Another large tech conference means another barrage of news reports and complaints from attendees about how the Wi-Fi service sucked. CNN reports:
There were dozens of Wi-Fi networks at this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. But with more than 60,000 people in attendance, the systems were so overloaded that there may as well have been one landline connection with a 56k modem . . . Areas marked “free Wi-Fi here” often had no or painfully slow connections. Demonstrations from Microsoft, Google, Intel, Yahoo, Hewlett-Packard and Research In Motion, among others, became comical when the presenters were unable to connect even to their own networks. Average peak usage reached about 3,200 devices managing to connect simultaneously to Cisco’s 110 access points.
Eric Schmidt, Google’s CEO, remarked, “That’s the problem with networking conventions. Everyone is on the network.”
Actually having everyone on the network is NOT the problem. The problem lies with who’s in charge of the Wi-Fi network and in this case, the culprit is the event organizer itself. When Cisco asked the event organizer if they could install more access points to handle the huge traffic, the organizer limited the availability of the free network to 10 percent of locations at the conference (because the organizer wanted people to pay for WiFi access). That was a huge mistake. So large numbers of people began congregating around the areas where there was free WiFi. According to the CNN story, “the press room access point, designed to supply connections to 200 clients, had 700 people accessing the network.”
See these articles debunking the myths surrounding why Wi-Fi sucks and how to ensure conference attendees have a Wi-Fi experience:
(1) Why Conference Wi-Fi Sucks and How to Improve It: interview with wireless network engineer, Tim Pozar, who has deployed successful Wi-Fi networks at conferences such as TechCrunch 2009, Intel Developers Forum and more. These conferences have lots of geeks using smartphones, laptops and iPads simultaneously.
(2) NYT Biffs It on Wi-Fi Conference Overload (by Glenn Fleishman)