Testing Zyxel solution for HoReCa: access points WAC5302D-Sv2, WAC-500H and GS2220-28HP PoE switch
Let's start with the definition of the beautiful word "HoReCa": it is not a female name and not a brand, but an abbreviation for the first two letters of Hotel Restaurant Cafe, and I think that everything is very clear here: service establishments are important consumers of professional equipment, and for them such large suppliers as Zyxel design specialized devices.
Why do hotels, restaurants and cafes need special Wi-Fi?
Yes, let many people believe that Wi-Fi is also Wi-Fi in Africa, but the wireless network in a cafe will be radically different from the network in some workshop or warehouse. First of all, you need to understand that the main customers of a public wireless network in a restaurant are visitors who need to be authorized through the Captive Portal to comply with legal requirements.
The second difference is that you can give out vouchers for the use of the wireless network for the guests of the event, giving them out together with invitation cards. Thus, it will be possible to limit the time of use of Wi-Fi resources by guests, as well as their traffic.
All this is implemented in a common cloud management interface, Zyxel Nebula. No matter how many access points you place on your site, you will not need to spend money on an additional controller, and you can enable authorization via the Captive Portal and configure the appearance of the welcome page with one mouse click, for all access points at once. For administrators and technical staff, authorization is available through the Zyxel Nebula platform itself, as well as via Facebook Wi-Fi for those countries where this method is allowed.
And of course, if you were able to "hook" your guest on the hook of a free network, you can implement additional marketing through it: access to a library of films and books, filling out a questionnaire with an assessment of the quality of services, a promotional newsletter or a video call with the administrator of the institution. All this is quite easily implemented through a corporate portal available on the Intranet, and is already actively used along with the integration of advertising in the client's Web traffic.
Naturally, for better engagement, you need to ensure that there is no 4G/LTE coverage in the area of your eatery and high-quality Wi-Fi signal in every corner of the room. Yes, and I almost forgot - it is desirable to do all this without interfering with the interior, and at minimal cost, because HoReCa has suffered the most from the pandemic.
What does Zyxel offer?
As strange as it may seem, Zyxel suggests not to mess with Wi-Fi 6, even though the company has excellent 802.11 ax access points that we tested earlier. Why so, I think the answer is clear: the increase in the cost of equipment will be more noticeable compared to Wi-Fi 5, and over a cup of coffee, visitors will not notice the difference between the "five" and "six", besides, not everyone has modern smartphones with Wi-Fi 6, the Internet speed "out" rarely exceeds 100 Mbit / s, and for Youtube or IPTV this is enough. So today we are dealing with a gigabit network infrastructure, a world of low speeds and affordable price tags.
In the technical part, Zyxel studied various typical objects of the service sector and came to the conclusion that it is much more logical to place access points on the walls than on the floors, since such objects pay special attention to the aesthetics of the ceilings, and the hot spot can spoil some design ceiling with its appearance, or do not break through the brick arch in old basements. In small spaces, it is more profitable to install an access point near the bar counter or at the administrator and direct it along the room.
Well, there is certainly logic in this, given that the diagram of ordinary hot spots implies the propagation of the signal at an angle of 30-45 degrees with the location of the access point at a height of 5-10 meters above the ground, which may not be possible in a cafe.
In addition, Zyxel offers to save on matches altogether, offering: "if you still have an access point next to the administrator, let's connect a wired IP phone to it via PoE, and a cash register - via Ethernet. No switches are needed, we have thought everything through. " And after all, the genius is really in the details: why do you need extra equipment, which can become an extra area of attack for an attacker, when everything can be connected directly to an access point with a built-in switch.
WAC5302D-Sv2 access point
Zyxel's WAC5302D-Sv2 access point rather belongs to the main nomenclature that forms the wireless network space in hotel rooms. This model is interesting because it has one Uplink PoE port and three Downlinks, of which one is also PoE. In this way, POE PSE compatibility is implemented, meaning that you can receive power from the switch and transmit it further, for example, to the telephone in a hotel room.
From the point of view of design, I did not like this model: it is very good that the manufacturer did not make an indication on the entire front panel, so as not to blind the guests in the dark, but still the access point looks boring. The design is quite another matter.
Well, let's start with the fact that the back wall is aluminum, and it works as a radiator to remove heat from the RF blocks and the processor. Here we always talk about the attention to detail that is inherent in the company Zyxel, but look: the developer brought the "ground" to the back cover through a bronze contact to strengthen the protection against interference, because not every aluminum cover is "ground", no one bothers with such trifles. And here it is also important to narrow the radiation pattern by closing / shielding the radiation from behind, so as not to create interference to the inhabitants of neighboring rooms.
In general, for an access point installed in a hotel room, the radio module is somehow too cool here. For the 5 GHz band, a... ta-dam... smart antenna developed by Cadant is used. This configuration is designed to form a concentrated beam to increase the distance from the client for the access point, or to reduce interference on large objects. If you use a smart antenna for a hotel room, then only for some royal suite. Here at Zyxel, two metal emitters form a wave constant along the Z axis, and four additional antennas for each of the streams, correct the beam during transmission.
