As the Association of British Professional Conference Organisers (ABPCO) petitions the industry for free WiFi for all UK conference delegates, Richard Hughes, the MD of Max WiFi explains what needs to happen.
Why is WiFi such an issue at events and exhibitions? In short, it doesn’t have to be and it shouldn’t be as the technology and the expertise are readily available in the UK. However much is misunderstood about the reality of what is required of WiFi today, the cost implications and the demand for expertise.
Let’s break it down into bite size:
• Domestic WiFi and event WiFi are two very different animals, consider a Mini against a Ferrari. Just because WiFi works at the touch of a button at home, it’s much more complex to implement on a grander scale.
• WiFi demand has grown exponentially and will continue to do so with the launch of Apple’s iCloud and more devices used at events. Last year the average user would transfer 3-500Mb of data per day. This has now increased to 3-4Gb of data per day
• There is rarely any control of airspace in venues. Delegates who bring their own equipment, which may be poorly configured, greatly interfere with existing networks.
So how can all of this be resolved?
Venues, contractors and organisers need to collectively take responsibility. Venues that install decent wireless access (that is fast, reliable and scalable) will instantly have a USP that organisers will buy into. Organisers need to ask contractors for a WiFi survey to ensure they have the right equipment to deliver their event’s needs. Contractors need to work alongside venues to solve problems and ensure requirements are understood and managed from the outset. In turn, venues need to be more flexible with their tied contractor roster and define policies for what is acceptable for exhibitors and delegates to use.
So how do you ensure a good service?
It involves design challenges, highly trained staff and enterprise grade expensive equipment that needs regular updating. Event organisers need to acknowledge that successful event communication is a high priority and requires a sensible budget.
Scottish Elections 2011
Date: 5-6th May 2011
Venue: Highland Hall, Ingliston, Edinburgh
Event suppliers: Wireless and internet connections by Max WiFi, security – Edinburgh Council, Police
The May 2011 elections were a big challenge for the Returning Officer of the City of Edinburgh Council, with three election events on the same day and 3,000 people involved. The Count was held within the vast Highland Hall at the Royal Highland Show ground at Ingliston.Information systems and communications facilities had to be provided to manage the Count and to support the large number of candidates, agents, journalists and photographers. In particular a reliable general internet facility was required with wireless access for up to 50 people, and 16 fixed wire access points for photographers to upload pictures.
The election count began at 9pm on 5th May, with the postal votes first put on the count tables. From that moment journalists began sending out information using Twitter and email. Votes for the first election, the Scottish Parliamentary, were collected from polling stations from all over Edinburgh and the count continued until around 3am, at which point the media frenzy hotted up as announcements were made. This continued in the same format with the other two elections heavily relying on the communications infrastructure.
Julian Rowntree, Returning Officer of the City of Edinburgh Council says: “Max WiFi provided a first-class, trouble-free service for the Count. They also saved us money elsewhere by suggesting we use the internet circuits they were installing to carry the voice traffic we were separately provisioning for the election management team. This meant we cancelled other orders for a number of circuits and for expensive onsite support. Max WiFi provided the additional interconnections and service as part of the original contract.”