New construction WiFi AP recommendations

I’m helping a small church (40-100 members/attendees) that’s moving into new construction next year. I’ve been out of the loop on WiFi choices for quite a while so I’m looking for the latest recommendations on brands that would be suitable for a modest facility coverage.

The entire building is 100 by 84 feet, 8400 sq. ft. total, with wood and drywall interior. Main multipurpose room is about 60 by 60 with some classrooms, offices, and public space surrounding it.

As with most churches, budget is a concern. We’ll probably not be able to deploy something too elaborate and may have to start with a modest coverage area and capacity. The system will have to be managed remotely if possible because there is no IT staff, just volunteers who won’t always be available for onsite adjustments.

We haven’t settled on a switch and router brand yet, but will give preference to integrated solutions if they don’t force an extra fundraising campaign. :slight_smile:

My 2 cents is that this sounds like the perfect place for a ubiquiti unifi setup. Can do switches, WiFi and even basic gateway/firewall device all managed via web browser (and remotely). Very easy to manage. Should work well for these sizes and expected workloads. And definitely affordable

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TP-Link Omada and Ubiquiti UniFi are both good solutions. No extra fees than product purchase. They work good for basic coverage, data/voice networking, center control, remote control, and event notifications. TP-Link provide free network planning assistances. You can ask for detail.

Yeah; UniFi or Meraki Go would be the two places I’d start. They both offer
a complete end-to-end product range and friendly interface without ongoing
subscription fees.

We have a few clients in that sub 300 attendee range, Unifi has been great for them. You are definitely describing a small church with maybe one or two staff at the most and a pretty small auditorium wherein most people probably won’t even connect to the WiFi so I would lean toward:

Router/Firewall: Unifi USG
Switch: Unifi US-8-60W or Unifi US-24-250W (depending on how many ports they will need).
APs: I’d usually throw in at least an AC-Pro, but for very small church office areas I’ve done AC-lite as well. Feel free to throw a layout up with number of people expected to connect from each room/area.

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I agree with Ubiquity. You have to be VERY careful about which Access Point you chose. They all have different levels of the number of users they support. From my research the published numbers are high from reality. (I could be wrong.)

For our Sanctuary which holds about 500 people we went with the UniFi HD. – [(UAP-AC-HD-US)]
– Because of Covid we only have between 150 to 250 people. We haven’t had any issues, but I am prepared to upgrade to the next level up WiFi Access point when Covid ends if needed or put in another of the same model. (For specs on the Access Points)

For switching we are using Ubiquity.
For a firewall we are using PFSENSE.


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Pretty much any AP hardware is going to get the job done on the wireless side - There are only so many ways to do this - What will differentiate the various products is the management side of things and code quality.

Very rarely is any wireless system today designed merely for coverage. Just having a signal isn’t terribly meaningful, especially if you can’t do anything useful with that signal. Modern wireless networks are designed for capacity and performance - that’s typically going to require an access point for every 30 or so active clients (when the marketing copy says “supports 1000 clients”, they are not talking about active clients).

While I’m somewhat biased, I would encourage you to look at an Aruba solution - on the bottom end of the scale, you can do the Instant product line, which is controllerless, and does not have recurring subscription fees (and you can get used/refurb AP-345 for around $200 per AP, and that thing is a heavy duty AP.). Instant can also be migrated to campus/controller based as you grow.

At your size, you could probably even get away with the InstantON line, which is a scaled back version of Instant that competes directly with Ubiquiti on price, and the product line includes switches that can all be managed from an app (the switches are from the former 3Com OfficeConnect line, and the APs are the same hardware as the regular Aruba AP-303/303H, 305, 315, 365, and 505, just running a custom software build.

Ubiquiti is the route I would go in that scenario.

This has all been very informative! I’m going to do some product research, pricing, and see how this all lines up. Thank you for the great insights and recommendations.

I’m leaning toward the Ubiquity line since there are more than just APs in their stable and their apparent affordability.

As I look at Ubiquiti products I notice they have some “in-wall” APs. I’m wondering if anyone has experience with those and how the coverage is compared to ceiling mounts. I like the idea of being able to mount them in a location that is easier to service and install but I suppose mounting higher cuts down on the obstacles to radio signals such as furniture, people.

I’ll see if anyone has posted their findings in other posts here as well.

In wall access points are designed for “fill in” coverage. They typically
have significant range and performance limits that, while not major for
their intended use does make them undesirable for primary coverage.

