Getting Wifi to the Jobsite

By MELODY ROSE, Head of Customer Success at Spectar

Getting WiFi to the Jobsite

The jobsites of tomorrow are being built today. Construction companies around the globe are making big strides in bringing BIM to the field to increase productivity, improve communication, and make smarter business decisions in real-time. But these connected jobsites cannot function properly without access to powerful, high-speed WiFi networks. 

Investment

The first step in getting WiFi to the jobsite is involving your IT Department. They’re the ones best equipped to estimate how much it will cost to install, maintain, and secure a new wireless network. How these costs are billed to the client will depend on whether they are considered capital or operational expenses – a decision that should be made on a project-by-project basis.

Infrastructure

More often than not, commercial projects are built on sites without any existing telecom infrastructure, so it’s critical for your IT Department to begin coordinating with Wireless Internet Service Providers (WISPs) as early as possible. On average, it takes these companies about a month to perform a site survey and get the service up and running. If fiber-optic cables need to be trenched and laid, this process can stretch to three months and can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Sometimes, the project owner will pay for this infrastructure directly and will continue using the WiFi connection long after the contractor’s temporary field office is gone. 

Bandwidth

Sharing bandwidth on a jobsite can also be a challenge. Bandwidth is the maximum amount of data (measured in megabits per second) that can be transferred by a WiFi network at one time. While 50 Mbps of bandwidth might sound like a lot, a BIM team can easily tie up a majority of it with a few large file exports. This will significantly slow down internet speeds for everyone else on the site, so be sure to consult with your IT specialists to determine the appropriate amount of bandwidth for each project. 

Adoption

There are also physical limitations that make setting up WiFi on a jobsite more complicated than in your home or office – it is not an intuitive process. Construction sites can be a logistical nightmare for even the savviest IT Department because they are constantly changing. On top of that, many building materials, like concrete and structural steel, are not conducive to WiFi signals. Although it’s true that some internet providers offer white-glove installation for complicated projects, the price tag often makes it cost-prohibitive.

The Solution

Today, more and more companies are bringing internet access to the field via individualized jobsite WiFi systems. These innovative networks use wireless-mesh technology to amplify your field office’s WiFi connection and deliver it to access points throughout the jobsite.

When fast, reliable WiFi can be accessed from anywhere on the jobsite, your foremen won’t have to constantly walk back to the field office to download the latest BIM files from the design team. This will dramatically increase their productivity and help them avoid making expensive, time-consuming mistakes.

In fact, WiFi connections make it possible to bring BIM solutions, like Spectar’s Augmented Reality app on the Microsoft Hololens, directly to your team in the field – allowing them to explore a 1:1 virtual model of the project in real-time as they build. Together with a wireless-mesh WiFi system, these powerful innovations enable your team to identify and resolve conflicts earlier, use materials more efficiently, and complete projects faster.