Optimizing MDU Wi-Fi deployments with SLA-driven designs

Wi-Fi has frequently been rated the number one amenity in multi-dwelling units (MDUs), with most residents demanding fast and reliable wireless access throughout a property. This is precisely why providing Wi-Fi to MDU residents presents a lucrative opportunity for property owners and their service partners. By delivering bulk managed Wi-Fi for a monthly or annual fee, MDU owners can offer tenants fast and reliable wireless connectivity as a fourth utility. High performance, ubiquitous coverage, and simpler IoT connectivity are distinct advantages that create a compelling amenity and help an MDU property stand out in a highly competitive market. A good MDU Wi-Fi deployment can help MDU owners use their Wi-Fi infrastructure to generate new revenue streams by supporting a range of wireless devices, applications, and services.

MDU Wi-Fi Deployments

However, MDU Wi-Fi deployments are often hobbled by a failing ’bring your own Wi-Fi’ (BYO Wi-Fi) approach, which is characterized by a mishmash of off-the-shelf equipment and poorly functioning network gear from various providers. This is because new residents are typically asked to choose one of many local service providers for Wi-Fi/Internet service, with each unit ultimately hosting its own wireless access point (AP).

As we’ve discussed in previous Ruckus Room blog posts, an excess number of APs in a limited space creates interference that negatively affects speed and reliability. Fortunately, managed Wi-Fi can fix this pain point. Indeed, managed service providers routinely conduct comprehensive site surveys and design Wi-Fi services to meet specified Service Level Agreement (SLAs) for MDUs. This is the most effective method of providing a highly reliable Wi-Fi service for an entire complex that includes quality coverage in individual units, lobbies, business centers, community clubhouses, sports facilities, pools, and other common areas.

The Foundation: Service Level Agreements

As we noted above, MDUs present an especially challenging environment for Wi-Fi deployments. Wi-Fi solutions should, therefore, be based on a comprehensive service level agreement (SLA) that stipulates clear terms related to performance and reliability. SLAs also define the availability of smart services and outline penalties for failure, downtime and recovery delays. To help formulate optimal Wi-Fi deployment guidelines, MDU owners can work with Ruckus partners and vendors to better accommodate occupant requirements and analyze physical building constraints.

Residents typically demand the robust delivery of Wi-Fi for a range of devices and applications including large file transfers, music, and 4K video streaming, eSports play and VR/AR devices. Interference can be minimized by analyzing and mapping physical building constraints such as brick, metal, solid wood, sheetrock, and insulation. To be sure, the ability of Wi-Fi signals to effectively traverse an MDU property is contingent upon the characteristics of the above-mentioned building materials. As such, managed service providers can help MDU owners ensure that each Wi-Fi deployment is uniquely designed to accommodate a specific property and meet SLA stipulations.

The Basics: Access Points and Controllers

Choosing the most appropriate wireless access points (APs) and network controllers for an MDU property is a critical step to providing Wi-Fi that is both fast and reliable. Working with Ruckus partners, MDU owners can determine their AP budget; decide on indoor and outdoor placement (a wall plate versus a ceiling mount); select a form factor (wrapping and coating); gauge access point performance (throughput) and device density requirements; map interference caused by building materials (as noted above); and decide how to best future-proof the network with LTE capabilities and converged IoT connectivity. Similarly, Ruckus partners can help MDU owners balance budget and performance for multi-gig controllers and ports, select the correct cabling and physically secure the switch.

The Role of Managed Service Providers

As we noted above, MDUs pose significant challenges for Wi-Fi deployments. Aside from limitations caused by building materials, MDU designs often emphasize the concept of ‘Bring Your Own Network.’ In real-world terms, this means every apartment can potentially operate its own standalone wireless access points. However, an excess number of APs in a limited space creates interference that negatively affects speed and reliability for residents. In addition to ensuring the most efficient deployment of APs and switches, Ruckus partners can help MDU properties:

  • Properly space APs with an unobstructed line of sight to the user.
  • Minimize interference by placing APs as far away as possible from security systems and metal objects.
  • Verify optimal AP orientation for desired coverage.
  • Calculate AP Power over Ethernet (PoE) requirements for Wave2 11ac (Wi-Fi 5) and 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6) APs.
  • Optimize resident and guest onboarding.

The Ruckus Advantage for MDU Wi-Fi deployments

Ruckus makes it easy to deliver high-performance Wi-Fi across thousands of units and tens of thousands of users in challenging MDU environments. Our wall-plate access points (H320, H510, and C110) are specifically designed to accommodate MDUs with unobtrusive form factors that support discreet installation options. In addition, we offer rugged Wi-Fi APs that provide fast and reliable wireless access in outdoor areas such as pools, tennis courts, and gardens. Ruckus APs are more than just wireless access points, as they also support a range of IoT wireless protocols including Zigbee, BLE and Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS). In addition, our ICX switches are built to handle heavy bandwidth demands, which helps prevent bottlenecks and ensures SLAs are met.

Conclusion

Providing Wi-Fi to MDU residents is a lucrative opportunity for property owners and their service partners. By delivering bulk managed Wi-Fi for a monthly or annual fee, MDU owners can offer tenants reliable wireless connectivity as a fourth utility. However, MDU Wi-Fi must be both fast and reliable to create a compelling amenity and make a property stand out in a highly competitive market. It is therefore important to design a Wi-Fi solution based on a comprehensive service level agreement (SLA) that stipulates clear terms related to performance and reliability. To avoid breaching an SLA and incurring steep penalties, MDU owners should work with Ruckus partners to choose and install the most appropriate wireless access points (AP) and controllers. Ruckus partners can also help MDU owners mitigate interference and optimize spectrum use, as well as assist with resident and guest onboarding.

Scott Heinlein
Scott Heinlein

Marketing Director

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