The Le Parker Meridian Hotel was looking to upgrade their existing legacy Wi-Fi infrastructure. The legacy deployment was controller based and APs were 802.11(a/b/g) capable. Challenges included lack of proper coverage in the guest rooms, ability to handle higher capacity, bandwidth to handle applications that they were seeing (mostly streaming services), and ability to seamlessly handover/roam active sessions throughout the hotel without losing access while continuously being rerouted to a splash page.
These challenges led to increased service calls to the help desk and bad reviews online.
An initial assessment of the RF infrastructure was done with a passive site survey using the AirMagnet software. Survey analysis revealed the APs were only using 2.4 GHZ frequency and with multiple neighboring APs on the same channel and blasting full RF power. Along with RF infrastructure analysis a backend core network audit was completed to determine the wired network capabilities. The customer was using Cat 5 cables throughout the building and layer 2 switching infrastructure was only 10/100. In some cases, multiple switches were daisy chained in many IDF locations handling multiple floors while a single uplink was sent out to the core switch in the MDF. The network audit was done using Omnipeek revealing a flat network with both admin network and guest network sharing the same broadcast/multicast domain. No measures were taken to control a broadcast storm.
Due to the scale of the project a proof of concept was planned and the customer gave me access to one of their guest room floors with multiple suites. This particular floor experienced the most service calls. The access points were placed in guest bedrooms as per the predictive design using Samsung AP model WEA 412i. We proposed two stream 80211(a/b/g/n/ac) wave 1 APs based on the client inventory analysis and also keeping the customer’s overall budget in mind. The customer did have Category 6 cable coming into the guest bedrooms and gave us a separate Layer 2 gigabit switch with full gigabit connectivity from service floor IDF to the core network. We used the Samsung WEC 8500 Controller in the core network to ensure the traffic from the Samsung APs terminates at the controller and then enters and exits the network on a separate gigabit interface to the hospitality gateway. This way we were able to completely isolate the POC network while leveraging their existing IP scheme. Any traffic entering the POC APs from the core had to hit the controller first before it could hit the APs and show on the air. This led to us controlling broadcast/multicast traffic from the core to the access network. The controller was configured to use the radio resource management feature to auto channelize and auto power the APs. The use of DFS channels was deemed appropriate after making an assessment on the AP DFS alarm logs that the AP was not seeing any radar activity. The WLAN profile for guests was configured with tunneled architecture so all traffic including control from the APs and data from the client is securely tunneled using CAPWAP. The traffic inside the tunnel is encrypted using DTLS which also provides mutual authentication between Samsung AP and Samsung Controllers using certificates. The RF profile for WLAN was configured with low data rates disabled for 2.4 GHZ (1,2 & 5.5). The advanced WLAN settings were set up to allow for band-steering to 5GHZ as well as proportional band-steering with 80/20 setting where the idea was band steer 80 percent of devices to 5 GHZ and 20 percent to 2.4 (This assumes that the client device will adhere to 802.11 standards).
Broadcast/Multicast traffic was disabled at the WLAN level for guests. Client to Client isolation was turned on for security along with idle timer set to 300 seconds.
A passive site survey was performed to verify the coverage using signal strength and SNR as references. At any given point signal strength was measured from two APs and the optimizations were made to ensure a device can hear at least two APs at -70 or lower. An active site survey was also performed using AirMagnet iPerf Client and an iPerf server setup in the customer’s core network to evaluate the local LAN performance.
The following high level recommendations were provided to the end customer with data collected through the POC.
- 350 2 stream 80211 (a/b/g/n/ac) wave 1 APs covering 750 guest rooms, Lobby and Conference room areas. (Conference Room capacities were taken into account)
- WEC 8500 controller to handle peak connections of more than 2000 online guest. Tunneled Architecture. The Controller connection to the Core switch using Link Aggregation aggregating 2 gigabit links.
- Upgrade cabling across the board to at least Cat5e.
- Gigabit L2 switching infrastructure with a power budget of 740 Watts. APs draw anywhere from 19 to 25 watts of power so port density calculations were critical. Multimode Fiber Uplinks from each switch to the core switch.
- Separate VLANs for AP network/Guest Network and Administration network to isolate traffic.
- The Use of 20 MHZ RF bandwidth and DFS channels so we could use more channels on the 5GHZ spectrum and reduce (not eliminate completely) co-channel interference.
You can learn more about the final Le Parker Meridian deployment here.