What Happens When Hundreds of Wi-Fi Geeks Come Together? Recap of WLPC 2023

Since 2014, technical geeks from around the world assemble for what is clearly a very different kind of IT conference. A conference where all the attendees are Wi-Fi geeks, and all the presenters are Wi-Fi geeks. And I use the phrase "Wi-Fi geeks" affectionately because I always jump in a plane to go hobnob with my brethren Wi-Fi geeks whenever this conference occurs.

So, since 2014, a unique IT conference that draws technical enthusiasts from all corners of the world is the wirelessLAN Professionals Conference (WLPC). As the name suggests, this event attracts Wi-Fi experts as both attendees and presenters. Personally, I always look forward to attending this conference and connecting with my like-minded Wi-Fi enthusiasts.

WLPC was the brainchild of Keith Parsons, a veteran in the Wi-Fi industry, who initially created the conference for himself because he loves the subject matter. However, it wasn't long before other Wi-Fi aficionados who shared a similar love for designing, deploying, and troubleshooting Wi-Fi systems began flocking to the event. As a result, the conference has grown in both size and popularity. The WLPC conference is an annual event that occurs in February in Phoenix, Arizona. Similarly, a European version of the conference is held in Prague, Czech Republic, every October. As the conference gains popularity, its global reach is expanding, with plans for two LATAM sessions in 2023 in Medellin, Colombia, and Mexico City, Mexico. Even if you can't attend the conference in person, you can still access all the speaker presentations for free as post-conference videos.

 Keith Parsons

The entire point of the WLPC is so Wi-Fi professionals can share knowledge and learn about Wi-Fi and other wireless technologies. Although networking vendors are invited and actively participate, this is not a conference for marketing pitches or vendor booths. This is a conference for Wi-Fi geeks to have fun and learn.

Are you curious about what exactly goes down at the three-day WLPC Wi-Fi event? Let me give you a brief rundown. Attendees can expect a lot of learning opportunities and insightful presentations where Wi-Fi professionals share their knowledge and expertise. Each year, individuals submit proposals for speaking slots, and the public votes via Twitter and SurveyMonkey to determine which Wi-Fi topics they would like to hear. These topics are typically technical, entertaining, and sometimes thought-provoking.

This year, more than 20% of the attendees had the opportunity to take the stage and present on a subject they're passionate about regarding wireless networking. The presentations range from 10 to 55 minutes in length, providing a diverse and engaging learning experience. What's even more impressive is that over 40% of the attendees were first-timers, and it's safe to say that most of them will return next year.

As a matter of fact, I'm thrilled to share that several employees from Extreme Networks attended this year's conference and took the stage to present some fascinating Wi-Fi topics. I have had the pleasure of working with Karl Benedict, CWNE #395, for many years.  I can attest to his exceptional WLAN design and troubleshooting skills, placing him among the top experts in the field. One of the standout sessions of the entire conference was Karl's discussion on rethinking RF design. His expertise and insights were truly remarkable, and you can watch his presentation in the video below:

Deploying Wi-Fi in the ultra-high-density environment of a stadium or arena is widely regarded as one of the toughest challenges in the field. The sheer number of users and complex logistics make it a formidable task. However, if you can master the art of stadium Wi-Fi, you're likely to possess the skill set to deploy Wi-Fi anywhere. Jon Burke, a senior systems engineer at Extreme Networks, shared his wealth of experience in stadium Wi-Fi:

Mike Lane, CWNE #232, a principal systems engineer at Extreme Networks, is an experienced presenter who added some variety with his entertaining session on drones and the wireless technology they employ. His presentation included a live demo where he flew a drone over the WLPC audience, providing a unique perspective on the subject matter. His live-action demo was definitely a crowd-pleaser:

Having presented at several WLPC events over the years, it was an honor to be selected once again for a 55-minute session. The upcoming release of Wi-Fi 7 is the next generation of Wi-Fi technology that will soon be available. Although we still have much to learn about the real-world implications of certain Wi-Fi 7 features, I chose to explore the technology's potential benefits and possible challenges in my presentation.

