Supplying WiFi to a small (50 person) conference?
April 6, 2010 8:56 PM   Subscribe

I'm putting on a small conference, and the place we're using is happy to supply internets if we can supply our own WiFi. What sort of WiFi router or AP do I need to support 50 users simultaneously?

Will a consumer-grade WiFi access point (like a WRT54GL with DD-WRT or similar) support 50 tech savvy geeks? We won't be torrenting, but most people will expect email and google access.

I don't really want to hire a industrial strength AP, but I also don't want a router to melt when it gets 50 DHCP requests.
posted by pivotal to Technology (10 answers total)
I'm not sure where to direct you, but based on my experience, a single consumer grade AP is going to choke with that many users. The ones I've used (which are similar to the ones you mention) start to choke with 5 or 10 people, let alone 50.
posted by Diplodocus at 9:52 PM on April 6, 2010

The Airport Extreme Base Station can support up to 50 simultaneous wireless users.
posted by Aquaman at 10:29 PM on April 6, 2010

problem with the Airport is that support for up to 50 is that geeks could have more than one WIFI-ready device and the connections could seriously start adding up.

maybe a small switch to (2) Airports and just count on people filling up one, getting rejected and going to the second? i'd assume that as long as your connection is hearty enough *AND* you've have enough user spots on your routers, it should work.
posted by ibechase at 11:11 PM on April 6, 2010

The problem is not going to be the routers (just get several) but rather the provided Internets, I think. Make sure they have enough bandwidth! 10 Mbps bare minimum, 30 Mbps would be better.
posted by kindall at 12:12 AM on April 7, 2010

Yeah, just wanted to chime in (and second kindall) to say that 50 users may mean up to 100 connections, due to laptop plus phone, depending on the crowd.
posted by qwip at 1:38 AM on April 7, 2010

You guys are not giving me much confidence. Thankfully these are all workmates, so I guess I'll grab a handful of cheap WRTs, do my best, and apologise profusely on the day?
posted by pivotal at 1:52 AM on April 7, 2010

I'd suggest some of routers that allow you to install open source firmware (like the linksys w45g) like here.

This takes a $40 router and gives it very deep capabilities - like being able to load balance so no one user gets all the bandwidth.
posted by filmgeek at 4:58 AM on April 7, 2010

Get many wireless hubs so you can flood the room on separate channels, if the room is large enough people will automatically be given a different router. I stopped in to second the bandwidth concern mentioned above. You will easily provide enough wireless routers but upstream is going to be your choke point.

The other point is to realize that 'email and Google access' is probably your minimum. I would raise your expectations of what people will be doing (iTunes, Facebook, site updates, patches, etc.) If I have Internet, I use it; after all you did say they were tech savvy.
posted by fluffycreature at 5:58 AM on April 7, 2010

Conclusions from PyCon 2010: use 802.11n and many low-power APs.
posted by djb at 6:12 AM on April 7, 2010

Yep. Keep the same SSID among the various routers, and use non-overlapping channels (1, 6, and 11, or refer to this handy image). You won't need to turn the power down if you've only got 2 or 3 APs (which should be plenty).

The PyCon guys seem to have had fantastic luck with 802.11a access points, especially considering that 802.11a support seems to have creeped into a lot of new devices. There's a lot more "room" in the 5GHz band.

5GHz 802.11n would offer similar advantages, although I'm not sure how many devices support this yet.

Best bet is to go with a few moderately-priced WRTs and use non-overlapping channels. You'll be fine.
posted by schmod at 9:08 AM on April 7, 2010

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