Rocomamas surprise – A gigabit Wi-Fi hotspot

While driving through Bloemfontein to conduct MyBroadband’s quarterly mobile network drive testing, we found a Rocomamas with an amazing special on its menu – gigabit per second fibre.

This had to be tested. Was this yet another place that installed blazing fast fibre, only to cripple it with a badly designed Wi-Fi network?

Our first sign that this Rocomamas was the real deal was the TV screen streaming YouTube videos of competitive games such as CS:GO and Overwatch to a TV screen over the bar.

Settling in for an afternoon of beer, burgers, waffles, and work, we decided to put the restaurant’s Internet connection to the test.

Without being able to plug directly into the router – I left my roll of CAT6 cable in my other pants – we were limited by the speed of the Wi-Fi hotspot.

Armed with a relatively modern laptop with support for the 802.11ac standard, our first speed test was promising – a download speed of nearly 250 Mbps and an upload speed of over 330 Mbps.

We put the connection through its paces and could not fault it on anything.

We downloaded updates for a few games, uploaded large files to cloud storage services, and remotely connected to computers using SSH without a hitch.

Noticing that this Rocomamas’ Internet service provider was Iclix, we contacted the company to find out more about how it built the hotspot.

Bloemfontein Rocomamas speed test showing 243.55 Mbps download, 338.6 Mbps upload, 11ms latency, and that the ISP is Iclix CC

Iclix managing director John Antunes confirmed coverage map data showing that the fibre network operator in the area was Frogfoot, and that the Rocomamas uses one of Frogfoot’s 1Gbps FTTx services.

“We also have a dedicated wireless link on the Iclix wireless network in case the fibre fails. This ensures maximum uptime for hotspot to operate,” Antunes said.

Asked about the Wi-Fi hotspot itself, Antunes said that they use Ubiquiti AC LR units which allow 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies to be emitted at the same time.

“The 5GHz Wi-Fi band allows newer devices to push higher speeds compared to the 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi band that has been around from the beginning of Wi-Fi hotspots,” he said.

Antunes explained that the hotspot is managed by a Mikrotik router, and that the size of the router depends on the amount of speed to be provided as well as the number of concurrent devices and connections from the devices.

“This gets decided on when the site survey is done,” he said.

During the site survey, they also look at how big the coverage area of the Wi-Fi network needs to be.

“The larger the area the more access points that need to be installed,” said Antunes. “It is also important to use units that can mesh as one unified wireless network. This is the primary reason we use Ubiquiti units.”

Should they need a Wi-Fi hotspot that can deal with higher amounts of devices connected at the same time, Antunes said that Ubiquiti offers different models in the Unifi range that can handle higher amounts of concurrent devices per access point.

John Antunes, Iclix MD, guest speaker at Angola Cables stand at AfricaCom 2019
John Antunes, Iclix MD

“One other factor that a person sometimes forgets is that to achieve higher speed tests is the device that you are using, the newer model laptops can achieve very high speeds, older devices, unfortunately, can not,” Antunes said.

This raises the all-important question – how much would a Wi-Fi hotspot setup like this cost a restaurant like Rocomamas to install and run?

Antunes said that assuming a site like the Rocomamas in Langenhoven Park, and similar needs as the restaurant, a hotspot setup can cost anywhere from R4,000 to R8,000.

It could also cost more to offer higher than normal speed.

The monthly fee for the restaurant can also vary anywhere from R1,899 for a 1Gbps backhaul link to over R10,000, depending on whether it is a best-effort service or dedicated business connectivity.

Antunes said that it all depends on what the business owner wants to offer clients, and what infrastructure is available at their premises.

Now read: MyBroadband Investigation – Electromagnetic radiation of 4G, 5G, and Wi-Fi tested

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Rocomamas surprise – A gigabit Wi-Fi hotspot