“Managed Wi-Fi” was the new buzz at Multifamily Broadband Council Meeting, but what does “managed” actually mean and what are the dangers of “Unmanaged Wi-Fi” for building owners?

There are a lot of misconceptions revolving around “managed Wi-Fi” and what network management actually means. A major misconception that we noticed among building owners was that “managed wireless” referred to the simple management of a router in an apartment.  Actual managed wireless refers to the 24/7 management, monitoring and scaling of a seamless wireless network and continued remote support for various wireless IoT applications across multiple VLANs throughout entire properties.

Wireless broadband is being viewed as the fourth utility due to its ability to provide data and voice services in addition to acting as a backbone for a host of operational and amenity wireless services making wireless management absolutely necessary.  Key Points:

1.      Complex Intelligent Networking. First and foremost, for a Wi-Fi network to reliably host multiple applications on one physical network, network management is essential to ensure uptime, remotely address issues before they are customer-facing, monitor bandwidth usage and equipment status and the assignment of multiple VLANs to separate traffic to ensure Quality of Service.    

2.      Seamless Handoff.  Residents are demanding connectivity everywhere – not just in-unit.  A managed network offers SEAMLESS connectivity property-wide so that residents are never without data and voice service.  For Wi-Fi calling, residents can maintain a voice call throughout the entire property without dropping service.

3.      Channel Interference. Wi-Fi was made to be managed with network designed intelligently to optimize service.  That is, too many individual routers in one space will create channel interference and degrade service.  Due to the nature of the multi-family environment, too many individual routers become a real-world issue when residents are left to obtain their own individual services.  Spot On Networks employs patented tessellated grid network architecture to minimize interference and mitigate signal loss.

4.      Security.  Password protection and encryption do not equal wireless network security.  This is a dangerous misconception when it comes to wireless.  A complex network includes multiple points of entry and client isolation needs to exist at all points of the network and on all equipment, not just the router.  Spot On holds the patent on advanced wireless network security. UserSafe was designed to protect the resident from being exposed to hacking, spoofing and identity theft and also to protect the building owner so that they are able to provide property-wide wireless services without fear of their residents being at risk.

5.      Network Operations Monitoring.  When you consider the importance of a wireless backbone in relation to operational applications like door locks, security cameras, leasing apps, etc., network uptime and the ability to remotely address issues is essential for service reliability.  24/7 Network Support should always be a part of Network Management.

6.      Wi-Fi Calling (VoWiFi).  Voice traffic is very different from data traffic.  A lag in data traffic will result in buffering, which while annoying to the end-user, will usually resolve itself.  When it comes to voice, a temporary loss of signal or clog in the network will result in a dropped call.  While voice does not need a ton of bandwidth, it DOES need a consistent connection.  So, when it comes to voice, voice packet prioritization is necessary for quality of service.  This can only be accomplished as a result of network management that includes the key points listed above.

7.      The Dual-SSID issue.  Many cable and telco customers are not even aware that their individual routers may be broadcasting a public SSID that leaves them vulnerable to security issues.  In addition to creating even more issues with network and bandwidth clogging in a building, the Dual-SSID allows outsiders to connect to your home router and you may have no idea it’s even happening.  Customers have sued major cable companies for turning on a public SSID on customer’s home routers due to the security risk and the fact that the customer is then paying for the electricity and bandwidth that is being used outside of their home.  These types of occurrences will not happen with managed service provider.

Beware Un-Managed WiFi

Unmanaged WiFi will not address the key points above.  An unmanaged network will present a security risk to residents and building owners, will face reliability and speed issues and will not be able to provide seamless voice and data solutions.  Reliability issues will result in unsatisfied residents, poor IoT solutions, lost revenue and a lack of technology future-proofing. 

It is imperative that building owners become educated on a managed network solution and why it is so important and will continue to be important going forward as wireless broadband is viewed as a utility.  Network managed will only become more essential as the proliferation of wireless devices and the resident demand for voice, data and IoT continue to increase in the coming years.