Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

March 31 2014

What The Next Generation Of Wi-Fi Means For Your Meeting

By David McMillin


More organizations are embracing BYOD policies. More mobile companies are launching new devices. As technology transforms the way we live and work, meeting professionals are working to satisfy a new wave of attendees who demand to be connected every minute of every day — everywhere they go.

Will those demands continue to increase? Where will Wi-Fi go in the future? How should planners be preparing? Here’s a look at what tomorrow holds for Wi-Fi pricing and usage.

The number of hand-held devices can only climb so high.

Sure, it seems like each attendee brings another device with them each year, but Matt Harvey, vice president, client network services, PSAV, believes that trend can only continue for so long.

“I think the number of devices people carry will stabilize,” Harvey says. “Eventually people will reach a limit of what they can tolerate carrying.”

The number of smartphones and tablets may level off, but Harvey highlights that planners should keep an eye on wearable technologies. While everyone won’t be looking through Google Glass tomorrow, more attendees will grow comfortable with putting similar technologies on their heads and around their wrists.

SEE ALSO: 5 Reasons Why Free Wi-Fi Might Not Be The Best Deal

The amount of bandwidth has no boundaries.

Reaching a peak in the number of devices doesn’t translate to finding the ceiling in the amount of usage.

“Despite the number of devices stabilizing, the amount of bandwidth consumed will continue to will increase as content gets richer and we find new ways to engage audience with mobile apps, social media and especially video,” Harvey says.

SEE ALSO: Top 10 Tips For Evaluating Facility Wi-Fi

Pricing may be a bit more appealing.

Harvey expects the cost per Mb/s of bandwidth will fall slowly over time.

“For example, this year’s price for 30 megabits per second might be next year’s price for 40 megabits per second,” Harvey says.

Still, don’t expect the potential decrease to make Wi-Fi a cheaper line in your budget.

“Bandwidth consumption is going up faster than costs are falling, and more aspects of meetings are starting to rely heavily on good quality Wi-Fi,” Harvey says.

Harvey adds that the wave 2 enhancement for 802.11ac Wi-Fi carries huge potential for the delivery of video and enabling elements such as second screen content, replaying missed sessions on a mobile device and improved collaboration tools.

Data will be a planner’s best friend.

While reports of the entire bandwidth usage of the event have become more commonplace, Harvey says Wi-Fi analytics are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Planners are beginning to be able to review reports of how many wireless devices were connected to the network at any given time.

“The availability of that reporting is still a bit spotty across the industry,” Harvey says. “It varies by provider, not by hotel brand. More of us are offering them, and planners can expect to see more of them in the future.”

SEE ALSO: How Big Data Makes Meetings Smarter

Mobile carries big costs for hotels.

By 2018, Cisco predicts that 64 percent of mobile data will be transmitted via Wi-Fi. This exponential leap carries significant cost implications for every property that welcomes attendees.

“For hoteliers, this means more strain on existing networks and the need for continuous reinvestment in the latest standards,” Harvey says. “The way we use the hotel networks will need to evolve to keep up with technology that expects to be online all the time.”

Regardless of what’s next, Harvey reminds planners that there is one crucial element to understand the evolution of Wi-Fi.

“Find a way to educate yourself so you know your meeting fits within the Wi-Fi capabilities of the venue,” Harvey says. “It’s the best way to assure yourself that you won’t end up with a broken event and that you won’t pay more than you need for your connectivity.”

Looking for more information on the current state of Wi-Fi? Click here for helpful tips on how to keep your connectivity costs low.

This educational article was brought to you by MGM Resorts International. Click here to learn more about how MGM can help you bring an unforgettable experience to life for your attendees.

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