There is no doubt that on the modern day construction site, whatever size or scale, you WILL need access to the internet. Whether it’s simply for the Project Manager to update documents or for monitored heavy plant, the performance of your construction site WiFi is likely to play a critical part in your productivity.
How many Teams calls, document transfers and emails take place on your construction site every day? And how often do you get frustrated by poor connection speeds, or the printer just not working when you need it – yet again……?
Are you settling for less?
It’s not uncommon for construction sites to have to cope with less-than-average connectivity. We’ve been called to sites where the site manager’s desk hasn’t even been factored into the WiFi coverage. Suppliers may claim that remote locations offer poor signal, or that more expensive satellite technology is required to provide adequate bandwidth and that costs are therefore going to escalate. So how do you really know whether this is really all true or not?
Here we share some inside tips on what to discuss with your internet provider to achieve the best solution for your site, and give you the confidence to improve it if you’re not.
Connecting to the outside world (don’t scrimp here)
Let’s first address your connectivity to the outside world. There are many ways to establish connectivity onto a construction site; from fixed line, through to satellite and LTE (4G). The single most popular on construction sites currently (both because of its mobile capability and price point) is LTE (or 4G as we more commonly know it) and so for now we will focus on this.
A robust external connection will make a huge difference to the reliability of your WiFi (I know, we’re stating the obvious, right?). There are two critical parts to consider here; the router and the antenna.
The router is the part that makes the connection to the outside world; all your internet traffic moves through it. And believe me, all routers are not made equal. Routers vary in how they work, and because this is an entire subject in itself we have covered this in our article ‘for THE BEST site WiFi, not all 4G was created equal.
The antenna is the device connected to the router that picks up the signal from the local mast OR from an alternate method of pushing the signal in. It’s important to stress that because these are the enablers to performance, it doesn’t pay to go cheap with either of these elements. A better router and antenna will offer you a stronger chance of a faster, more stable connection.
Maximising your internal access
The second part of ensuring fast, reliable construction site WiFi is the actual wireless access points (APs) themselves, which distrubute the signal around your site. WiFi can be a complex beast . Consider that a typical site cabin is a large metal box, the nature of the material means that there are challenges getting a signal into them and challenges getting a signal out of them.
Did you know for example, that if you shut the metal blinds, it’s a closed environment and nothing can get in or out, but open them and there is a good chance that signal will bleed to the outside or adjacent cabins where the blinds are also open?
Construction sites can involve multiple cabins, with shared hardware located centrally (e.g. printers, webcams etc) that require cross-cabin networking. This means that it is important to ensure that the signal coming in from the outside world is distributed across the entire site. For this, we recommend only commercial grade APs which are fit for purpose, and we are happy to advise you on this. Feel free to contact us for help on the quality of your hardware.
Don’t forget that any hardware you use should also be capable of providing the speeds you expect, for the maximum number of users you are likely to have. Your hardware needs to be capable of pushing a signal all around the cabin or office it is located in, otherwise no matter how good your connectivity, you’ll still find yourself becoming increasingly frustrated.
By trying to take into account any future plans for additional workers, site cabins and hardware when discussing your initial install, your WiFi provider can source the right equipment from the start, and place access points in the best locations to future proof your solution. This will reduce your costs when it comes to further call-outs and extensions to the network. In our experience though, projects move fast and requirements change frequently so it’s important to have a supplier that will respond quickly and be amenable if your site scales or evolves, to keep you on track.
How to give a good WiFi brief
If you’re planning connectivity for your next construction site, here are some key points to help you brief a WiFi provider:
- Understand what you need your connectivity for, so you can relate this to a service provider – (browser access, VPN, online file storage, Teams/Zoom calls, social media etc)
- Recognise that it’s not just people and their laptops using your WiFi. You need to consider coverage for printers (presuming you want people onsite to be able to use them), VoIP phones, heavy plant, other IoT (Internet of Things) devices, CCTV and radio equipment.
- Make sure you clearly describe the physical environment that the equipment will be placed into.
- Try to plan ahead as much as possible, to cover any likely known changes to the physical environment as the project proceeds. The site will look very different on day 1 vs day 100, and this can have an impact on the construction site WiFi if it hasn’t been fully understood and planned for.
What speeds do you need on your construction site?
Our article on ‘construction site internet speeds‘ will help you understand what speeds you should be looking to achieve for your construction site. This can be built into the brief with KPIs against them. You can also check you current speed on-site.
Need more help?
Fli- Fi are specialists in providing temporary internet connectivity and construction WiFi solutions, with experience on large scale civil engineering sites like HS2, Tideway and Crossrail through to small housing developments. We are well placed to advise and supply for any location in the UK. Find out more about our WiFi solutions. Get in touch on 020 3778 0454 or firstname.lastname@example.org for further information or to discuss the potential for a free trial.