In the 2.4 GHz band, everything is much more primitive: here the film antennas are glued to the case from the inside, and all sorts of IoT things like a smart air conditioner or refrigerator, this will be enough. The antenna gain is 5 dB for both bands, the maximum data transfer rate is 866+300 Mbit/s, Mesh, wireless roaming and Band Steering are supported.
I don't understand why such a powerful access point Zyxel swats in hotel rooms. From my point of view, it is more suitable for swimming pools or gyms located in the basement, and for mass installation in the rooms there is a democratic model Zyxel WAC500H.
Zyxel WAC500H access point
Basically, for installation, this option is not much different from the flagship: two PoE ports (Uplink + Downlink with end-to-end connection), the same case the size of a cell phone, the same antenna configuration MU-MIMO 2x2, but a completely different element base.
In general, it seems that for Zyxel, the WAC500H point was made by some third-party company, because the installation here is completely unusual for the products of this company. Black board, open RF blocks with huge heat distributors and only two antennas, which are used for both the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands.
The gain coefficient of the antennas is significantly inferior to the flagship: 4 dBi for the 5 GHz band and 3 dBi for the 2.4 GHz band, while the main functions of the access points (MESH, roaming, band switching, load balancing and WPA3) are present here, that is, the differences from the WAC500H mainly relate to the coverage area and support for the Remote AP function, which is not needed in hotel rooms.
I want to remind you that the Remote AP function allows you to connect an access point to the gateway over the Internet using a secure VPN connection. This function can be used both at field events for the functioning of an established network of IoT devices, and for simple integration of a remote object into the general network of the company, that is, at a remote location, you can do with a single access point, without a VPN gateway. Even the access point can access the Internet via a PPP connection.
Zyxel GS2220-28HP: Gigabit PoE switch for HoReCa
Today, Zyxel has universal GS2220 series L2 switches for the hospitality industry, supporting MultiCast VLAN for video conferencing, IGMP Snooping for IPTV, and allowing you to flexibly configure virtual networks with packet priorities for video surveillance, IoT, VoIP, and various converged applications. For a floor-to-floor location, this series has some great 50-and 28-port PoE models, with 48 and 24 802.3 at ports, respectively.
Both models have a built-in 500W power supply and allow you to manage a total PoE budget of up to 375 watts. Switching parameters are also at a height: 256 MB of RAM, a 1.5 MB packet buffer, a non-blocking matrix with a capacity of 56 and 100 Gbit/s-all this is more than enough for the busiest hotel, where visitors sit in Youtube day and night, never leave the rooms, and 4K surveillance cameras are installed everywhere.
It is better to configure the switch locally, through the device's own menu, especially since the L2 architecture is not so complicated.Deep settings in the Nebula cloud management system are not made, but for example, you can overload the PoE port or view the configuration and statistics through the "nebula".
During testing, we will find out the performance of access points in Upload and Download modes when working in the 2.4 and 5 GHz frequency bands.
Test bench configuration:
To make two cards with Intel AX200 Wi-Fi modules work in one machine, I had to pass them in turn to the virtual machines via Hyper-V: I turned on the server, inserted the board, configured the forwarding to the virtual machine, turned off the server, inserted the second one - repeated. Otherwise, neither Windows 10 nor Windows Server will load, and in addition, we are still lucky that we are dealing with a gigabit network infrastructure, because the Intel X550-T2 terribly keeps the intermediate speeds of 2.5 GBase-T and 5GBase-T used in installations for Wi-Fi 6.
Let's start with the 2.4 GHz band, which today, for the most part, remains only for IoT devices and compatibility with ancient equipment. Let me remind you that both access points have 2 MU-MIMO channels.
Surprisingly, the values for loading and unloading are so similar that it feels like a software constraint somewhere in the testing architecture, but not.
Interestingly, the significantly cheaper WAC500H access point does not lag behind in speed from its counterpart, which costs almost twice as much.
And even when two clients work simultaneously in two ranges, the difference in speed adds up in favor of a simple "workhorse". The advantages of the "smart antenna" will be revealed in particular cases, when connecting devices with support for beam-forming technology, when moving them, and so on.
Recommendations for ordering
When ordering, you should keep in mind that the Zyxel Nebula cloud system, which we discussed in detail in a recent comparison with a competitor, is currently a means of earning Zyxel, so the company offers free and" pro " tariffs, which, although insignificant, are different. And the most interesting thing is that the access points and the GS2220-28HP switch come with a free 1-year Pro license, which can be extended or downgraded to free after a certain period of time.
The " pro " license itself, for example, allows you to configure the parameters of IPTV and video surveillance on switches via the Nebula cloud, which in general will be very pleasant for the service organization.
In general, even if your organization is not yet ready for a full deployment of Wi-Fi 6, you can use modern models of access points and switches, getting all the buns of remote control and easy commissioning through Nebula, using Zyxel equipment.
Michael Degtjarev (aka LIKE OFF)