If you can’t cost-effectively or cosmetically get a direct network connection to the digital signage player, what viable alternatives exist?”
From satellite and point-to-point wireless to mesh and cellular, there are a number of options that exist today to ensure a direct network connection to digital signage players, depending on the venue. Some pros and cons…
Satellite is very reliable and not dependent on a local provider, so it is great for emergency messaging. However, it is the most expensive way to move data, bandwidth is limited and remote management can be a challenge due to high latency.
Point-to-point wireless and mesh work well, but they introduce more single points of failure and typically require significantly more setup and expert knowledge to maintain, so not ideal for locations that are not easily accessible.
Cellular is a great option, provided that your CMS manages and caches data such that interruptions do not impact content delivery. One thing to always keep in mind, especially with cellular, is that if your board is located in an area that gets a significant influx of traffic (train station, stadium, etc.), it may work fine during testing and then fail when it is needed. While many modems come with their own antennas, there are significantly better antennas available for very little cost. Ideally, install the antenna as high as possible. Before deciding on cellular, I recommend to test using a speedtest app with the data connection on your phone, using the same provider/data type, during peak times.
Installing a device like the iBoot will help if set up properly. I recommend setting it to reboot the modem if connectivity is lost. This way, you know that the number one troubleshooting step has been attempted when a player goes offline. Also, always make sure to set up a very secure network by turning off unneeded services, using a firewall, changing all default passwords and implementing a password change policy. Make sure you know who has access. Devices should not be reachable by public IP.