Increasingly, many venues offer free Wi-Fi as part of the package, or they offer a range of options to upgrade. But how do you know whether what they’re offering is what you’ll need? Assurances are often readily available but you can’t afford to find out on the day that your delegates’ demands are simply too much for the system. So what do you need to know?
Here’s 10 questions to ask to make sure you know what you’re getting:
1. What internet connection does the venue have? Hopefully it will be plus 100Mb – however, you may find smaller venues only give you a feed from their ADSL line that is also used in their office. Be cautious if this is the case.
2. What are the download & upload speeds? How much this matters depends on what you’re doing. For example, web streaming your conference means you need to allow between 5Mb and 10Mb of available bandwidth to be in use constantly.
3. Is there a Wi-Fi system throughout the venue? If no – then can they extend their network? Or would they allow a 3rd party supplier like DBeventnetworks to install additional capacity.
4. Is the Wi-Fi dual band – ie: 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz? We are beginning to see a 50/50 split between devices over both frequencies – and 5Ghz is much less congested, so the more you can use that the better.
5. How many Wireless Access Points are there? How many simultaneous connections can the Wi-Fi handle? Across the venue, and per access point? Don’t just correlate this with your number of visitors – we normally work on visitors bringing 2.5 devices each.
6. What speed does the Wi-Fi run at? In some venues there will be a ‘pool’ of bandwidth shared by all the Wi-Fi connections – so the more people using the WiFi the slower the experience for each user. In larger venues, each connection will be allocated a set amount of bandwidth from the main venue connection – for example at the AECC we give each connection 10Mb.
7. What bandwidth is allocated to the Wi-Fi? If the venue has a 1Gb incoming line, but only allocates 20Mb for the Wi-Fi, the service will slow as usage increases.
8. Is the Wi-Fi shared with other conference rooms? It can catch you out if the event next door has high usage. Talk to the venue about what you expect the Wi-Fi to be used for but check simultaneous events have also had this conversation.
9. How do users access the WiFi? An open network (no password) will make it easy for everyone – including those outside of your client base to connect. Phones automatically connect to an open network so you could find all your bandwidth being used by visitor’s phones auto-updating candy crush. We recommend a password protected network, or one that requires you to connect via a splash page.
10. WiFi versus hardwired connection – consider how vital the stability of your internet connection is. Wireless isn’t guaranteed to work as it’s subject to interference from a host of sources.
Any comments? Email Zoe Vernor