An end to dodgy conference WiFi?

Picture this. You’ve arrived at one of the most important conferences for your business. All the major players in your industry will be there. Perhaps you’re presenting, perhaps you’re exhibiting, perhaps you’re just planning on networking. Either way, it’s one of the biggest events in your calendar…and the WiFi isn’t working properly.

Whether it’s overloaded by the crowds, unable to reach into every area of the premises, or simply doesn’t offer high enough bandwidth to cope with the data-rich applications which are critical to business today, it’s simply not good enough.

Which is why we welcome the news that the UK government has pledged £250k to tackle the problem. Somewhat unusually, it has been offered in the form of a competition. Conference centres and other venues with the facilities to host conferences will compete to apply for funding to improve their connectivity infrastructures, with the overall aim to encourage more international business events to take place in the UK.

WiFi: a winning difference

Top-quality WiFi can make or break the experience of a business event. Increasingly powerful smartphones, tablets and laptops mean that mobile working is no longer just about being able to access one’s emails and write up the odd report. Professionals across every sector expect to be able to access core business data and specialist applications wherever they are. And at conferences, whether attending a round table, participating in a workshop or simply networking, there are myriad contexts where attendees want to be able to browse websites, update social media, register for further events and activities, and participate in polls, surveys and even games. Most conferences now have custom apps, and these run and depend on WiFi, especially for those travelling internationally. WiFi is the foundation upon which all of these activities sit, and its absence or unreliability quickly becomes an enormous nuisance.

Furthermore, because WiFi is so integral to the experience of conference attendees, it is also integral to attracting investment for those conferences. Major organisations are far more likely to spend on sponsorship and agree to high-profile speaking opportunities when they know the infrastructure is in place for a truly engaging and innovative attendee experience. In many sectors, powerful WiFi is vital to enable presenters to share their findings or predictions in an interactive or creative way. A WiFi gateway, where all attendees have to log in through, is also an incredibly valuable sponsorship tool in its own right and can offer very lucrative results for sponsors.

The challenges of scale

The core challenges of delivering high-quality WiFi at conferences are the physical premises – which may be particularly sprawling and complex, and therefore difficult to ensure consistent coverage throughout – and the sheer dynamism of the user base. With thousands or tens of thousands of attendees moving through the space every day, and masses of different users attempting to join and leave the WiFi at every event, WiFi for conference venues needs to be superbly elastic and scalable.

This challenge is one with which Curve IT is extremely familiar. We ensure every job we do has in-depth ‘WiFi Assurance’, which means we can accurately confirm how good WiFi is in a venue through scans and reporting, as well as the design of the network overall. Delivering robust, reliable and high-bandwidth WiFi in premises which have to deal with thousands of visitors every day is something we achieve for numerous different clients – including, recently, the refurbished Wagner Hall in Brighton. We have ensured that super-fast connectivity is available throughout the venue – benefiting staff, visitors, and businesses using the space also.

As the importance of conference WiFi becomes better-recognised by venues up and down the country, we look forward to seeing more innovative approaches to delivering high-speed, high-bandwidth and highly resilient connectivity – and being part of more projects ourselves.