Setting up wi-fi on a crowded trade-show/convention floor?
March 17, 2011 5:28 PM   Subscribe

Setting up wi-fi on a crowded trade-show/convention floor?

For work I have been asked to sort out network access for use at trade shows. Ideally, it will be for 100+ wireless users.
My main concern is how to deal with a crowded wifi spectrum on a floor where I have no control over the neighbours.
I will probably be able to get a single wired link to the stand. The priority is reliability, performance is important and budget is flexible if it delivers a good solution.
The link will be used by authenticated users, not the general population, with a browser based app.
I am thinking of using 5.8GHz gear (less congestion than 2.4?) and directional antennae around the perimeter of the large stand pointing inward.
Any suggestions or pointers on where to get ideas would be welcome.
I won't have an opportunity to test the setup in a congested environment until the show opens, so any real world tested solutions would be favoured.
posted by bystander to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
At most trade shows I've worked at the venue offers wifi and you may be contractually prohibited from running your own gear. You should check your contract first.
posted by GuyZero at 5:54 PM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

That's my understanding as well, GuyZero.
posted by cjets at 5:59 PM on March 17, 2011

Best answer: Not what you want, but: don't even try.

If you plus everyone else at the trade show is trying to offer wireless, that plus cellphones and every other portable wifi hotspot you can buy now basically means you can expect it to be a disaster. Even Apple had a problem with this, demoing Facetime at a keynote, and you can assume that their budget for attempting to solve this problem was basically infinite.

Find some way to sell your product that caches everything locally and stages it ahead of time, because all the people trying to provide wireless access are going to look pretty chumpy in comparison.
posted by mhoye at 6:01 PM on March 17, 2011

If despite the good advice not to, you decide to try anyway, don't broadcast your SSiD. It won't keep your traffic from adding to the spectrum oversaturation, but it will keep clients from overwhelming your APs.

If the venue or show has Wi-Fi provided and money is no object, see if they'll create an SSID for you that piggybacks on their infrastructure. You can then pay them for some level of QoS and argue afterwards about how badly they failed and if it is their fault.
posted by Mad_Carew at 6:25 PM on March 17, 2011

Best answer: It's aimed at a slightly different problem (providing access for large numbers of people at tech conferences), but this ServerFault question has some answers that are relevant to your situation.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 1:07 AM on March 18, 2011

Best answer: In the spirit of trying to be helpful, if you are allowed to do this I think a single access point placed at the top of your booth would probably be sufficient vs doing some fancy antenna setup. Also, I agree that 5GHz 802.11a would be better than 2.4 GHz for avoiding interference, assuming your client devices support it.

That's a lot of devices so you may be forced to do multiple access points but now you're into industrial-grade 802.11 deployments and I'm no longer helpful, sorry. But if you want to try one AP I'd go with something commercial like a cisco and not just a vanilla linksys or whatever.
posted by GuyZero at 7:41 AM on March 18, 2011

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