Meeting Planner’s Basic Guide to Wi-Fi and Bandwidth Terminology
Dec 12, 2012 by DeDe Mulligan

bandwidthEveryone has heard the terms Wi-Fi, bandwidth, Internet browsing and video streaming. And you know these capabilities are important to the attendee, speaker and exhibitor. The problem is the process to deliver these offerings is complex and the terminology is well…technical. However, understanding the basic premise and terms of Wi-Fi and bandwidth will go a long way to determining your meeting needs as you look toward 2013 and beyond. 

This blog will define the terms Wi-Fi, Bandwidth and Mb/s, and why they are important when estimating your data load on the network.  

What is Wi-Fi? 

Wi-Fi is a wireless local area network that allows any electronic device to exchange data wirelessly over a computer network such as a high-speed Internet connection. A device that uses Wi-Fi in a meeting is a laptop, tablet, smartphone or computer kiosk connected to the network via an access point. 

What is Bandwidth? 

Bandwidth is the maximum data transfer rate for the Wi-Fi network. Think of it like a pipe — if it is narrow and you are trying to transport a high volume of data such as video, the pipe is going to backup (buffer) or explode (go down). However, if you have a large pipe, many packets of data can go through it with multiple users and the transmission of data is much faster. 

Bandwidth can be shared or dedicated.

Shared is exactly that, it is what the hotel or conference center has set aside for use by any guest or meeting attendee. Shared bandwidth is not very secure and is not in control of the event meeting services company with regards to its use. 

Dedicated bandwidth, which can be provided to you when you rent Wi-Fi network array, is guaranteed for your use only and is recommended when you have a large meeting and/or when information shared at the meeting is sensitive or confidential. 

What is Mb/s? 

This is an acronym that stands for Megabits per second. It breaks down this way:

Mega = Millions
Bit = Smallest Unit of Data

For example, if your Wi-Fi network can transfer 100 Mb/s, that means it can transfer 100,000,000 pieces of data per second over your bandwidth. 

It is important to know and verify what speed you should expect. Although this is more of an art than a science, a good conference equipment rental company should be able to give you an estimate based on the number, type(s) and uses of the computing equipment. 

APEX has a Bandwidth Estimator which can be a start for the amount of Mb/s you will need for your event. But remember this is only an estimation and you will need to work with a qualified provider to be assured of the right configuration.  

WiFi Evaluation Recap – 

When evaluating Wi-Fi use with attendees, you need to determine: 

  • How much bandwidth they will use for your meeting
  • What they will use to access it (smartphones, iPads, tablets and/or laptops) and 
  • What level of service is acceptable to them

When evaluating a venue's Wi-Fi system, you need to ask:

  • How much bandwidth is available for your event?
  • How is it managed (shared versus dedicated)?
  • Who manages it?
  • What is the age of the system?

Is your head still spinning from all this terminology? If so, contact AV Event Solutions! They offer Wi-Fi network arrays and the technical expertise to walk you through the best solution for your meeting. Give them a call today and check out their Wi-Fi tips on Facebook

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