Large scale WiFi net



  • Hi Guys,

    I hope I'm posting this in the right section if not I'm very sorry

    I'm considering a new project in which i want to set up a WIFI Net across an entire estate and provide users inside the estate with internet access through an access point using a user name and password. Let me tell you what I've been thinking so far.

    The estate in mind has 400 units. 350 of them are in the form of flats and the other 50 are separate houses.

    I'm pretty sure pfsense will work perfectly for this but i will need some guidance as to how to set it up.

    as far as hardware goes I'm struggling a little bit. What I think would work rather well is as APU Board such as this http://store.netgate.com/APU1D4.aspx and then normal access points in each house and flat with a user name and password. do you guys think this will be a feasible option?

    If anyone has any suggestions or guidance that will be a great help. Thanks so much in advance.

    TJ Joubert



  • Oh boy,
    the routing/firewalling will be your smallest task in such an install.

    Consider WiFi coverage, WiFI channel selection, cable runs, switching, bandwidth and legal aspects mayor points of interest.
    Does everybody want your service or will there be other WLANs competing for airtime?



  • Hey Chris thanks for the reply.

    At the moment there is no one else in the area that we will be competing with at all.

    Ya this is still a fresh idea so Wifi coverage, switching, and bandwidth is something I'm still researching. Where to run cable and where to just keep wireless is also something I need to consider as i want this project to be cost effective but yet still reliable.

    The hardware itself is where I'm struggling. I've got a site map of the estate and want to purchase some sample routers and access points to use to test on site and see realistic reach and throughput

    From the people I've spoken to in the estate and from what I've heard from the board of trustees there is a very real need for internet there.

    The problem is that we are from South Africa and out only major ISP (Telkom) does not feel it is viable to run cable to the estate and instead forces everyone there to go 3G which is very expensive here.

    So my plan is to offer them a wifi connection that is cheaper and more stable than 3G.

    Getting APU Boards here in South Africa is rather difficult without importing it from the states. Do you know of any other way we can go about doing it perhaps?



  • So just to be clear you will be an ISP. Have a fat pipe. Distribute ethernet to 400 addresses which each address will have an wireless access point installed connected to your system via ethernet?
    What you need is utility grade equipment not an APU. You need to think a little bigger IMHO. Maybe a nice core machine would be OK but APU for 400 addresses and who knows how many users per household –seems underpowered. Spend a little extra on the heart of your network. I would also think redundancy for business.
    What is the home spacing in the development? Dense or single story? Is "flat" an 2 story house?Half double/side by Side/Duplex? I could defiantly see wireless issues if dense.



  • Maybe you want to be an Wireless ISP for these 400 addresses? How about 4 of the Ruckus Access Points and pfSense tied to a descent connection? I think you will need fiber connections for the distances. So maybe each Ruckus AP tied to its own edge router with fiber back to your pfSense redundant server with battery backup..



  • @Phishfry:

    You need to think a little bigger

    Nope. A lot bigger!

    @Phishfry:

    How about 4 of the Ruckus Access Points and…

    We don't know anything about this project that lets us predict a number for APs needed. Don't even start thinking in equipment lists at this point in time, let alone sourcing it.

    An install of this size needs a budget in the range of US $10k to $20k EASILY.
    Do you have this budget and are you willing to spend it? Can you support it in the long run?
    If you cannot answer ALL questions whole-heartedly with "Yes!" you better run.

    I like APUs a bit and use them on my own. Forget about them in this project. Totally wrong size.



  • I was totally out of my league for posting anything regarding this many users. I just saw somebody heading in the wrong direction and needed to say something. I have never designed a large network either.

    I do agree with your cost projections. The 4 outdoor AP's would be 10K alone. That would provide for 500 users each according to their literature. I still see none with dual sfp for redundancy back to pfsense. The Ruckus 7782 looks real deal but costly. Single sfp port.

    Question is what size pipe to service 400 users. The installation of that alone could go over budget big time.

    Also i have no dealings with 400 captive portal users but it sounds abit much.

    What are CP's thresholds?


  • LAYER 8 Netgate

    Routinely have 3000+ CP sessions on an old 1U IBM 336 Xeon server.  CP will not be the problem.

    Hoping to move to an HA pair of C2758s soon.


  • LAYER 8 Netgate

    @jahonix:

    An install of this size needs a budget in the range of US $10k to $20k EASILY.

    Double or triple it for Ruckus/Aruba/Cisco.  Take the apartments.  350 units, say an AP for every three if they're really small.  That's 120 APs.  Figure $200 each.  That's $24K right there.

    I would probably lean toward Ruckus for the apartments and Ubiquiti for the outdoor stuff (Houses).  Ruckus really shines in high-density and pushing through walls.  But their outdoor stuff is for high-density.  Ubiquiti is pretty solid in the PTMP CPE realm.  And the radios are cheap.

    Do not think that you can put a few access points in cupboards somewhere and users will be happy.


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