Public Wi-Fi internet access is often requested for event sites where mobile coverage is poor or has limited capacity, especially when the attendee numbers are likely to be in thousands. With current technology delivering a good quality W-Fi experience is achievable but there are some factors to consider:
- Backhaul connectivity – The actual connection to the internet is probably the most important success factor. With a large number of concurrent users there must be sufficient connectivity to ensure a good user experience and typically the cost of delivering this connectivity makes up a large proportion of the overall cost. Skimping on connectivity always leads to a poor experience and complaints that “it didn’t work”. From years of experience, we have built up a collection of models to calculate the likely level of connectivity required.
- Wi-Fi Density & Coverage – For a good user experience for thousands of users a significant number of wireless access points are needed to ensure appropriate coverage and density. This requires good planning and design to ensure that they do not interfere with each other. High-end professional access points can support up to several hundred users per unit depending on the type of usage compared to less than 50 on a cheap low-end product.
- Installation – Deploying a public network requires coordination across a number of areas, this is particularly important if the deployment is in a truly public space such as a city centre. Physical aspects of mounting, cabling (or Point-to-Point links), power, security and health & safety all need to be considered.
Alongside these aspects consideration also needs to be given to the method of access which may be totally open, perhaps with a terms and conditions “hi-jack/splash page” or it may be secured with some form of registration or code. The landing page may also be sponsored or branded to promote a product or event. Although ‘pay for access’ public networks can be deployed we do not typically recommend this for temporary events as users do not like this approach and take-up is generally very low.