We have all been at a conference or meeting where we have experienced that infamous circle on the top of our smartphone screen or a statement that says “still loading” on our tablet device. And while we are checking our mobile device every few seconds to see if that important email was sent to the home office, we start cursing the venue or planner for making our Wi-Fi experience suck.
But what if it isn’t their fault? What if the blame lies with other attendees or exhibitors?
Welcome to MiFi hell. These little personal Wi-Fi networks are wreaking havoc on meetings. I will explain what MiFi is, why it is a problem and what meeting planners can proactively do to help keep their attendees’ Wi-Fi connection in tact.
MiFi is a wireless routers that acts as a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot. MiFi stands for “My Wi-Fi”. A MiFi device can be connected to a cell phone carrier and provide Internet access for up to 10 devices. The MiFi works at a distance up to 30 feet and will provide Internet access to any WiFi-enabled peripheral device.
WHY MIFI IS A PROBLEM
Think about your venue’s bandwidth as a pipe that transports water. Even with a large pipe, if the water is coming in like a flood, the pipe will either burst or back up. In this scenario, people who are lucky enough to get water will experience a greatly reduced flow because the pipe is now under tremendous stress.
Same thing with bandwidth. The venue has a certain sized pipe to transport data through it. If the data is complex, such as video, the pipe is going to start to slow down. And if people use a MiFi device (of which the planner was not expecting when projecting their Wi-Fi needs), the pipe will start to backup (page loading, circles) or just come crashing down all together (Internet connections are not available).
In addition, if the MiFi device runs on a different radio frequency than the rest of the Internet, it can actually interfere or jam the signal of the main router and cause the system to come to a crawl.
WHAT PLANNERS CAN DO
At IMEX America in Las Vegas last October, they asked attendees and exhibitors to refrain from bringing and using their MIFI devices while they were at the event. This is certainly one way to try and curtail this problem but with over 4,500 attendees and exhibitors present, I am guessing it was difficult to monitor this activity.
If you are unsure about basic Wi-Fi and Bandwidth terms, check out the following resources:
- Meeting Planner’s Basic Guide to Wi-Fi and Bandwidth Terminology
- Use the APEX bandwidth estimator.
After evaluation of the venue’s bandwidth capabilities, access points and the number of MiFI devices you think may be present at your event, consider renting a Wi-Fi Network Array rental unit. This unit can significantly boost your bandwidth and provide your organization with additional access points.
How are you handling MiFi devices at your meeting? How are you dealing with this challenge? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.
AV Event Solutions and SmartSource Rentals are ever ready to help solve your Wi-Fi issues at your next meeting, event or trade show. Give them a call at 888.249.4903 (if you are event planning in California) or 800.888.8686 for the rest of the country!