Christian M. 7 min read

Guest WiFi

The importance of Guest WiFi in modern businesses is often underestimated.

Guest WiFi protects companies against cybersecurity threats from untrusted devices, enhances visitors’ experience and operational efficiency,  and can even be used for monetisation.

This article explains Guest WiFi and explores the benefits, setup, and customisation.

💡 Key takeaways:

  • Security: Isolating guest traffic from the main network protects sensitive business data.
  • Customer satisfaction: Providing reliable internet access enhances visitors’ experience.
  • Monetisation: Businesses can leverage Guest WiFi for data collection and targeted advertising.

What is Guest WiFi?

Guest WiFi is a partition of a business’s wireless network, designed for visitors to access the internet via WiFi without gaining access to the host’s main network.

This alternate guest network provides a layer of security to the host because it is fully isolated from sensitive parts of the network, which often contain sensitive data and a list of connected devices.

Additionally, some businesses provide guest WiFi as a service because it can be used to monetise guest WiFi by collecting user data or showing target advertisements (as long as it complies with GDPR regulations).

The importance of Guest WiFi

Guest WiFi is a cyber security essential for any business that receives visitors who bring their own device. Examples of UK companies that use guest WiFi examples includes:

  • Hotels, Restaurants and Pubs
  • Corporate Offices
  • Airports
  • Shopping centres
  • Festivals

Additionally, Guest Wi-Fi is essential to guarantee a good connection for visitors. Consider that there are still areas in the UK where 5G coverage is insufficient, making this a necessity even if they are bringing mobile devices with unlimited data packages.

See our portable Guest WiFi for more information on how satellite broadband can be used at festivals, events and remote construction sites.

Guest WiFi is critical for the hospitality sector, which often receive guests working remotely who need a reliable connection. It’s also a critical component of any business’s digital image: is there anything worse than arriving at an establishment with unclear WiFi names and a spammy portal website?


The benefits of Guest WiFi

Guest WiFi offers several benefits, including the following:

  1. Security: Keeping guests on a separate network prevents them from accessing sensitive information and devices on the main network and limits the “attack surface area” of potential malware.
  2. Convenience: It provides guests with a straightforward experience, as they can often connect to the Internet with a simple password or without one altogether.
  3. Bandwidth Management: It allows hosts to prioritise bandwidth for their devices and applications, ensuring the main network’s speed isn’t degraded by guest usage.
  4. Professionalism: Offering guest WiFi in business settings can improve customer satisfaction and enhance the establishment’s perceived image.
  5. Monetisation: A high-traffic guest WiFi network can also be used as an additional source of income for businesses, but this may come with a diminished user experience.

💡GovWiFi: The UK government has implemented nationwide guest network access for public sector staff visitors across facilities. Interestingly, this universal access approach helps improve operational efficiency and supports a more connected public sector environment.


What are the key features of Guest WiFi?

Guest WiFi has unique features that the main business network lacks because it is designed with temporary visitor access in mind. It is designed to be more conveniently accessed, yet more restrictive regarding network access (security) and access to bandwidth (performance).

The following table summarises these key features:

FeatureDescription
Separate NetworkIsolated from the main network to protect sensitive data and resources from malicious actors.
Easy AccessSimplified connection process, often through a captive portal with a straightforward login interface, or no-password open access without any interfaces.
Bandwidth ManagementLimits on data usage and speed to ensure fair usage and prevent network congestion.
Time LimitsAccess can be restricted to certain times or durations to control usage, although this can sometimes be negative for a business's image.
Customisable AccessOptions for custom passwords, splash pages, and terms of service to enhance user experience and branding.
Security FeaturesEnhanced security measures, such as WPA3 encryption and regular monitoring for potential threats.
Usage AnalyticsTools to monitor and analyse guest activity and network performance.
Content FilteringRestrictions on certain websites or types of content to maintain a safe browsing environment.

Guest WiFi security

Guest WiFi has specific security features that make it suitable for hosting unknown visitor devices. Since access is less restrictive than the main business network, extra security features are added to keep it accessible while secure for the host:

Security FeatureDescription
Network IsolationGuest WiFi is separated from the main network to prevent access to sensitive business resources.
Data EncryptionUtilisation of encryption methods like WPA3 to protect data transmitted over the guest network.
Enhanced Authentication (optional)Use of captive portals and secure login methods to ensure only authorised guests can access the network (Some guest WiFis are kept passwordless for convenience)
Basic Security PoliciesGuest networks have fundamental security measures such as firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and regular monitoring to provide a safe browsing environment.
Content Filtering (optional)Restrictions on access to certain websites and types of content to maintain a safe browsing environment for guests.
Regular Security UpdatesConsistent application of security patches and updates to address vulnerabilities and enhance network protection.
Compliance MonitoringMonitor data usage to ensure compliance with regulations like GDPR.
Limited Network VisibilityGuests have restricted visibility to other devices on the guest network, reducing the risk of internal attacks.

Guest WiFi Compliance with GDPR

All British businesses providing guest WiFi must comply with the Data Protection Act 2018, which aims to protect user data privacy. This is necessary because WiFi network hosts could potentially access and monitor network traffic.

Compliance ensures that guests’ personal data, such as login information and browsing activity, is only collected and processed if done lawfully, transparently, and securely. Find more details on our cybersecurity compliance article.

To achieve data security and privacy compliance, Guest WiFi networks must implement several key characteristics:

  • obtaining explicit consent from users before collecting their data.
  • providing clear privacy notices outlining data usage.
  • ensuring robust encryption methods to safeguard data during transmission.
  • granting users rights to access, correct, or delete their data.

