Once a user has logged in you can let them get on with their business or transport them straight to a portal page which could contain general information or advertisements. You can also specify up to 32 URLs that a user can access without having to log in first. Called walled gardens these appear underneath the login screen and can be used for a variety of purposes such as advertising from third parties where you may be able to rake in some more revenue. You can also redirect them to a URL that displays a user agreement for the services purchased and enforce a connection over HTTPS so their login credentials are encrypted.
There’s plenty of wizard based assistance and you can use the thermal printer or one attached to a PC for printing tickets.
The billing process is applied equally to LAN and WLAN users and on first loading a web browser they are taken to a login page where they enter the details on their ticket. Once past this phase Internet access is granted and a small window is provided with a countdown timer. If you want your LAN users to circumvent authentication you can use the pass-through feature and enter their IP or MAC addresses.
Unlike the SMC AP you can’t decide whether to stop wireless traffic from being passed to the LAN ports as the ZyXEL AP appears to implement this blocking by default with no option to turn it off. During testing we also came across a major problem and we strongly recommend upgrading to the latest firmware. Our AP was supplied with vZB.3 firmware and we found the unit would constantly reboot if a LAN port was in use. Definitely bizarre but upgrading to vZB.5 appeared to resolve this.
Wireless security is good with WEP and WPA encryption plus RADIUS authentication and MAC address filtering on the list. Web site access can be controlled but only by using a basic URL blocking list. Usefully, you can also set up basic bandwidth management by setting a limit on upstream and downstream capacities which are applied equally to all users.
It may be marginally more expensive than the SMC alternative and not quite as sophisticated but ZyXEL’s Hotspot bundle still looks a good alternative. Setting up billing for wireless Internet access is a simple process and the AP provides plenty of options for authentication with some smart advertising features