The Brighton Centre is one of the largest conference and event spaces in the UK, and the largest of its kind in the South. With a capacity to house over 5,000, the space is recognisable as the home of political party conferences, the last of which was the Labour Party Conference, which was last held there in autumn 2019, as well as being a popular venue for exhibitions, often held across multiple floors, and live music performances, with the centre hosting the likes of Noel Gallagher, Paloma Faith and Emilie Sande in 2018 alone.
As such an integral part of Brighton’s political, entertainment and business sectors, it is a vital need that connectivity and WiFi coverage is not only reliable, but extensive across the entire building.
The centre is owned and run solely by Brighton & Hove City Council, and it is estimated that it generates over £50 million annually for the city.
Any event space thrives on a strong connectivity and WiFi network, but when you couple those needs with a venue that is consistently hosting high-profile events with several thousand visitors, it becomes a necessity.
When it came to connectivity, one of the main issues The Brighton Centre struggled with is the building itself. As it was built in the 1960s, it was not built with WiFi in mind, and there are many thick walls and expanses of steel that hinder connectivity. This is particularly challenging during exhibitions or conferences, when activity can take place across multiple rooms and different levels.
The team at the centre were getting increasingly frustrated at the rate of the network ‘dropping out’ and the frequency of WiFi blackspots throughout the vast building. With events like party conferences on the centre’s calendar, it became vital that they found a solution that was reliable, consistent and adaptable to the venue’s needs.
As the requirement of delegates increased, with many users looking to access the network to use social media and stream content live, the WiFi system became more and more unstable, and after a nearly disastrous event the Business Manager enlisted the help of Curve IT, who were on site within 30 minutes, armed with quick fixes, before eventually taking over the network. A big issue the existing network had was the fact that several companies had been involved in the set up and maintenance which meant it had become complex and at times confusing, impacting its overall performance.
A Robust Wifi Solution
From the initial conversations, The Brighton Centre knew that they needed a solution that was wide-reaching, reliable and also scalable, due to the variety and ever-changing nature of the events held at the venue.
After surveying the structure, it was clear that several parts of the building were hindering the smooth connection for staff, visitors and delegates. Due to the amount of thick walls and steel, receivers had to be placed in strategic positions across the building in order for a seamless connection. Several areas proved to be trickier due to the thickness of the walls, including the entrances into the main space, as the thickness is around three feet.
Using the gigabit leased line broadband connection into the building, Curve helped the centre implement a full network overhaul, which involved both the hardware and software needed to deliver the desired IT infrastructure. The Brighton Centre swapped the ageing Cisco system for a more advanced network using high grade equipment provided by Ruckus. This high-end network equipment is designed to deliver robust and reliable connectivity in professional environments and also enables the network to be adaptable and scalable for the centre’s needs. For example, for The Labour Party Conference 2019, the centre added additional receivers and bandwidth, in order to accommodate the large number of delegates, who all required high-speed, consistent connectivity.
Another important element that the team were able to address was the probability of a broadband outage. This can happen for any number of reasons, and can be incredibly frustrating and damaging, especially to a venue like the Brighton Centre. Thus having just a mainline connection into the building was not enough. In order to offset any disruption caused by broadband outages, Curve installed a back-up point-to-point network, which was linked to the Brighton Centre via a receiver dish on the roof of the building. This is designed to act as a fall back network, meaning that the venue will never be without a high-speed, consistent internet connection.
A Connectivity Revolution
The Brighton Centre noticed an immediate change in WiFi connectivity and networking speed, with areas that used to be blackspots receiving full coverage. Staff, delegates and regular visitors have noticed a huge increase in connectivity availability and reliability, which was previously unheard of, especially in the main venue hall. This included the centre’s WiFi receiving particular praise from Sky News’s Adam Boulton during one of the recent party conferences.
This connectivity is also matched in other areas of the building, something which is particularly useful during exhibitions that can take place across several floors, with devices connecting automatically to the nearest WiFi hotspot.
Speaking about the development of the network, Ian Hardy, the current buildings manager for Brighton Centre, said: “The new network has revolutionised the way we do things at The Brighton Centre, and has no doubt contributed to the success of the venue in recent years.”
“Because of the age and size of the building, a decent network always seemed like a pipedream, but since we’ve had the improved network technology in place, we have had virtually no issues.”