High-Density Wi-Fi for Hospitality Venues

With more and more Wi-Fi supported devices and ubiquitous connectivity no longer viewed as a luxury, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that customers anticipate a high quality network experience upon entering a venue. Whether a hotel, airport, or casino, the availability of secure and reliable Wi-Fi connectivity is integral to a complete mobile experience for venue customers. Not only does a Wi-Fi network need to meet the requirements of today’s mobile-centric users, it also provides a platform for digital business initiatives moving forward.

Critical Technology Issues to Achieve High-Density Connectivity

PROVEN DESIGN METHODOLOGY

Since the physical characteristics of each venue are unique, the Wi-Fi network that supports it must be unique as well. A ‘one size fits all’ approach is not an effective strategy for success: a proven design methodology must be employed to ensure the coverage goals, and ultimately the business goals, of the venue are met.

Beginning with a site survey of the environment by a trained network architect, a successful approach considers the parameters of the physical structure and RF propagation, desired Wi-Fi capacity based on attendance numbers, as well as compliance and regulatory implications to maintain Wi-Fi standards. Once a tailored design is built to the space, and supports all the business deliverables, an implementation process is kicked off. This process includes ensures soft-openings for fine-tuning and performance optimization to ensure ubiquitous coverage, high performance, and acceptable service delivery.

PURPOSE-BUILT WI-FI SOLUTION

Achieving high-density Wi-Fi connectivity cannot be achieved with out-of-the-box solutions and technologies. It requires design engineers combining their knowledge of the data collected during the Site Survey and design process with purpose-built Wi-Fi technology, including specifically designed antennas and access points. High-density Wi-Fi solutions must be able to handle the substantial mobile data generated from a densely populated venue, support both 2.4GHz and 5GHz compatible devices on the network, allow for seamless and secure onboarding, with a strong wired backhaul infrastructure that scales up and out to achieve maximum ROI. For both private and public use, this means seamless access to the internet, email, social apps, event apps, and content for guests, as well as support of critical operational functions and business applications for the organization.

CARRIER OFFLOAD AND PRIORITIZATION

The first generation of public Wi-Fi solutions were predominately designed and delivered by carriers as a need to reduce cellular bandwidth congestion. The tactic of offloading data onto the Wi-Fi network has commonly been used by carriers to ensure the performance of the in-venue Distributed Antenna System (DAS). While this performance benefit still exists today, the carrier-led model has become less attractive as venue operators and owners have recognized the value of owning the network asset to gain insight into the mobile engagement patterns of their customers and regain control over the carrier’s “unusable” Wi-Fi service. Additionally, many carrier led Wi-Fi solutions were not designed to support the capacity demands of tens of thousands of users simultaneously transmitting data, resulting in poor Wi-Fi service that discouraged fan usage and conditioned even the savviest of mobile users to avoid connecting.

What has emerged is a model where an individual carrier contributes to the capital cost of a Wi-Fi solution. In this approach, a carrier purchases a defined and fixed percentage of the Wi-Fi bandwidth from the venue operator or owner, in turn ensuring higher fidelity and a guaranteed experience for their subscribers. For example, Verizon Wireless may purchase 40% of the network bandwidth, guaranteeing a quality experience for Verizon customers.

AUTOMATED BYOD FOR CUSTOMER ONBOARDING

In heavily populated venue environments, with a diverse cross section of Wi-Fi enabled IoT and BYOD devices requesting access to the network, there is a critical need for differentiated device provisioning and automated onboarding to reduce the workload of venue IT teams. Some devices may require exclusive access to private business applications and a higher bandwidth prioritization, while others may need only basic network privileges and capped bandwidth usage. IT teams are often short staffed when supporting the network, so to ensure each device and client is given the appropriate access and privileges efficiently, an intelligent network management tool is critical to assign policy at the device level and user credentials upon authentication to a Wi-Fi network.

APPLICATION INSIGHTS FROM THE NETWORK

As discussed earlier, often carrier and neutral host-based systems grant venue IT teams little to no visibility into network usage or data consumption patterns. Without visibility into network usage and without access to actionable analytics, venues aren’t able to truly engage with their customer base and aren’t empowered with the business intelligence to leverage their network as a critical asset. Understanding how users are engaging with applications lays the foundation for new ways of activation through contextual mobile engagement. Application insights from the network allows venue operators to remove the guesswork out of marketing, helping them determine the ‘who, what, and where’ of customer behavior, assess buying propensity, and develop new revenue sources for the business.

This table describes how hospitality venues are able to successfully tackle the challenges of their organization and the demands of their costumers cited above, using Extreme’s purpose-built solutions and differentiated services.

Required CapabilitiesRecommended SolutionHow We Do It Better
Proven Design MethodologyExtreme Networks Customer Service• Complete network survey and coverage mapping by a trained and certified senior Wi-Fi architect
Purpose-Built Wi-Fi SolutionsExtremeWireless• Highly scalable, secure and reliable Wi-Fi connectivity
• Purpose-built hardware and software to support high density environments
• Roaming capabilities for mobile devices for seamless connectivity throughout
a venue
Carrier Offload and PrioritizationExtremeWireless• Wi-Fi Alliance Pass Point [Hotspot 2.0] Certified
• Tailored network policy and prioritization for specific carrier and VIP groups
Automated BYOD Customer OnboardingExtremeControl• Policy-based, end to end network controls from single management platform
• Seamless authentication of users and devices
• Tailored network policies based on device and client

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