The event had many highlights, including 802.11 packet capture expert Peter Mackenzie discussing the future of packet analysis and how he figured out a way to capture OFDMA transmissions successfully. Wi-Fi security is always a hot topic of the conference, and the subject of Wi-Fi security migrations was kicked off by security expert and author Jennifer (JJ) Minella. Another of my favorite presentations was the fact-filled presentation by Bryan Ward about the effects of mDNS traffic on a Wi-Fi network. Kelly Burroughs of iBwave gave an excellent presentation about rethinking predictive RF design using building information modeling (BIM) and geographic information system (GIS) mapping. Her forward-looking session showcased the visibility potential of these tools.

Technical gadgets are a beloved passion among Wi-Fi enthusiasts. One of the most anticipated moments of the conference is when Jerry Olla announces the latest updates to the WLAN Pi gadgets. Jussi Kiviniemi seized the opportunity to showcase the various new features of the disruptive technology from Hamina Wireless. The Hamina solution, which is cloud-based and offers Wi-Fi modeling and design, has introduced an innovative approach to the industry. The demo highlighted new features such as 3D antenna patterns, multi-floor design, capacity planner, 6 GHz client percentage simulator, a smartphone application, integration with third-party data collection tools, and a distributed AP site survey mode. Not to be outdone, Trent Cutler from MetaGeek provided an update of all their Wi-Fi troubleshooting applications. The MetaGeek Tonic tool offers some of the best client roaming visibility troubleshooting capabilities I have ever seen. If you're a MacBook enthusiast, you've probably used the Wi-Fi analysis tools from Intuitibits. But, did you know that Adrian Granados just announced that a new Windows version of the popular Wi-Fi Explorer tool is in the works? Welcome to the party, Windows geeks!

One of the other standout moments of the conference was the Wi-Fi Alliance (WFA) reaching out to the WLPC community. For years, the WFA has been responsible for defining all the interoperability certifications in the industry, while the WLPC community has been at the forefront of deploying the technology in the field. Kevin Robinson, CEO of the Wi-Fi Alliance, addressed the conference on how these two communities might engage in the future, and discussions started with this event. It was an exciting development, as it could lead to greater collaboration between the two groups, resulting in improved Wi-Fi technology and deployment practices.

Another big part of the conference is the “hands-on” learning sessions called “Deep Dives.”  Each day the attendees split into separate groups for three-hour trainings. Some examples of this year’s deep dive sessions include a Secure Wi-Fi Design DeepAntennas 101, AP Packet Capture, and an Inside look at Hamina Wireless.

In my opinion, the most enjoyable part of the conference is the people. It's an annual reunion where I get to catch up with folks I may have met up to 15 years ago during wireless training sessions I chaired. And, of course, I get to meet new people! The informal chats, the social events, and the face-to-face interactions provide real value and make the conference a truly special experience. While the presentations are great, it's the connections and relationships formed that make the event stand out. To me, the wirelessLAN Professionals Conference is more than just a tech event; it's a community of passionate individuals coming together to learn and grow, both professionally and personally.

David Coleman

If you're a Wi-Fi enthusiast, then the wirelessLAN Professionals Conference is an event you won't want to miss! Whether you're a seasoned professional or just starting out in the field, the wirelessLAN Professionals Conference is the perfect place to network, learn, and grow. So, mark your calendars, pack your bags, and get ready for an unforgettable experience! You can learn more about the wirelessLAN Professionals Conference at www.wlanpros.com.

About the Author
David Coleman
Director, Wireless Networking at the Office of the CTO

David D. Coleman is the Director of Wireless Networking at the Office of the CTO for Extreme Networks. David is a technology evangelist, public speaker and proficient author.

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