Confused about event Wi-FI? Richard Ballard, director of Event Wifi and Communications, reveals his best practice advice and key considerations for perfect Wi-Fi…

There are two types of event organisers out there. If you like a sales person to sell you Wi-Fi, you give them some deadlines and expect that to be it, this article probably isn’t for you. However, if you expect your Wi-Fi provider to be part of the team and work together read on…

Me personally? I’m a team player; we are all here for the same thing, to put on a great event. I get to work with some really professional and lovely people, and I enjoy the job I do. However, there are a few things that regularly I try to get across to help us provide the best service we can and I thought maybe it’s time to share them here.

Planning
The bigger your requirement, the more planning time is needed. I say requirement rather than event size because bandwidth is the key here. The speed of the incoming Internet feed dictates a lot for a site build. Getting a dedicated fibre in can take nine months in a difficult location. With smaller requirements, the amount of time we have before event can make a significant difference on the price you pay.

Build schedule
We get forgotten! To install your Internet, we need the structures up, power on, concessions in, and access everywhere. So often we see the power deadline pushed to just before doors open, but we need that power on for us to start building. Now OK, I am realistic, I understand that time is money, so we will work together, but please remember the above and write in some time for us. Usually, we can build the site as areas are completed but the full test can’t happen before the site is complete.

Requirements
Related to planning really – tell us what is needed at each area in advance. We will build the network to suit the requirements. If you chirp up last minute and say you want do multiple live streams in a remote location that previously only had a card machine, expect a frosty reception. Where the speed requirements are low, we may use a wireless link, and bigger requirements may need copper or fibre.

Fibre vs copper around site
I’m not talking here about the incoming feed to site, I’m talking about how the Internet gets around the site. Many organisers have a belief that fibre around site will make the Wi-Fi magical and super-fast. Fibre has its place, but if the incoming Internet connection is a slow copper ADSL line, fibre is no use to you. If you do have a fast incoming line or a large CCTV deployment, then fibre is useful for long distance runs more than 80 metres. Remember if a fibre is damaged mid-event then it’s a 40 minute repair (and that’s assuming it’s not windy or raining!). A copper repair can be done in five minutes and sometimes even a temporary repair without tools.

I’m sure many of my colleagues in the industry have more items to add to the list, if you are one of them reading now drop me an email and maybe I’ll compile an online list for our amusement. If you are an event organiser, talk to us, have a real discussion about what you want the end product to be and take our advice on how to get there.