Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio August
BY PAMELA BORST
WHEN A FACILITY IS NOT WIRED
How wireless technology can turn a barn into a high-tech
center for any event
Sometimes a venue is just too perfect for a planner to pass up,
even if the building does not have the technological infrastructure
required for many of today’s meetings. Advances in wireless
capabilities allow planners to bring the World Wide Web into just
about any gathering place.
Take, for instance, Grand Central Terminal in New York City. A
restaurant on the north balcony of the terminal, called Métrazur,
recently hosted the launch of Internet bank Claritybank.com. The
challenge was to provide high-speed Internet connectivity in the
historic terminal; it was accomplished using the latest in
high-speed wireless technology.
The most important starting point is still a wire, since wireless
access still needs to be connected somewhere. Two days before the
Grand Central event, the meeting planners realized that the
location could not support high-speed connectivity over standard
phone lines. Yet live Internet access was essential to demonstrate
the new Web site properly. The answer: A neighboring venue had a
permanent T-1 connection to the Internet. An Ethernet connection
was run via CAT-5 wiring from the T-1 to an 11-Mbps wireless local
area network (LAN) access point in Grand Central Terminal. This
solution provided Web access throughout the entire terminal, not
just to the north balcony.
This was the quick answer for one event, but in most cases,
planners and their production companies, working months in advance,
have time to run the appropriate phone line to the property,
whether it is a barn, a VFW hall or an outdated ballroom.
Once the wireless access point is in place, it transmits and
receives in the 2-gigahertz range. Another event used two wireless
LAN access points between two buildings; they transmitted and
received information to each other through the windows.
At the event, one access point can bridge as many as 200
“clients” (PCs, laptops and hand-held devices) at a time,
translating wireless information into standard Ethernet data. To
communicate inside the building, laptops need a wireless LAN
network card plugged into the PC slot. For computers with standard
Ethernet connectors already installed, a wireless converter does
It is possible to create just a wireless network (without
Internet access) in a facility by using the LAN access point. This
works very well for interactive training and other instances that
don’t require an outside telephone line.
Wireless access also can be provided to a corporate office
network. Create the wireless network in the meeting room, and then
connect the LAN access point to an ISDN line that dials up the
corporation’s proprietary network.
BLANKET THE ROOM
Sometimes, more than one LAN access point is needed to make sure
everyone in all corners of the facility can connect to the
The easy way to check coverage once the first access point is in
place is simply to walk around the room with a wireless-equipped
laptop and see if you can connect to the Web everywhere. Special
software can more accurately measure the signal strength in the
room and allow you to tweak the service.
ONE LAST OPTIONPamela Borst is director of marketing for New York
City-based Show Digital Inc. (www.showdigital.com), a broadband
Internet service provider for the hospitality and convention
Even in state-of-the-art convention centers and exhibit halls, a
wireless LAN can come in handy. Once all preparations are made and
the carpets are down for a show, adding last-minute connections can
be a hassle. The wireless option is an easy way to accommodate
exhibitors who suddenly realize they need Internet access.
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