An Introduction: What Does Wi-Fi Bandwidth Mean?
In computer networks, bandwidth is used as a synonym for data transfer rate, the amount of data that can be carried from one point to another in a given time period. Network bandwidth speed is usually measured in the millions of bits per second (megabits per second, or Mbps). Your Wi-Fi bandwidth determines how many devices - smartphones, tablets, laptops, etc. - can be used concurrently inside meeting rooms and public areas without interference. The speed of a device's internet is ultimately influenced by the bandwidth of the internet connection used. You additionally have to consider sharing that connection with everyone else on the wireless network (splitting the internet resources) and what type of activities will be pulling from the Wi-Fi.
Overall Bandwidth Suggestion
You will want to consider all of the below factors when planning for Wi-Fi at your event; each event will vary depending on its individual components. With that in mind, you will want to aim for ~5-10 megabit / second per device and plan for about 1.5x the amount of expected attendees. This should help support attendees with multiple devices at the event.
A Couple of Things to Consider
- Who is using the event's Wi-Fi at the event?
It may seem like a no-brainer, but the best place to begin when evaluating your wireless options is with the users themselves. Who is trying to connect at your event?
- In most instances, the people that will be looking to connect to event Wi-Fi are your attendees.
- You will also want to consider your speakers and presenters during the event. Will they be connecting to Wi-Fi during their lecture? Will you be displaying poll results or hosting a digital speaker Q&A during their presentation? Will you be broadcasting live video-streams of the event at any point?
- Finally, you will want to consider your exhibitors and vendors, if applicable. Will your exhibitors use Wi-Fi for their booth's display? Will they need Wi-Fi for live demos?
- What is the event's Wi-Fi being used for?
The amount of Wi-Fi used for the app also depends on how often your attendees are using the app and what they are doing in the app.
- Will you be utilizing gamification strategies at your event? Are you hosting large PDFs in the app? While our apps are rather lightweight, you will want to consider how you are encouraging your attendees to use the app. Usually activities such as posting to the activity feed, loading documents in the app, responding to survey/polls, or opening web views will pull more from the event's Wi-Fi than viewing the speaker details, checking the agenda, or scrolling through your list of exhibitors will.
- Because the initial download will take the most bandwidth, we usually encourage as many users as possible to download the app before they are onsite at the event. If you expect a lot of onsite registrants, you will want to consider app downloads on the first day of the event.
- Most likely, internet browsing and other activities outside of app usage are going to take up much more than the app will. If your attendees are checking their email, social media sites, or surfing the internet, they will be pulling much more from the Wi-Fi than if your drive attendee activity towards the app.
Below are some suggested questions for the venue’s IT Manager:
- Is there Wi-Fi in the meeting space? If so, who is the provider and what is the capacity of the Wi-Fi network?
- How many devices can be online at the same time before the system crashes?
- How much bandwidth will be dedicated to our meeting?
- Keep in mind that availability will vary when your event is actually in progress if other group activities are going on at the same time and/or if occupancy is high (if your event is hosted at a hotel's conference center, for example).
- What is the backup plan if the primary provider goes down? Do you have a distributed antenna system (DAS)?
- A note on DAS: cell phone signals are at the mercy of a variety of environmental factors. If you’ve ever had a great cell connectivity experience in a big building or underground, it was likely the result of a DAS. A DAS is like an in-building cell tower and, when properly installed, can boost data connectivity for users by amplifying carriers’ signals. If you’re lucky enough to have a venue with a DAS, make sure to find out what areas are covered and which carriers are participating. This can help bolster intermittent wifi issues.
Additional Reading: Offline Mode