Determining the probable number of devices when designing guest networks

During the network development stage, it’s critical to estimate how many devices need to be accommodated on the network. So how is this done? The first step is to identify what kind of guest network you are creating. Is it a hospitality network, a simple hotspot, a metro install, a stadium? Once the type of venue is determined, you can break down the capacity of the venue as well as the perceived usage of the guest network. In this Technology Tidbit, we take a look at each of the four venue types and the methods by which to estimate the correct number of devices.

Hospitality Networks

When determining the number of guest devices to support in hospitality networks, the hotel must determine worst case or standard case. Worse case is to take the total number of rooms and multiply by 3 or 4. This calculation is based on an average of 3-4 devices being carried by each guest, during which all devices are trying to access the network simultaneously when the hotel is at full capacity. This scenario does not take into account that most hotels are not at full capacity and that not every person in every room will be utilizing the network at the same time.

A standard case would be to take 3 devices and multiply by the average occupancy rate. Even then, there is usually a bit of a buffer that allows for those devices located in the community spaces without reaching any limits set by the network.

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A hotspot is usually the easiest type of venue to determine number of devices to support. Simply take the capacity of the space and multiply it by 2. When determining how many transient devices move in and out of range of the network, it is better to accommodate worst case for the hotspot. There is usually limited space for those guests that will be utilizing the network so it helps to limit the number of devices that would need network support.

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For the metro install, different variables need to be taken into account. Will the metro area include the businesses as separate entities, or will there be local residence space as well as open public space? A network design based on those answers could have different devices for residences and businesses that limit what the metro network would actually see in terms of guest devices. Sometimes it is hard to determine how much traffic might be in the open areas of a metro deployment, especially as different areas and events could swell a network beyond the original limits. For instance, a large annual event could dramatically increase the number of people that typically inhabit a town. Awareness of events will help determine what is needed and keep costs from ballooning when prepared for those edge cases.

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Stadium venues

In stadium venues, guest information is not always easy to identify. The most simple method is to identify “butts in the seats” then add in support staff, media and VIPs. Then factor in not just the number of devices that might be in the stadium but how many could possibly be using the network at the same time. Is there a desire to segregate the user devices between guest, employee and VIP? A stadium might need to provide a larger buffer than most venues when determining how many devices to support based on the transient nature and different types of traffic during a sold out event.

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The ability to correctly identify the number of guest devices on the network being designed helps to determine the amount of supporting network equipment to install. There is no easy and fast rule that can be used across the board for different venues because every site is different. Some generalizations can be made, but an in-depth understanding of the venue is needed. Capacity of a venue is not always the same as network usage, especially when maximum capacity is frequently not reached.