In the age of off-the-shelf wireless routers and internet boosters, it’s easy to be bamboozled with cheap devices promising to answer all your WIFI prayers.  However, the truth is, like any anti-wrinkle serum or hair regrowth shampoo, the majority of these devices are just marketing-fueled gimmicks that rarely provide the desired results.  ‘Do it yourself’ networking can take you so far, but hiring a specialist can guarantee you more reliable, faster and easily upgradable WIFI for life.  

DESIGN

WIFI has become an essential part of life and the need for it has never been greater.  No longer can rental villas and hotels in the Caribbean use the excuse of ‘unplugging from the real world’ to account for no or intermittent WIFI.  It is a compulsory feature and guests will expect fast and reliable connectivity from the minute they arrive. And these days it’s not just personal devices that need to connect; everything from pool systems to smoke detectors require a reliable connection to the internet for full functionality. 

It all begins with a bespoke networking design.  For an existing property, this can only be achieved by a detailed analysis of the property and an understanding of how the conduits have been run.   For new construction, the specialist will review drawings to determine the best design. Although many of the same rules and principles apply to a good WiFi solution, every project is different and complete knowledge of all areas is required.  Strategically placed access points, or radios, will be used to propagate the WIFI signal around the property (more on this later when we move on to technology and installation). In addition to the challenges of WiFi signal, our customers often have customized configuration requests, such as a dedicated network for security and privacy, or restricted internet in children’s areas. 

A large part of our design process is determining the installation method that will cause the minimum disruption and expense for our clients.  Homes that were built before the age of internet are likely to have a single small internal conduit running through the house for analogue telephone only.  This won’t be sufficient to create hardwired data network and new infrastructure will need to be plumbed in. Bringing a property into the twenty first century is worth enduring and investing in, adding overall value and enabling future technology.  

For new construction, it’s essential to secure the plumbing for technology as early as possible in the design phase.  Allowing for a proper conduit network is often an afterthought but by prioritizing technology integration at the very early stages, it will save a lot of time, money and hassle down the line. We’ve always found it confusing that designs for homes include mechanical, electrical and plumbing automatically, but the requirement for technology is often considered only during or after construction. Many people hope that a wireless system can be plugged in anywhere, at anytime, and meet all the WIFI requirements.  At AVL, we know this is simply not a viable option for getting good quality signal to all the necessary areas throughout the property.

TECHNOLOGY

Whether AVL are designing a WIFI network for a family home or a large resort, our customers expect optimum results.  Our clients want WIFI connectivity that can withstand high traffic and require minimum maintenance, so this dictates the technology that we use in all our projects.

The technology we install is the most reliable on the market.  The industry standard of reliability is referred to as the five 9’s – meaning that WIFI has to not only be ‘good’ but ‘99.999% good’.  When a 98% reliability rate for WIFI means poorly streamed movies and dropped calls, the five 9’s marker of reliability is paramount to all AVL installations,

There is a dazzling selection of modems, routers and access points on the market.  Although the old adage of ‘you get what you pay for’ applies, there are affordable alternatives available and a professional will know when to splurge and when to save. 

For our installations, regardless of size, we recommend products that are tested to a commercial standard.  These are routers and access points that have been designed to withstand the kind of traffic and overuse that could be found in an airport, large office or hotel.  Aesthetics are also important and the newest hardware features customized veneers, textures and finishes so they seamlessly blend into the existing furniture.

Many of the private villas and resorts we work with have beach or sea facing properties that provide stunning views but can wreak havoc on technology.  The al fresco Caribbean lifestyle means that salt spray, extreme sunlight and humidity all effect products, whether installed indoors or outdoors.  When choosing hardware, we visualize how they would hold up on the deck of a sailboat so our products are tested to marine grade standards to withstand these harsh elements.

Although AVL services and supports all installations, we insist that our products require the minimum amount of maintenance necessary.  We understand there is nothing more frustrating that technology not working when it’s needed most, so we also use remote monitoring to track the reliability, consistency and effectiveness of all our WIFI products.

INSTALLATION

The installation begins at the centralized hub, or core.  This is where the internet uplink terminates (which is provided by an Internet Service Provider (ISP), for instance Flow, CCT or Digicel) and enters the home.  A quick note on those so called ‘boosters’ that we mentioned earlier.  Internet cannot be ‘boosted’ to be faster than what is arriving to your property via your ISP.  The strength of the signal can only be shared, it cannot be made faster or stronger. The way we propagate the signal throughout the property ensures there is no drop in strength.

From the centralized core, a modem is needed to convert, or decode, the signal into ethernet.  It’s common for modems and routers to be combined (especially if using the basic models provided by your ISP) but at AVL, we always recommend a separate router.  This provides a more secure and private transmission with network management features that improve internal network performance. 

Small access points, or radios, are distributed throughout the property at locations dictated by the network design.  These are hardwired so that all end points (or nodes) return back to the centralized core. This configuration, or star topology, creates the fastest and most robust pathway back to the core.

The location and amount to radios needed depends on the layout and materials used in the property.  These radios work a lot like a conversation between two people; face to face hearing and understanding one another is easy, but if one person walked out of the room and closed the door behind them, the conversation would be hard to hear and understand.  In the Caribbean, most homes are built with hurricane resistant materials. This often means concrete walls reinforced with steel and impenetrable glass, all of which can hinder WIFI signal. Even aluminum mosquito screens and UV filters on windows can block and scramble WIFI signal.  All these elements have to be taken into account during design and installation.

The final step is where the WIFI magic happens!  Once the radios are in place and wired in, they can then transmit a WIFI signal.  Despite being individually hardwired, they will provide a seamless centralized connection to the core and to each other.  Imagine walking through a property on an internet call where each radio with pass over to the next one, without any disruption of service.  The strategic location of each radio ensures that all social areas in the property have a secure and reliable WIFI connection at all times.

There are many different ways to install a WIFI network, but at AVL we are only interested in providing systems that we know are going to last and work.  A simple but effective philosophy that has made us the best in what we do.