I live in an apartment block of 87 units & one thing most people in it complain about is the poor cellular data reception.

I have an idea of installing a fast wifi internet connection throughout the building & hopefully making money in the process.

The problem however, is that I have very little experience in networking. Any reccomended resources that you think may be of assistance to me are highly anticipated!

I however have some questions;

  1. What's the best way to handle load balancing of connections from all 87 clients?

  2. What type of routers should I use?

  3. Is it possible to make everyone use/see the same SSID instead of having names like "Apartment Wifi 1", "Apartment Wifi 2", "Apartment Wifi 3" e.t.c

  4. How do I ensure that that the building's walls have the least impact on the WiFi network? Further, what are the techniques, tips or tricks for achieving this? For instace, do I need special hardware (special routers designed to solve this problem for example?)

  5. Also, how do I handle billing for such a custom built WiFi service? Any open source tools for example?

  • Depending on where you live, there are companies that will install and operate the WiFi network for you.
    – Ron Trunk
    Mar 26 '20 at 11:04

This level of install requires professionals, or at least experience.

1) 87 apartments means deploying dozens of access points (at least 1 per 3 apartments, possibly 1 per apartment, to be sure you would need to do a “site survey” with test APs and map signal strength). Best placement is on the ceiling.

2) Each access point requires ethernet cabling back to a central network aggregation point. Those cables must be less than 100 meters. Given the number of apartments you will probably need multiple aggregation points. This cabling must comply with fire code (probably plenum, professional low voltage wiring installer may be required). Terminations in aggregation point should be professionally installed, tested, and labeled in a rack. Do not think about trying a “mesh” network for this.

3) Managing 44-87 APs means using an enterprise wireless controller. Powering the APs means using PoE Ethernet switches and PoE-powered enterprise APs.

4) Then you need a business ISP connection (since you are reselling connectivity), and an enterprise router/firewall to perform NAT. You also need a DHCP server.

I have no experience with the authentication/billing setup. Nontrivial.

Being able to setup WiFi for 1-2 apartments is completely different from 87 apartments. Given your inexperience with networking I discourage the attempt (nothing personal about that, I wouldn’t attempt it either without sufficient budget for a professional cable and ceiling AP install).

  • Hi thanks fo the comprehensive answer. I am a bit curious as to why you would tell me to stay away from mesh networks?
    – M4X_
    Mar 26 '20 at 11:21
  • Mesh networks have worse performance than traditional WiFi. Your tenants won't be happy with it.
    – Ron Trunk
    Mar 26 '20 at 12:22
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    I should also point out that this is not a "build it and forget it" project. You will need to budget time to handle problems, troubleshooting, managing accounts, billing, etc. It's probably not worth your time.
    – Ron Trunk
    Mar 26 '20 at 12:23
  • Mesh is ok for 1-3 apartments (or a large house) for extending range. But mesh APs use wifi for client connectivity and uplink connectivity ( to the next mesh AP). Chain too many APs in a mesh and add too many users and performance gets awful. Mar 26 '20 at 16:22

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