How private can public WiFi get?

    It may sound like an oxymoron, but it is possible to get a private, secure, home-like network connectivity while connected to public guest networks such as those that are found in hotels, condos, dormitories, serviced suites, and co-working spaces. ANTlabs created the PAN (Personal Area Network) module for the IG 4 and SG 4 gateways for this very reason: good high-speed Internet access and privacy for each user in a guest network.

    Picture this scenario: You just arrived at your hotel straight from the airport and you just want to relax by watching your saved shows on Netflix or play games on your Nintendo Switch on the Smart TV in your hotel room.

    When you are
    in a hotel guest network, that scenario is not usually as straightforward as sitting
    down on your couch and finding your own devices in your own home network, and
    then connecting these devices so they could ‘talk’ to one another. What would
    most likely happen is that you would search for the SSID of the access point
    (AP) where you are supposed to connect to, connect to that, and after that, you
    do the same thing for your other devices, and search for the ones that you want
    to connect to the Smart TV. Unlike your home network where you only see the
    devices that you own, you would most likely be also shown other people’s
    devices that are also connected to that AP—and that is usually a very long
    list.  Convenience is one thing, but
    security is another very significant concern.

    In the age of the IoT (Internet of Things) and digital nomads, the need for us and our personal devices to stay connected virtually everywhere is ever-increasing daily. Free, fast, and easy—that is how the ideal WiFi connectivity is for most people. How many people are there who think this way? Let’s get to the numbers.

    Out of the
    world’s total population of 7.676 billion, 4.388 billion are Internet users,
    and 5.112 billion are unique mobile users1. That is a lot of users
    and that data does not even include the other devices users own that also need
    to connect to the Internet daily (i.e. IoT devices). According to Gartner’s
    forecast2, the average number of users or devices supported per
    deployed WLAN AP will increase by approximately 20% to 30% from 2018 through
    2023. With those figures, it is even more crucial to have privacy, especially when
    connected to guest networks and transferring sensitive data (e.g. personal data
    or work files) over the Internet. Can hotels, serviced suites, or co-working
    spaces provide that kind of privacy for each user? For service providers, is
    providing each guest with private networks affordable and easy to implement?

    At present, creating numerous SSIDs for each location and providing multiple Internet links for each IoT device type are the most commonly used methods for addressing these concerns but neither exactly answer privacy concerns nor are they easy and cheap to implement. Your guests can still see other devices on the network and the reality is, not all guests are Internet security-conscious enough to safeguard their own devices before connecting to public networks. A security or data breach that happens on your network is the last thing you want to happen. On top of that, the hotel staff must repeatedly adjust or create plans for Internet access provisioning especially during peak seasons or times when there are big events. The cost of training and maintenance is also added to your existing Internet service expenses.

    ANTlabs, with 20 years of experience in guest network technology creation and innovation, had these concerns in mind when PAN module was created. This module allows service providers to give a multitude of users with multiple devices their own private networks, where they can manage their devices on their own during their stay, and it works well with ANTlabs’ signature 3-stage Advanced QoS. When these two modules are working together, your hotel staff’s devices, guest room IoT devices and guests’ personal devices can co-exist without sacrificing quality and user privacy. For example, you can set it in a way that with your hotel’s 10 GB pipe, each VIP gets a private network with guaranteed 1 GB bandwidth while your premium guests also get their own private network with 200 MB. Your hotel staff and offices each get a private network with 500 MB while non-staying visitors get 200 MB to share among themselves. Giving your guests peace of mind in knowing that they have their own private networks is one big plus to their total experience.

    With PAN Module, there is no more need for multiple Internet links for different IoT device types and your guests shall not see other guests’ devices on your network. This is not only applicable for hotels but also for long-stay serviced apartments, dormitories, condos, shared offices, and other multi-dwelling units. PAN Module will potentially increase network security, protect your staff and guests from privacy intrusion, simplify operations support, and therefore improve the overall user experience in your hotel.

    Whether you
    are running a small hotel or a chain of hotels around the world, you and your
    guests still want the same thing: a good experience—and to help usher in that
    kind of experience calls for fast, seamless, and secure connectivity.

    Related Articles:

    1 WeAreSocial and HootsuiteTM (2019) ‘Essential Insights Into How People Around the World Use the Internet, Mobile Devices, Social Media, and E-Commerce’ [PowerPoint presentation]. Available at: (Accessed: 7 July 2019).

    2 Naresh Singh,
    Christian Canales, Joe Skorupa, Evan Zeng. (2019). Forecast Analysis:
    Enterprise Network Equipment, Worldwide. Connecticut: Gartner.