More broadly, they were designed for the hospitality industry for in-room coverage. Aruba and Ruckus both refer to theirs as “Hospitality APs” (and Ruckus also has one that has a built in DOCSIS modem for hotels that have coax but not data cabling to each room). So they’re designed not just for fill-in, but for covering small areas at low power and low density, and usually drop out a couple of Ethernet for things like TVs and VOIP - in the case of Aruba, those can be tunneled back to the controller or bridged to a local VLAN just like any switch port or SSID (they blur that line).

The Ubiquiti IW Pro/HD line were actually designed by the same team that designed the Ruckus ones - the entire team left Ruckus to go to Ubiquiti, (and later left Ubiquiti, so I don’t know if we’ll see a WiFi 6 in-wall from them).

Generally speaking, they have mostly hemispherical coverage with very little behind them - Ruckus has a metal mounting plate, as does ubiquiti, and in most commercial applications, you’ll find a large grounded electrical box behind the outlet, so they simply design them to not expect much signal off the back side. Aruba has a big metal heat sink on the back, so the same applies. Some (inlcuding the Aruba) will have a slight electrical uptilt to the antenna, because they’re designed to be mounted at box height - but if the pattern is hemispherical, then you can mount them on the ceiling if you wish. I’ve had to deal with thousands of them mounted on the wall up high because of installation practicality in the field, but it was on cruise ships, so the big metal box negates some of the coverage weirdness.

Here’s a snapshot of what’s available in this type of AP:

AP-93H (EOSL January 2020): 802.11g SISO, 4 10/100 ports,
AP-103H (EOSL April 2023): 802.11n 2x2, 2 10/100 access ports, 1 gigabit uplink port, 1 passthru port
AP-205H (EOSL April 2023): 802.11ac 2x2, 1 USB Port, 1 gigabit access port, 1 uplink port.
AP-303H: 802.11ac 2x2, 1 USB IoT Port, 3 gigabit access ports, 1 uplink port, 1 passthru port from back to front. one port can provide 802.3af PoE (when AP is powered locally or via 802.3at PoE). Integrated BLE.
AP-503H: 802.11ax 2x2, 1 USB IoT Port, 2 gigabit access ports,1 uplink port, no PoE. Integrated BLE/ZigBee)
AP-505H: 802.11ax 2x2, 1 USB IoT Port, 4 gigabit access ports, 1 uplink port, 2 802.3af PoE (when powered locally or 802.3bt) (Integrated BLE/ZigBee)

On all the Aruba APs, IPM will selectively disable power to various ports and features based on user configured priority and available input power. PoE ports are always e3/e4 for profile consistency across models

Aruba InstantON:
AP11D: Same hardware as the AP-303H, running InstantON firmware. Can also act as a router.

H510: 802.11ac 2x2, 4 gigabit access ports, 1 ethernet uplink, 1 USB IoT Port
H320: 802.11ac 2x2, 2 gigabit access ports, 1 ethernet uplink
C110: 802.11ac 2x2, 2 gigabit access ports, 1 DOCSIS 3.0 uplink
Ruckus also offers a “fiber backpack” for the H510 that is a SFP media converter/PoE injector that sits between the mounting plate and the AP.

UAP-IW (EOL): 802.11n SISO - 2 Access ports (one PoE), 1 uplink port. (this one actually sat mostly inside the box and was basically an active wall plate.
UAP-IW-PRO (EOL): Not much is known about this one… Had a few extra ethernet ports and maybe MIMO.
UAP-AC-IW-PRO: 802.11ac 3x3 - 2 access ports (poE Passthru),1 uplink port
UAP-IW-HD: 802.11ac 4x4 - 4 access ports, 1 PoE Passthru), 1 uplink port

MR30H: 802.11ac 2x2, 4 access ports, 1 uplink port, Integrated BLE.

9105AXW: 802.11ax 2x2, 1 uplink, 3 access (10.5W PoE budget), 1 passthru, 1 USB. This one was just released in Nov 2020.
AIR-AP-1810W: 802.11ac 2x2, 1 uplink, 3 access (1 PoE), 1 Passthru

AP150W: 802.11ac 3x3, 1 uplink, 4 access (12W PoE)

I know that the Aruba and Aerohive ones can act as a router and L2-L7 stateful firewall, don’t know about the rest of them.

I used Ubiquiti’s design center to map out the floor plan and coverage with walls in place. Looks like 4 AC-Lites will provide all the coverage we need. I’ve advised the building team that if we discover any gaps once everything’s in place we could use an In-wall to remedy but I think whether we’re using 2.4 or 5 GHz, the classrooms/conference rooms, offices, and multi-purpose rooms are all in good shape. Only a couple of office staff computers and maybe a tablet or laptop in nursery for check-in. Maybe some kiosks or lobby display broadcast in the future.

I’m also going to research the cameras and access control options but that will go in a separate post.