By Tia Crawford

In light of the 2014 complaint against Marriott regarding Wi-Fi blocking, Event Planners and Event Managers are looking for ways to ensure the best possible Internet connections for their guests, while also avoiding outrageous hotel network service charges that blow their budgets. As we become more dependent upon the information and connections that our devices and the Internet provide, Wi-Fi service has become a vital utility for events, and now it’s the center of an important debate.

In October 2014, the Federal Communications Commission fined Marriott International $600,000 for intentionally jamming Wi-Fi connections for some of its customers.  In this situation, the hotel chain claimed that its actions were motivated out of security—that it intended to protect its network and its customers from cyber-attacks. However, on the flip side, customers believed that the hotel’s actions were designed to force users to access the Internet through the hotel’s wireless network—resulting in additional revenue for the hotel from the hefty fees that it charges for this service.

How can Event Planners get Great Network Coverage at a Great Price?

As hotels are debating with the FCC over this important issue, Event Managers still have meetings, conventions, and trade shows in the works.  They need to have excellent network coverage for their attendees, and they need to have the costs under control.

SmartSource Rentals Account Executive Andrew Bassin has this suggestion:

“At trade shows and conferences, hotels can charge $250 per day for a single IP address. There’s really nothing you can do—whether working in an office or at a conference—you’re stuck! There’s a captive audience, a captive facility, and there’s no other company or provider that’s allowed to come in.  However, we recently started supporting and enhancing the venue’s network (and limiting the venue’s charges) by supplementing with a new product. Cradlepoint makes a modem that creates a Wi-Fi connection from a cellular 4G signal, so it bypasses infrastructure.”

According to the manufacturer, the cellular modem allows Event Managers to:

  • Use the integrated 3G/4G wireless modem as the primary connection or as failover from a wired connection.
  • Create secondary networks to simplify PCI compliance, video surveillance, digital signs, and kiosks.
  • Load balance across multiple wired and wireless connections when additional bandwidth is required.

Affordable Access to the Internet through 4G Cellular Technology

Bassin was able to dramatically cut costs of the hotel network prices by working with a Las Vegas-based company called 4G4RENT, which provides the AV industry with affordable Internet access through 4th generation cellular technology.  He said, “Super-large conferences, 2000 people or more, always have back offices and breakout rooms that need Wi-Fi. Rather than spending $5,000 to provide the hotel’s Internet option, we spend only a couple hundred. Furthermore, we have done it as a sponsorship with a custom splash page. Upon login, users were taken to the sponsor’s page first—keeping it simple and giving the sponsor a chance to collect a little data upon logins.”

“Yes, you can create a hotspot with your phone or with mobile Wi-Fi, but that option is just for a couple devices—it’s very limited. The cellular modem is a great option for supplementing Wi-Fi, as well as for generating a wireless network.”