Challenges in public Wi-Fi deployment

October 30, 2014

Major events from music festivals to sporting competition brings together people from all walks of life looking to immerse themselves in a once-in-a-lifetime experience.While watching Rock music concerts, many rockers click on their camera phones to capture shots, before uploading them to social media sites to share their experiences with friends and  families’ back home and of course those of us who don’t attend.This has fuelled the adoption of smartphones with integrated camera functions which is predicted to reach 1.75 billion by end of December this year.The changing consumer behaviour has led to a strong demand for Wi-Fi Hotspots in public venues including corporate and private meetings.Events not only bring different people together, but also a testimony to some of the latest technological solutions. The traditional distributed antenna systems are an excellent solution for voice systems in most public venues are easily overloaded with data traffic, especially in high human traffic areas in our data-centric societies. Factors to consider for public Wi-Fi deployment include the network design and the choice of equipment such as the nature of the venue, required capacity and number of Wi-Fi access points.

As each sports arena’s structure is different, the availability of vertical assets would determine if integrated or directional antennas are more appropriate to achieve the desired coverage across all public seating areas.AP deployment must be properly planned as more APs also create more interference, thus careful planning and design is required to mitigate these radio wave interference in high-density environments.Required capacity should also be considered because expected demands can differ. Also proper installation and the use of carrier class equipment as well as proper tools to measure and report on network performance.Interfering networks which usually involve wireless networks put in by TV broadcasters and a possibility of other rogue wireless networks must also be considered. According to an expert I spoke to recently, the distributed antenna system is where radio energy carries voice and data throughout very large buildings and partially enclosed structures. It can be used to boost WiFi coverage at large venues and deal with poor coverage by installing a network of relatively small antennas throughout a building. It can support multiple service providers and wireless technologies making it a very versatile and scalable network solution. With almost every event attendant or spectators owning a smartphone and constantly uploading photos and videos to their preferred social network, it has become necessary for such public venues to add a new access network to cater to these growing smartphones consumers and customers.

In National Basketball Association games that kicked off 2014-2015 season this week, WiFi seems to have become the best choice to the venues and expectations for a reliable and powerful WiFi performance.However, many challenges surround the success of Wi-Fi deployment among sports arenas even in developed countries like Canada, Australia and United States.This according to the expert is that they are amongst the most difficult locations imaginable due to the requirement for both very high performance and very high density.This is especially so for NBA games where reliable, high-speed wireless data service must be delivered to appease thousands spectators given the extremely high visibility that came with attending one of the most popular sport in United States as witnessed when Le Bron James and co lost to New York Knicks in Cleveland in their season opener.For sport events like NBA, stable Wi-Fi access and secure connectivity are other key prerequisites in order to support its Verification and Information System, which ensures that only accredited personnel are allowed entry into controlled areas, and Game Management System, which provides competition-related information such as scheduling, transportation and real-time scoring updates.

Contador Harrison