Additionally, businesses must regularly update their essential cybersecurity measures to address vulnerabilities and prevent data breaches, ensuring ongoing protection of guest information.


How to set up guest WiFi

Setting up a guest WiFi network requires careful planning to ensure the appropriate security is installed to meet compliance and ensure user experience. Below are step-by-step instructions for different types of businesses, including required hardware, software, and confirmation options:

Small business (cafe or retail store)

  • Hardware: Business broadband router + modem.
  • Software: Router management software (usually pre-installed).

💡Guest WiFi access is included within the business broadband prices offered by BT, Virgin and Sky business broadband.

Instructions: 

  1. Compare small business broadband deals and sign up for one that supports guest WiFi. The router provided should support guest WiFi, have a modem incorporated into it, and have the necessary router management software.
  2. Once you connect your business broadband router to your broadband tether and turn it on, connect a device to the WiFi and access the hub manager through the web browser by entering an IP like “192.168.1.254” (BT), “192.168.0.1” (Sky).
  3. Log in with your given credentials and enable the guest network on the “advanced settings”.
  4. Configure the guest network by:
    • Setting up the SSID (network name) for the guest network (e.g., “YourBusiness-Guest”).
    • Enable WPA2 encryption and set a secure password.
    • Save the changes.
  5. Connect to the guest network and verify internet access and isolation from the main network.

Medium business (Office or small hotel)

  • Hardware: Business broadband router, wireless access points (mesh network), network switch.
  • Software: Network management software (usually pre-installed), captive portal software.

Instructions: 

  1. Compare business broadband deals that are suitable for your business. Your broadband provider should provide all the necessary hardware and software.
  2. Connect and configure the router and access points. Enable the guest network and set up DHCP settings to assign IP addresses to guest devices. Ensure all access points broadcast the SSID.
  3. Install and configure captive portal software. Customise the login page with business branding, privacy policies, and terms of use.
  4. Implement firewall rules to restrict guest access.
  5. Connect a device to the guest network and verify internet access.

Large business (corporate office or large hotel)

  • Hardware: Enterprise-grade router, access points, network switches, and controllers.
  • Software: Enterprise-grade network management software, advanced captive portal software.

Instructions:

  1. Design the network’s architecture. Plan the number and placement of access points for optimal coverage, network switches and controllers. Consider an SD-WAN system for multi-site management.
  2. Compare enterprise-grade leased-line broadband or 5G private networks that meet your required architecture.
  3. Install, configure and integrate the core router, access point, controllers and switch with your network management system.
  4. Deploy and configure captive portal software.
  5. Apply network security policies to isolate guest traffic, set up firewall rules and intrusion detection systems to protect against threats, and ensure GDPR compliance by configuring data protection and privacy settings.

Guest WiFi custom options

Guest WiFi is often the first point of interaction between a business and its clients, making it a crucial element of the overall customer experience.

A well-customised Guest WiFi enhances the brand image and customer satisfaction. Here are multiple options businesses can customise to tailor specific user experiences:

Custom OptionDescription
Custom network name and BrandingCreate a network name (SSID) reflecting the business name and design a branded splash page.

"YourBusiness-Guest" is typical.
Welcome MessagesDisplay personalised welcome messages on the captive portal.
Custom Login Options (Monetisation)Provide login methods such as social media logins, email registration, or simple password access.
Promotions and Advertisements (Monestisation)Show promotions, advertisements, or special offers on the login page or through pop-ups, if your business needs to monestise WiFi use.
Surveys and FeedbackIntegrate surveys or feedback forms on the captive portal to gather user insights.
Bandwidth LimitsSet data usage limits per user to ensure optimal bandwidth distribution and prevent congestion.
Priority Access (Monestisation or Priorisation)Offer premium WiFi access with higher bandwidth for VIP guests, loyalty program members or a a priority tier of visitors.
User Analytics (Monetisation)Collect data on user behaviour to improve services and tailor marketing strategies.
Multilingual SupportProvide the captive portal and related information in multiple languages. This is ideal in airports, hotels, restaurants and cafes.
Session Time LimitsSet time limits for each WiFi session to manage network load and provide gated access.
User Authentication MethodsChoose between various authentication methods such as a password, SMS verification, vouchers, membership login, etc.
Scheduled AccessOffer WiFi access during specific hours or events, such as business hours or for event attendees.

Portable Guest WiFi using satellite broadband

Guest WiFi can be customised to use business satellite broadband to turn it into a portable WiFi service which can be dedicated to visitors.

This offers a unique solution for providing high-speed internet access in remote or mobile locations where traditional connectivity is unavailable.

This niche service uses satellite technology like Starlink or OneWeb to deliver reliable, high-speed internet to guests at events, construction sites, or temporary setups, ensuring seamless connectivity regardless of location.

Analytics and reporting for Guest WiFi

Guest WiFi networks provide comprehensive analytics and reporting tools that deliver insights into user behaviour, network performance, and security.

These tools enable businesses to monitor data consumption, track user demographics, and analyse usage patterns. Real-time alerts and compliance reports help ensure network security and regulatory adherence.

Additionally, marketing insights from user data can enhance customer engagement and tailor promotional strategies if there is a monetisation strategy behind offering Guest WiFi.

This analytics capability helps businesses optimise their network, improve user experience, and drive informed decision-making.


Guest WiFi – FAQs

Our business broadband experts answer commonly asked questions on Guest WiFi.

Is there support for setting up Guest WiFi?

Support for Guest WiFi includes technical assistance for setup and maintenance, customer service for user inquiries, and continuous network monitoring to ensure optimal performance.

The support for guest WiFi set up depends on your chosen business broadband provider.

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