only one physical internet connection. The access points cover the area wirelessly creating a mesh network that keeps the entire area covered.

It is worth noting that if it is possible to use a wired connection through an ethernet cable, then that would be the better option as it will have a superior performance over a wireless mesh uplink.


How to arrange Ubiquiti Constituent Parts

If you’re wondering what the interrelated Ubiquiti parts are and how they fit together, then read on. Remember that you will always need a router to do the routing in your network – UniFi Mesh access points are not routers.

You’ll see below that we’ve listed all Ubiquiti equipment. This isn’t essential, you don’t need to use Ubiquiti equipment for all devices, but if you do it offers the highest compatibility and scalability.

  • Access points: UniFi Meshor UniFi Mesh PRO
  • Router: UniFi Security Gatewayor UniFi Security Gateway PRO. The PRO version, as hinted in the name, has more functions and is more powerful. E.g. multiple LAN and WAN ports as well as SFP (Small Form-factor Pluggable) ports for fibre modules.
  • Switch(optional if needed): 8-Port UniFi Gigabit Switch
  • UniFi Controller: To be able to configure all of the above UniFi devices, you will need to download UniFi Controller onto a computer or tablet. This is a free software solution that will enable you to configure and manage all of the UniFi devices in your network. If you would like to observe and log all of the network statistics then the computer will need to be running all the time. If this feels a little daunting, then Ubiquiti sells a UniFi Cloud Keyfor this exact purpose. It is a small computer with a UniFi Controller installed on it which can be connected and running all of the time.



A real world example

Imagine you are hosting an outdoor event, like a festival themed wedding. You want guests to be able to #hashtag your wedding moment by moment, but you’ve picked an outside venue with little mobile reception. You have one wired connection available, and the rest need to be wireless across the entire area to provide seamless coverage.

The devices you could use are:

  • 1x UniFi Security Gateway PRO (multiple LAN and WAN ports)
  • 4x UniFi Mesh PRO (access points to match the gateway; MAIN, 1, 2 and 3)
  • UniFi Cloud Key (to enable configuration and provide network statistics)

The location where you are able to set up a wired connection would be your MAIN location, where you could connect a UniFi Security Gateway with one physically connected UniFi Mesh Pro access point. The remaining 3 access points would be connected wirelessly to the main Mesh Pro device.

Remember! Mesh devices all work on a 5GHz and 2.4GHz frequency. UniFi Mesh technology works exclusively on 5GHz for wireless uplink, so it’s best to keep this frequency solely for this purpose, and then use 2.4GHz for clients devices (e.g. phones, tablets, laptops etc). If you do it this way, the 5GHz uplinks won’t get overloaded by client devices.

With this set up you should be able to achieve good overall performance, with roaming between access points working seamlessly. Wedding hashtag saved!

You will see that on the devices that they say the coverage is anything up to 180m. It’s a good idea to err on the side of caution with this, and not stretch it to it’s limit. This will help make sure you don’t encounter potential range issues.

With devices that use small antenna like smartphones and tablets, you have to remember that they’re not as powerful. They can receive signal well, but can struggle when transmitting back to the access point. To try and avoid any performance issues because of this, don’t push the coverage range and keep the distance between Mesh devices around 100 metres.

Remember! We mentioned about channels above. You need to also make sure that you’re not getting overlaps on your 2.4GHz channel. If you stop this from happening, you can reduce if not eliminate any access point interference.

Here is an example of what channels you could use to avoid any interference issues:

  • Mesh device 1 – Channel 1
  • Mesh device 2 – Channel 11
  • Mesh device 3: Channel 1

We hope you found this blog helpful.

For more information on how Ubiquiti UniFi devices could help your network – Whether it be business, home or event – Please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Our Wi-Fi experts work out of Hampshire, London and Cardiff and are ready to help with your Wi-Fi woes.

Contact us here.




With thanks to for the image.