Why Wi-Fi is the new growth driver for start-ups

How a start-up lab in Reading is building the next generation of super brands through fast, secure Wi-Fi.

The saying birds of a feather stick together is particularly relevant when applied to entrepreneurs. More start-ups want to work in an environment populated by like-minded people who experience the same challenges, to benefit from a support network, to keep down costs, or simply bounce ideas off.

Wi-Fi technology plays an important role in synergies, collaborations and connections between such companies.

Making virtual connections

Entrepreneurs are at the forefront of mobile working: by 2016 traffic from wireless and mobile devices will exceed wired traffic, according to Accenture. As heavy users of cost-effective mobile devices, entrepreneurs relish the positive impact that portable technology has on collaboration and idea generation.

They also appreciate Wi-Fi’s low cost and flexibility: there is little investment required and it encourages co-operation and team work by giving employees the freedom to move.

Start-ups are also acutely aware that technology troubles disproportionately affect small businesses. One study points out that almost half of business owners spend up to two hours a week addressing tech issues. Which adds up to more than two half weeks every year, that could be better spent meeting clients face to face, or on the golf course.

Simply put, when Wi-Fi works, start-ups thrive.

Real World Wi-Fi

That’s definitely the case for members of Grow@GreenPark, an innovation hub at Reading’s Green Park, the heart of Britain’s Silicon Valley in Berkshire. A dedicated technology space, it nurtures companies ambitious for rapid growth.

For start-ups using applications like Skype, Slack, Asana or sophisticated web design programmes that require regular, large uploads, a solid WLAN connection is vital. Around half a dozen start-ups occupy Grow, with internet access across its meeting, events and hot-desk areas – the latter used by up to 50 people at the same time as part of their tenancy agreements.  

Internet Issues

Despite the installation of a dedicated IP line that used the Park’s ISP, poor signal strength, and modest download and upload speeds made it difficult for Grow entrepreneurs to make the most of the space and collaborate fully.

The quality of Wi-Fi for gatherings in the event space was particularly patchy, and led to poor connectivity and falling satisfaction levels among start-up and guest visitors alike. Unscrupulous non-members were also found to leach-off the bandwidth to send large volumes of marketing emails and spam content.


A TP-LINK AC wireless dual band gigabit cable router (Archer C9) was installed to provide an improved dedicated network across the Grow site. The router includes in-built beam-forming technology, which actively targets the Wi-Fi signal to mobile devices, even over long distances.

In total, it provides 1.9Gbps of bandwidth, perfect for video streaming, while additional Ethernet ports make it easy for companies to share local printers and files within the network and between devices. A gigabit Ethernet port underpins bandwidth-intensive applications and the transfer of multi-media files.

A TP-LINK ceiling-mounted access point was also installed to ensure a strong and secure wireless connection across the IoT lab. Meanwhile, secure authentication and rogue access point detection technology prevents non-members from stealing bandwidth.

Within an hour of installation, businesses reported a marked improvement in core functions such as email. Two separate Wi-Fi networks were created: a high-security, low-bandwidth network for guests, and a dedicated network for businesses and permanent hot-deskers.

Crucially, the router has the capacity to support even more businesses as the number of Grow members increases – an essential feature when there are events for up to 100 people.

Performance Payback

One of the companies sharing the space is The Honey Partnership, a communications consultancy that specialises in building the next generation of super brands – particularly helping Chinese companies connect with western audiences.

Partner and head of digital, Chris Adams, comments, “The companies working at Grow have people with amazing ideas, passion and dedication. They don’t want to be bogged down dealing with dodgy internet connections, they want to build their businesses fast and deliver for their clients.”

Two Wi-Fi questions every start-up should ask

What is the average download and upload speed?

This is especially important if your company needs to regularly upload videos, or you will be sharing the network with a host of businesses that do.  Even if the speeds appear impressive, sense check that against the average number users.

The more devices connecting to a network the more bandwidth is needed to maintain a ‘solid’ connection to individual devices. The presence of an ISP provided router is a sign the network is not optimised for high density traffic.

How is bandwidth divided between users?

If your landlord gives you a blank stare in response, it is likely that there are no QoS or quality of service policies in place to make sure that everyone gets an equal slice of the wireless pie.

It is common to provide dedicated sub-networks also known as SSIDs which limit the total bandwidth per person and prevent bandwidth hoggers disrupting the service for other users. Dual band is particularly useful enabling users to use the high speed 5Ghz frequency for bandwidth intensive activities like streaming content, leaving the traditional 2.4Ghz channel free for less interruption sensitive activities like email.

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for GrowthBusiness.co.uk from 2016 to 2018.

Related Topics

Tech Jobs & Careers