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What’s the Problem with Venue Wi-Fi?

And what meeting planners and suppliers can do to make it better

By Dennis Jones

What’s the Problem with Venue Wi-Fi?

It’s ironic, really. Users go to a conference to reconnect with peers or catch up on industry trends, but once there, they can’t manage to get a working connection to the Internet. Low quality Wi-Fi is a huge problem for conference attendees. And it could get a lot worse before it gets much better. The demand for high performance Wi-Fi is surging, while network capacity remains stable.

What’s happening here? Why is venue Wi-Fi usually so bad? Well, conference users are actually overwhelming venue capacity, while meeting planners and suppliers aren’t doing enough to anticipate the demands that will be placed on their networks. For instance, users are bringing an unprecedented number of smart devices to conferences, all of which need to be connected to Wi-Fi. These devices tend to be incredibly powerful, like tablets, which can use up to four times more bandwidth than smartphones. And then there’s the growing popularity of the IoT (Internet of Things). As connected things continue to impact our daily lives, conference attendees will want to connect their devices to venue Wi-Fi as well.  

The shift toward watching high-quality video on mobile is also a huge concern for venue Wi-Fi providers, as digital content will place a huge drain on limited bandwidth.

Well, what exactly can meeting planners and suppliers do to tackle the issue of soaring demand? Meeting planners are already more likely than in the past to recruit third parties to verify Wi-Fi capacity at their venues. But there are still some simple things meeting planners can do to get venue Wi-Fi right.

  • Understand the venue. It sounds like a no-brainer. But to get venue Wi-Fi right, meeting planners need to understand the venue. I mean, understand it really well. Each venue is different, so planners and suppliers need to consider differences in layout, size and shape, as well structural components within the venue itself. All of these factors impact where you place your network equipment.
  • Expect overcapacity. Large venues, of course, hold more attendees. But the number of people at smaller locations can still put demands on bandwidth. And high Internet traffic, even in a small location, will necessarily affect the quality of a network’s performance. So it makes sense for suppliers to plan ahead for more users (and by extension devices) to avoid congestion on your network.
  • Think seriously about security. It’s unlikely meeting planners will be able to keep business users as safe on venue Wi-Fi as those users are on their VPN-protected, enterprise Wi-Fi. But a simple step like changing the router admin password at a venue would do a world of good.