Wi-Fi Hotspots: Setting Up Public Wireless Internet Access (Part 1)

By Eric Geier

December 03, 2007

In this book excerpt, the author explains how to set up a hotspot that everyone can share, avoiding freeloaders and bandwidth hogs.

Excerpted from Chapter nine of Wi-Fi Hotspots: Setting Up Public Wireless Internet Access, published by Cisco Press.

Offering free Internet access is a convenient service for your customers and visitors; however, it also attracts freeloaders. If your goal in installing and operating a free Wi-Fi hotspot is to attract more customers to your location, you should try to prevent users from using your hotspot without taking advantage of your primary goods and services.

This chapter discusses different methods to prevent freeloading at free access hotspots.

Physically Hand Out Login Information
The most feasible way to ensure that only the people you want to use your free hotspot have access is to physically hand out the login information. You can accomplish this by requiring users to log in before they use the hotspot, and requiring that they receive the username and password from you, rather than being able to self-register via the hotspot splash screen.

The primary method to physically hand out login information is to use a ticket printer, such as in Solution 4 (covered in Chapter 7), used in conjunction with the hotspot gateway. The ticket printer is simple to set up and use. You define the amount of access time that you want to give users and the time limit for valid accounts. When everything is set up, press a button, and a receipt prints with all the hotspot information and the automatically generated username and password. Then simply hand the receipt to your customer or visitor.

Solution 2 using the ZoneCD also allows you to print receipts by using a regular printer. Although it is not as convenient to use and set up as a real ticket printer, as with the D-Link gateway solution, the ZoneCD provides similar features at a much lower cost.

Apply Usage Limits
You can apply several usage limits to help reduce freeloading of your Wi-Fi hotspot. These limits are good to implement even if freeloading is not a big concern.

Open/Closed Times
If your hotspot location closes during the night and freeloading is one of your concerns, consider closing your hotspot during nonbusiness hours. Doing so keeps people outside of your facility, such as in the parking lot, from getting access to your hotspot.

Most wireless routers (see Figure 9-1), hotspot gateways, and RADIUS server services (see Figure 9-2) allow you to define when you want to provide Internet access.

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Figure 9-1: Example of the Open/Closed Settings in a Web-Based Configuration Utility for a Wireless Router

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Figure 9-2: Example of the Open/Closed Settings in ZoneCD's Control Server
This excerpt originally appeared at ISP-Planet.com and is re-printed with permission. To read more of this excerpt, click here.

Reproduced from the book Wi-Fi Hotspots: Setting Up Public Wireless Internet Access. Copyright 2007, Cisco Systems, Inc.. Reproduced by permission of Pearson Education, Inc., 800 East 96th Street, Indianapolis, IN 46240.

Visit www.ciscopress.com for a detailed description and to learn how to purchase this title.


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