Top tips to Make Sure your Press Event Wi-Fi doesn’t fail

Good Wi-Fi delivery can be critical

At the recent launch of the iPhone 4 Steve Jobs, Chairman and CEO of Apple, was forced to ask the audience containing the world’s tech press, to turn off their Wi-Fi devices because the demonstration he was giving on stage kept failing. Later it was suggested that some 500 Wi-Fi networks were operating in the room, overloading the network.

Tom McInerney, from event technology company Etherlive, gives some tips on how to stop this happening at your next big event to make the network meets attendee requirements.

  1. In our experience any large press pool will require significant amounts of bandwidth and wireless connectivity. Importantly they will require download and more significantly high upload speeds so information can be posted quickly. Many want to post pictures immediately, live blog or video stream the event to their audience and expect a wireless network to be fast and available.
  2.  Asses the quality of any existing Wi-Fi network on site. Is it going to support the number of attendees at the event who may want access concurrently? You need to think about who is going to support it on the day, and how you can ensure your organisers and demonstrations get the internet speeds they require. Many permanent networks are designed for a specific purpose which is probably not hundreds of people in one room at one time, many also only operate to older wireless standards (such as 802.11b) which cannot provide as much access as newer faster protocols (802.11n). So to make sure you have the coverage you need, think about deploying a network specifically for the event which has onsite support and can provide multiple bandwidth controlled networks, for example ‘Organiser’ and ‘Event Press’.
  3.  Press who attended the Apple event where either not provided with a shared network or have learnt to distrust the in house service and instead opt to setup their own (typically linked to the cellular network repeated locally) Due to the amount of channels to play with in the 2.4Ghz spectrum setting up their own wireless hotspot only causes more issues for everyone else. Imagine everyone in the room with a set of speakers trying to broadcast their own radio station…eventually you can’t hear anything. So setting up a high quality centrally managed wireless network, which everyone can share (one broadcast), is a much better idea – but it will need to work first time otherwise attendees will find an alternative.
  4.  Several products are available on the market which can scan the relevant wireless spectrum to confirm how noisy it is. At least if you can see too much is going on in real time you can act (perhaps changing demos) instead of having to ask the audience.
  5.  The 5Ghz radio spectrum has a lot more channels available than 2.4Ghz and is therefore less congested. The most modern laptops can use 5Ghz networks and should be actively encouraged to use that instead of 2.4Ghz. Several technologies exist that can encourage devices that have 5Ghz radios to join that network instead of the 2.4Ghz.

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