In the first post of our series on meeting Wi-Fi, we broke down bandwidth and the myths around how much you actually need for your meetings. But without a quality infrastructure, bandwidth would never reach the devices – laptops, tablets, smartphones – that we all use. In this second part of our series, we’re looking at infrastructure and the questions you should be asking regarding this often-overlooked aspect of internet services.
At home, internet bandwidth arrives on a single cable, usually in the basement or somewhere else convenient for the cable guy. Then, to actually make use of the bandwidth, you need some electronics – at the very least, a Wi-Fi router. If you happen to have a larger home, you’ll know that the Wi-Fi router that comes with your cable subscription doesn’t cover the whole house, and more electronics (in the form of Wi-Fi boosters) are needed to make things work properly.
Internet infrastructure in a meeting or event venue is the same, although due to the size of the building and high numbers of people, we need significantly more electronics to make things happen. In fact, venues sometimes make the mistake of upgrading bandwidth without the infrastructure to deliver it, which results in a higher bandwidth bill for the venue but no better experience for the guest.
The most important aspects of infrastructure to understand are the wireless access points – we like to call them WAPs, for fun. Ironically enough, these aren’t wireless. These are cabled to the rest of the infrastructure and create the last “hop” wirelessly from themselves to and from your device.
There are two important aspects to understand about WAPs:
- How many there are in a space?
- How old they are?
Taken together, these two pieces of info determine the Wi-Fi capacity of the infrastructure or in other words, how many devices you can put in that space without overwhelming it. Often hidden for aesthetic purposes, it’s hard to know from a site visit how many WAPs there are or how old they are – so this is an important question! One of the easiest things you can do is ask for the access point layout diagram. Every venue should have one, and this will give you all the information you need.
The question I already hear you all asking next is, “OK then, how many WAPs are enough?” Well, like a lot of IT stuff, it depends. Fortunately, we’re here to help with that and other specific questions you may have, regardless of the venue you select.
- Ask for the AP layout diagram and the age of the access points. Your trusted techie will be able to make a call on whether the infrastructure will be able to support your needs.
- If you find inadequate infrastructure (or bandwidth) at the perfect venue for your next event – don’t worry! Both can be successfully augmented given a little advanced notice (and we’d be happy to help).
- Internet@psav.comwill answer all of your internet-related questions, regardless of venue.
This post is the first in a series on event internet from Matt Harvey, VP of Internet Services at PSAV
Internet is cited as one of the most challenging items in event planning and often leads to apprehension over using Wi-Fi dependent tech like polling, streaming, and audience engagement tools. Without the confidence that these tools will work, it’s hard to invest in their use and, in turn, this limits the meeting experience.
Connecting people is quite literally in PSAV’s purpose statement, so in this series, I’ll lift the lid on meeting Wi-Fi – focusing on how to buy with confidence and successfully connect and inspire your audience. For this post, the often-misunderstood concept of bandwidth is the focus.
Bandwidth is something we all know something about since we buy it for our homes. It makes sense to us that more bandwidth means we can do more “stuff” at once with the internet. But in an event setting, getting the balance right between too little (resulting in a poor experience) and too much (resulting in overpayment) bandwidth can be tough. In other words, how much is just enough?
Shared vs. Dedicated
The first thing to know is the difference between shared and dedicated bandwidth. You can watch our explainer video on that here. It’s only two minutes long, and we’ll be right here when you’re done.
Now that you know the difference, it’s important to note that the home internet is an example of shared bandwidth. In an effort to make us upgrade, the cable operators tell us that we need faster services for all our devices. “Ultimate Internet (up to) 300 Mbps suitable for 10 devices!” they say.
This type of marketing leads to confusion. If 300Mbps is good for 10 devices, then each device needs 30Mbps, right? Not so fast. Dedicated bandwidth is different. For large groups, we actually need less bandwidth than we otherwise might think, and in the dedicated bandwidth world of events, it’s easy to assume that the numbers are the same as the cable company marketing which leads to an overestimation of bandwidth needs.
Next time someone tells you they need 30Mbps each because that’s what they get at home, take a breath and remember there’s a calculator for that. This tool will give you a good starting point for attendee bandwidth needs.
What if a presenter requests a lot of bandwidth as part of their requirements? Chances are, the presenter is also thinking about shared bandwidth in-home internet terms. Have a conversation about the presenter’s intended use of the internet and include your trusted techie. Most everything a presenter will need to do from a presentation laptop can be done in less than 5Mbps.
- Use the bandwidth calculator to estimate your needs.
- Make sure your venues are providing bandwidth usage reports, showing your total bandwidth consumption over time. These will help you dial in on exactly what your needs truly are.
- If you are concerned about running out of bandwidth, consider pre-negotiating an optional on-site upgrade with the venue. If you need to use it, pull the trigger with the confidence that the additional cost is already understood.
- You can always email us at Internet@psav.com. We’ll answer all of your internet-related questions, regardless of venue.