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Wireless access for mall kiosk

Wireless expert Lisa Phifer answers a question on how to connect wired networked devices to a mall's wireless access.

I am in charge of purchasing a networking solution for a mall kiosk consisting of 7 PCs, connected to the mall's IT Internet connection via Wi-Fi. Is there a Wi-Fi AP/Router that will connect via Wi-Fi to the mall's wireless network and then allow me to connect my kiosk PCs via Cat5 cable through a switch? Is there a router/AP with an 8 port switch?
There are many devices that can provide what you need. But the first step is to think about whether you simply need to provide LAN connectivity to kiosk PCs or whether you need to deploy more advanced services, such as firewalling, filtering, logging, portal access control, or payment processing.

If all you need is LAN connectivity, consider going with a basic layer 2 device -- an inexpensive wireless Ethernet bridge, such as the Linksys WET610N or Netgear WN2000RPT, coupled with a separate and equally inexpensive 8-port switch. If you need firewall/routing services, go with a layer 3 wireless router that can operate in Wi-Fi client bridge mode, such as the Netgear N300.

However, if what you really need is an Internet access gateway that delivers everything a standalone hospitality network needs, search the Internet for "hotspot in a box." Your scenario is a bit different than a typical wireless hotspot, but there are many products out there specifically designed to create small, self-contained hospitality networks, including payment collection services, if you plan to charge for Internet access from kiosk PCs.

This was last published in September 2010

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