NEC builds mammoth free WiFi network

The National Exhibition Centre (NEC) and sister venue LG Arena have deployed a high capacity free WiFi network to support their 3 million annual visitors.

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The National Exhibition Centre (NEC) and sister venue LG Arena have deployed a high capacity free WiFi network to support their 3 million annual visitors.

The deployment enables the venue to provide wireless access across its 20 inter-connected halls along with multiple restaurants, bars and public spaces.

The NEC occupies a 610 acre site eight miles from Birmingham City Centre and hosts over 140 trade and consumer shows, and more than 400 live events and conferences every year.

Previously the venue had provided WiFi in main public areas via provider The Cloud, which operated solely as an overlay service on the NEC’s own network.

The NEC decided to implement their own solution based on Xirrus WiFi technology in order to support thousands of concurrent, heavy bandwidth users across its exhibition, conference and organiser suites.

The new infrastructure optimises WiFi connections for devices operating in the 2.4 GHz range, as well as the increasing number of those operating in the 5GHz range, such as the new iPhone 5.

The NEC installed 155 Xirrus Wireless Arrays to provide free and ubiquitous wireless access across its site. The NEC calculated the Xirrus system would have to provide seamless connectivity for up to 22,000 concurrent users, which was calculated by a connectivity ratio based on the venue’s maximum capacity.

“Xirrus was the only supplier that demonstrated the ability to effectively deliver high density WiFi for the exhibition industry,” said Murray Dickson, the NEC’s business solutions analyst. “Xirrus’ unique grouping of multiple access points within a single array was also a key differentiator, along with visibility into applications on the network so we can deliver a more reliable user experience.

“Having fewer physical units helped us to reduce resources spent on infrastructure installation, as well as support and maintenance, which can often be problematic in a venue of this scale,” said Dickson.

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