If your property is still making due with internet service that hasn’t been upgraded within the last several years, you could be heading for trouble. As you’ve undoubtedly noticed, meetings require more and more bandwidth, and the demand for broadband will only continue to increase. Delegates today come to meetings with not just one, but often two or three devices that can devour your property’s internet capacity quickly if you haven’t adequately planned your infrastructure.
IACC’s latest Meeting Room of the Future Report pointed out that high-speed broadband internet connections and Wi-Fi access throughout a conference venue are no longer “nice-to-have” but instead are “essential.” Whether your venue is one that accommodates meetings of a hundred or several thousand attendees, one thing is certain: you need to match your bandwidth to your guest’s demands or risk losing business.
Top broadband hogs at meetings
What are some of the top internet demands of today’s meetings? In addition to the growing need for broadband access to accommodate a variety of multi-media presentations, large screens and live broadcasting, conference and meeting attendees are demanding access to high-speed Wi-Fi throughout the day. Using email, social media and live streaming of video on multiple devices are just a few of the reasons why. Here’s a breakdown:
What you need to know about broadband
As the demand for broadband continues to increase, you need to be prepared to answer specific questions from meeting planners and delegates about the type of infrastructure offered and bandwidth delivered by your property. In some cases, you may even be requested to provide written guarantees about your broadband offering. It’s important that you understand some basic terms about how internet service is delivered in order to provide informed answers or make any assurances.
Broadband speed. Images, videos and web pages are sent over the internet as small pieces of data called packets. The speed of these packets traveling across the network is measured in megabits per second (mbps). Broadband technology can move packets back and forth much faster than dial-up access with a modem and phone lines, or DSL (which uses traditional copper phone lines). You should be prepared to discuss specific broadband speeds at various locations on your property. Typically, a faster speed is expected in meeting rooms than in lounges or even guest rooms, for example. Wondering how much speed a meeting will require? Use IACC broadband estimator to find out.
Download and upload speed. Broadband speed is generally measured in two components: upload and download speed. Download is the speed of getting information from the web to your device, and upload speed is the reverse. While download speed is often given a priority, upload speed is also important in meetings for video conferencing, sharing large files online, interactive learning, and applications that use HD imaging, such as many gaming applications or medical imaging systems. A typical video conference system, for example, may require 3-5 mbps of upload and .5 mbps download speed. You can check the upload and download speeds of your internet connection using a service such as this broadband speed checker.
Dedicated bandwidth. Bandwidth refers to the volume of information that can be sent over the network at any particular moment. Bandwidth can be shared or dedicated. Shared is what most people have at home – with the volume of data transfer being dependent upon the level of demand from other users in the neighborhood at any particular time. However, for meetings and events, shared bandwidth is generally not acceptable. Meeting planners are going to want to know how much bandwidth you can dedicate to their event. You need to be able to provide precise answers, and in some cases, even guarantee it in writing.
Access points. One question you can expect is how many access points your network has, and how many devices each one can support. You might even be asked for a floorplan showing access points so planners can arrange a room in a way that ensures presenters have preferred access to Wi-Fi via virtual partitions, or access to a wired or dedicated router. As part of your infrastructure planning, you should consider how to best allocate bandwidth across your property. You want the exhibitors in the corners to have as strong a signal as those in the middle of a room.
Signal strength. This is not the same thing as bandwidth, or speed. It refers to the quality of a broadcasted connection when it reaches a device. The signal strength can be affected by location in a room, number of routers and whether or not you have a Wi-Fi booster (a device that increases the Wi-Fi signal strength through the facility).
Latency. Sometimes, depending on the level of traffic or type of infrastructure, there can be delays in packet travel across the network. This kind of time lag is called latency. High latency can be a problem with applications that require real-time back-and-forth communication, such as online phone calls, video conferencing, or gaming. You can prevent latency, or lag, by ensuring adequate bandwidth and access points for the number of conference attendees expected and by testing your speeds.
Wireless interference. Mobile phones, especially Apple products that are continuously transmitting, and other wireless routers can cause interference with a Wi-Fi signal. One solution is to ask attendees to turn off devices when not in use (or put them into “airplane” mode). To be safe, it’s best if all presentations are hosted on a wired connection, or have a dedicated signal.
Digital Density. Even with dedicated bandwidth for an event, it’s important to keep in mind that Wi-Fi is a shared medium among the attendees. The digital density, or number of devices on the system, can affect performance. It’s a good idea to ask how many devices each attendee will be bringing, when gauging the amount of bandwidth needed for an event. Some event planners make this question part of the registration process, along with asking what mobile phone carriers attendees use. This isn’t meant to be invasive, but rather, a way to ensure that proper signals are available to each delegate.
Distributed antenna system (DAS). Mobile phone signals can be adversely affected by a variety of elements in the environment. To prevent guests from experiencing signal interference in a large building, or one with stone or cement walls, some forward-thinking properties install a distributed antenna system (DAS). A DAS is like an in-building cell tower and can boost data connectivity for users by amplifying carriers’ signals.
Questions to be ready to answer
As the expectations for internet connectivity at meetings continues to increase, meeting planners and event managers are more likely to ask detailed questions or have very specific broadband requirements. You should be prepared to help them check these questions off their lists.
- Can you offer dedicated broadband and Wi-Fi for our meeting attendees?
- How big is the pipeline and how it is divided within the property?
- Can you provide a map of the facility’s broadband access points?
- Do you charge for internet service per guest, per device, or based on consumption?
- Who manages the bandwidth, and will someone be available on-site if any issues arise?
- How many concurrent IP requests can you handle at any given point?
- Will you provide information about the meeting’s bandwidth usage after the event?
Get your property ready
Making sure your property, and your internet, is up to speed takes careful planning as well as a willingness to invest in your future. When planning upgrades, consider installing the latest fiber-optic lines and Wi-Fi signal boosters to support the fastest levels of broadband service available. Your competition may well be boasting speeds over 400 Mbps up and down. You don’t want to be left in the dust.
So how much bandwidth do you need? What sort of infrastructure is best for your property? IACC’s new Guide to Conference & Meetings Internet has all the answers. Download your free copy today to get answers to questions such as:
- How to determine your property’s Wi-Fi needs
- How much to charge for internet connectivity at meetings
- How to estimate how much bandwidth you’ll need
In addition, you’ll find a discussion of the types of conversations you should have with meeting planners about their events’ internet needs, as well as guidelines for bandwidth requirements of various activities ranging from email and video conferencing to hosting multiple simultaneous presenters. The guide will help you plan your property’s internet infrastructure updates, negotiate pricing and decide how much to charge for the services you provide.