Tuesday, December 27, 2016

WiFi at Ft. Wilderness

I have been interested in using WiFi in the Fuse.  Mostly as a way to do streaming video and to make our Fuse as tech friendly as possible.   I also want to do everything we can not to go over our data plan with Verizon on our cell phones.

So I decided to take some notes while I was at Ft. Wilderness on how the WiFi there works.  I figured that they are probably one of the top parks, so they should have top notch WiFi.  And they do.

Disney Ft. Wilderness WiFiDisney Ft. Wilderness WiFi

I walked around our loop looking for the WiFi Access Points (APs).  Disney did a good job of hiding them.  They painted them brown and mounted them on top of wooden poles designed to blend in with the wooded area.  Unless you are looking, you miss them.

Disney Ft. Wilderness WiFi

There were several of these poles on our loop (1600).  I suspect that there are also some discretely placed in the bath houses and other structures. I never saw them, but the WiFi seemed pretty strong around the buildings.

The WiFi supported 802.11abgn.   That means that both 2.4 and 5ghz radios that are present on most modern devices worked.   My laptop seemed to want to use the 5ghz space, so I think they are using a feature called band steering. This is good since the 5ghz space has much less interference than 2.4.  But the 2.4ghz frequencies also worked well.

As far as speeds,  I used Speedtest on my iPhone and I was getting 10mbps down and 2mpbs up according to the app.  Very usable.  I was able to stream videos, watch Amazon Prime Videos on the Roku and pretty much everything else.

But there was a small problem.  There were dead spots in the Fuse where the iPhone would not work.   The Laptop worked everywhere.

If I moved a foot to two to either side, the iPhone would work fine.   In doing some testing it seems there are several items that were attenuating the signal creating a radio shadow.    The front TV and its mount is one,  the Microwave was another,  the metallic sun shade we use in the front window was a third.  This all made sense once I thought about it.

I don't think it impacted the laptop since the laptop has a much bigger antenna.  At no point did I not have full bars on the iPhone.  It always looked good.

So I think the problem was me sending, not me hearing.   WiFi has to work bi-directionally or you are stuck.  I believe that radio shadows were stopping the Disney WiFi APs from hearing my iPhone.

Not to worry,  I have been working on a solution to this.    I extended the WiFi inside and outside of the Fuse.   A subject for another post or two in the near future.

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