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Spectrum Crusaders

There is one thing that can challenge even the best designed wireless networks; interference. That is, the transmission of competing networks attempting to broadcast at the same time on the same frequency. At the risk of turning this blog into to a science paper we’ll keep it light, but it is interesting to note that we have been in several meetings over the past few weeks where the delivery of Wi-Fi networks has been challenging due to the amount of interference.

As venues and events deploy wireless networks that become ever more critical to delegates, press, production and exhibitors, interference is the elephant in the room. Managing rogue access points, or those using their own solutions is imperative in reducing interference, and ensuring that those who are trying to use Wi-Fi networks in the same place can do so.

Understanding the limitations

Wi-Fi technology is designed to communicate over a number of common frequencies. This allows smartphones, laptops and other client devices to know how to communicate with access points and each other. Within this frequency there are a defined number of channels, similar to the number of lanes on a motorway. The more channels or lanes you have, the more simultaneous networks you can have in operation. 2.4G Hz Wi-Fi networks have significantly less channels than 5GHz networks.

Spectrum Crusaders

The spectrum crusaders ride to their next rogue access point

Setting expectations

Just like expectations on stand power (i.e. would exhibitors expect to bring their own petrol generator into an indoor venue?), there should be guidelines for use of wireless technology. Those who do not follow the rules should appreciate that their equipment may be turned off since their configuration could potentially impact those around them trying to access and fully utilise the ‘in house’ Wi-Fi. This can be as simple as a form which is completed as part of the contract which asks a few simple questions about which channel their wireless equipment will be broadcasting from.

Watching the air & taking action

Once the expectations have been set, wireless scanners can be used to ensure the agreements are being followed and that those who are causing interference are located. In areas where others are complaining about service, it will be quickly evident who isn’t playing fair. This was carried out during the Olympics and was commonly accepted by exhibitors because the expectations had been set.

One wire to rule them all

Many venues would also suggest that exhibitors who need a ‘guaranteed’ service should have a wired connection and that is absolutely correct. In addition to interference, some wireless chips are better than others and some devices just have bad days, so if the device supports a cable and it’s practical to do so, then this is highly advised. However, as more and more demonstrations rely on tablet computers (especially with the new Microsoft Surface launch), wireless will be considered critical to some stands.

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