Taking the Network Outside

Categorized:  The Access Blog  |  June 10, 2021

Summer is upon us. Being stuck indoors during a pandemic has everyone, including us, itching to get outside. From WFO (work-from-outside) to a variety of ways to enjoy home entertainment, outdoor areas have become a technology hotbed, and homeowners are demanding the same quality of service outside as they do inside.

Today, we sat down with Access Networks’ Technical Director, Nathan Holmes, as he walked us through taking fast, reliable and consistent Wi-Fi connectivity to the outdoor space.

Why would you even want enterprise-grade Wi-Fi outdoors?

We live a connected life regardless of where we are standing. Whether working from home and surfing the Internet or Facetiming our grandparents in the garden, our lives and experiences are as portable as the devices we carry. The outdoor space is now a common area for listening to music, entertaining friends, and controlling household electronics. Turning on hot tubs, fire pits, waterfalls – even turning on indoor electronics, is now all possible from the comfort of your lawn chair. I even use my Wi-Fi when cleaning my koi pond.

The importance of outdoor living has skyrocketed during the pandemic. Two years ago, we all looked forward to weekends at home, but now the only way to escape the “office” is to get outside. The corporate stigma of the 9-to-5 job shattered overnight, and workers were forced to build an at-home infrastructure not only to support WFH, but also learn-from-home and entertain-from-home. Outdoor living is the new weekend. Physically moving from the home office to an outdoor space is helping us reconnect with our families and friends, while disconnecting from work – essentially disconnecting to reconnect.

What are some of the potential hurdles or challenges to consider when adding outdoor enterprise-grade Wi-Fi?

Similar to an indoor networking solution, you’ll need to begin with determining where you want to use the Wi-Fi and how you want to use it.

How much of the actual property do you want to enable connectivity for, and what level of connection do you want? How do you use the Wi-Fi? Are you just surfing the web, or do you want seamless Wi-Fi calling and/or high data rates? What streaming services do you use? How often do you FaceTime, stream video calls or download movies? Do you like to walk around your property while you’re doing all of these things? Do you have five, ten or 15 acres of hills and trees and want connectivity at the edge of the property, or do you merely want Wi-Fi closer to the home where the kids play every day?

The reality is that even though times are changing, 90 percent of Wi-Fi use is still indoors. But even the addition of a single wireless access point (AP) to the outside area is going to dramatically increase connectivity, versus trying to extend the connection from indoors.

Why should a homeowner consider hiring an integrator versus trying to set up their own outdoor network?

Given all of the environmental factors that can affect Wi-Fi performance—landscaping, trees, weather, varied elevations, water features, neighboring networks, and the sheer size and scope of the property, developing a networking blueprint for the outdoor space is often trickier and more complicated than for the inside of a home.

What equipment should I purchase? How does it all work together? How do I connect that equipment? Where do I connect that equipment? How do I mount the equipment? And where do I mount it? How do I surge protect everything when a storm rolls through? How do I validate that the equipment is all working together for optimal performance?

There are so many variables when setting up an outdoor network, proper product selection, network design and application are imperative. Let us help you with your outdoor networking needs by putting you in touch with one of our integrator partners in your area.