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Event Managers Under Pressure: Higher smartphone and tablet sales impact on demand for wifi at venues and events

by Damien

On Christmas Day 2012, more iPhones, iPads, Galaxy devices, Kindle Fires and other mobile devices were activated than on any other day in history, according to a report from Flurry Analytics.

There is no escaping this mobile revolution which is forcing event managers across the globe to think more strategically about the supply and demand of onsite Wifi at their events.

The use of mobile telephones and devices (iPhones, Android, iPads, tablets, etc.) will continue to grow exponentially at work and at home. Attendees have multiple mobile devices and expect the same broadband experience they receive at home and at the office – even though there may be thousands of people trying to access the Wi-Fi signal at the same time.

According to a June 2011 study by Meraki, Inc., a company that provides cloud services, iPads consume about four times as much Wi-Fi data on a monthly basis than the average iPhone, Android or iPod device. This issue is further emphasised as the iPad is the fastest-selling device ever, according to the 2011 Guinness World Records.

It’s not just attendees, event managers require Wi-Fi access too, as so they can manage their events using Symphony across all their mobile devices. Symphony gives event managers the flexibility to stay on top of event and session sign ups, cancellations, trigger emails, reporting, payments and contacts, with real-time access anywhere, anytime without a laptop or desktop.

The good news is that the technology exists to provide very high density delivery of Wi-Fi. The bad news is that the equipment and bandwidth is expensive and many event venues are lagging far behind in the ability supply the explosion of demand.

Both event planners and venue providers need to be more proactive in educating themselves and in managing delegate expectations when it comes to Wi Fi access.
Here are some points to consider:

  • How many devices, not people, need to connect to the WiFi?  Most people will carry a smart phone, tablet and laptop – that’s three devices per person.
  • What level of Internet interaction should you be expecting? A conference on basket weaving is unlikely to have such an Internet demand as a social media conference for example.
  • Have an idea of the amount of speed you think you might need both upstream and downstream on the network. Remember that if you have media at your event they will require fast upstream as to allow them to quickly upload photos.
  • Which areas of your venue will WiFi be required in? Just the conference suite? What about the bar, bedrooms, breakout rooms?
  • What else do I need the Internet for? Many production offices expect to be able to print over the WiFi or set up demo networks, private WiFi for crew or speakers etc. If you are using a public service network like BT Openzone or the Cloud that won’t be possible.

These are just a few questions that should be addressed there are of course many more. It is generally advised that if you have more than 100 devices on a network, or any requirements that you are not sure about, talk to the venue’s technical team and ask about the network, its bandwidth and the technical support available to you, on the run up, duration and de-rig of your event.