Wi-fi connectivity tech guide


What is TV White Space (TVWS)?

TVWS operates over unused channels in the analog TV spectrum to project wireless along great distances (5+ miles). The thing that sets TVWS apart from other wireless bridge solutions is that it does not require a direct line of sight, and can penetrate some tree/terrain coverage.

Hows does it work?

A host site places a "base station" and antenna on the roof or a pole on their property. Client stations are set up nearby to receive the signal provided by the base station and convert it back to a connection that can then be shared out via a normal wireless access point at the client site. Usually, a single base station can support many client stations.

More detailed info can be found here.

Line of Sight WiFi

What is "Line of Sight" WiFi?

Line of sight WiFi is exactly what it sounds like, long-range wireless bridging that requires a clear line of sign (no obstructions) to operate. Line of sight systems are significantly cheaper when compared to solutions like TVWS, but operate at shorter distances, and require flat terrain with as few obstructions as possible between locations.

How does "Line of Sight" WiFi work?

Bridge devices are placed at each location and lined up to point directly at each other. This may require a tall pole or roof-mount solution to ensure there are no obstructions, and the devices must be angled to point directly at each other for best speeds. A benefit of line of sight WiFi is that throughput can be extremely high, in excess of 1 Gbps.

More detailed info can be found here.

Mesh networks

What is a Mesh Network?

A mesh network is a cluster of interconnected wireless access points, providing coverage over a large area. Often, mesh access points are cheap and easy to install, and the goal is to have a higher number of them linked together to make sure there are no dead spots in an area. Mesh network can often extend wireless coverage without a requiring a hard-line connection to each access point.

How does a Mesh Network work?

Mesh networks work by providing or repeating a wireless signal so that a user may move freely around an area with coverage without experiencing any interruptions. They are often deployed across large structures (such as a stadium or conference center), or around large outdoor or city areas (such as parks or a city center).

More detailed info can be found here.


What is a hotspot?

A WiFi hotspot uses a cellular network to provide standard wireless. When activated, it broadcasts itself as a secured wireless access point. These devices can usually support only 8-10 simultaneous users, but can often be paired with enterprise hardware to support more users. Speed depends on signal strength to nearby cell towers, and devices require a monthly data plan, often with data usage limits.

More detailed info can be found here.

Checkout devices

Now that you have an idea of how to provide internet access beyond your library, how do you provide access for those without internet-capable devices?

If you are providing a mobile, checkout solution such as a WiFi hotspot, devices like a Chromebook or tablet can be a great option. Chrome devices can be easily managed from the cloud, and tablets can often be managed with a "Mobile Device Management" (MDM) software.

If you are providing a stationary solution for internet access, a good option may also be a kiosk solution - a managed device locked down and permanently installed on site. This can be a waterproofed tablet or Chromebook (if exposed to the elements), or a device placed in a partner location within reach of your wireless signal.

What kind of devices are usually checked out?

In Georgia, the majority of devices available for checkout are Chromebooks, followed by some tablets.

How to I secure them?

There are many ways to secure checkout devices.

Physically, most management software (MDM solutions and the Chrome Admin Console both have this) allows an admin to disable, or "brick", a device if it is not returned. Often an admin is able to provide a popup that requests the device be returned to the library, and if the device is not returned it is unable to be used.

When it comes to securing the internet for the device, solutions depending on the lending scenario. If lending a device alongside an internet solution (for example, a cellular hotspot and a Chromebook), the device can be locked to use only that hotspot, and the hotspot can be filtered. If lending only a device, software add-ons can be configured to provide filtering for the device.

Info about Chrome devices can be found here.

Examples here: IMLS Grant