Located by the Mediterranean shore, El Centre de Convencions Internacional de Barcelona (CCIB) is the largest convention center in Southern Europe. The 100,000 square meter (more than 1 million square feet) venue offers 45 meeting rooms and a 3,200 seat forum and can accommodate 15,000 people in one space. CCIB hosts approximately 125 events every year.
“Wi-Fi has become very important to event organizers because it’s important to their guests,” says Joan Chaler, Operations Director for CCIB. Approximately 90% of the people attending CCIB events live outside of Spain. Wi-Fi saves them from having to pay their service provider’s cellular roaming charges and is also faster.
CCIB had built its previous Wi-Fi network in 2004, when people had much different Wi-Fi habits. At that time, most guests brought only one mobile device, didn’t expect to always stay connected and rarely used streamed video.“Habits have changed a lot in a short time and our old network had become non-usable,” says Chaler.“We wanted a new Wi-Fi network that gave us a competitive advantage.”
Cut the time needed to set up Wi-Fi for events by 66%
Gained a competitive advantage by offering services such as assigning priority to certain applications and enforcing per-user bandwidth limits
Lowered the costs of upgrades: Existing 2.4GHz radios can be reprogrammed for 5GHz operation and 802.11ac with a few mouse clicks
When we had our old network, I used to be scared when [the network manager] told me he had to upgrade the equipment. Now I’m at ease because with Xirrus we can upgrade with a few software clicks.
GL Events CCIB Barcelona International Convention Center
Quick Set Up for the Next Event
CCIB compared leading Wi-Fi solutions for reliable performance in high-density environments and quick set up for the next event. The winner: Xirrus.
“Every event is unique, and Xirrus is by far the easiest Wi-Fi solution to set up for each customer’s requirements,” says Jordi Gay, IT Manager for CCIB. With the old network, putting up and taking down access points for an event with thousands of guests typically took a full day.“With Xirrus, we can set up Wi-Fi for the next event in about one-third the time — it’s ready by noon,” says Gay. The reason: Xirrus access points can contain up to 8 radios — not just 2 like all other solutions. That means CCIB needs fewer access points and less cabling to provide the same coverage. Less time needed to set up Wi- Fi also means the room is ready sooner, increasing revenue potential.
Application Control Based on Each Event’s Requirements
CCIB guests enjoy a consistently good user experience, even in crowded areas. Up to 3,000 people have connected to the network at the same time.
When meeting with potential customers, CCIB representatives ask if they want to give priority to certain applications, such as voice over IP, or to limit per-user bandwidth. The IT team meets these requests with a few clicks in the Xirrus Management System (XMS) interface.
“Saying yes to requests for application control helps us win more business,” says Chaler. CCIB also offers to provide customers with reports that show which websites guests are visiting — valuable information for advertising and event publicity.
“Our corporate clients who come back to CCIB year after year tell us the reason is not just the location, but also our IT services,” Chaler says.“XMS helps to set us apart.”
Longer Investment Life, From Software-Programmable Radios
Newer laptops and mobile devices can connect to either 5GHz or 2.4GHz radios. Providing enough 5GHz radios makes the experience better for everyone — whether they have a new or older device — because the 5GHz band has more usable channels. CCIB’s IT team knows from XMS reports that far more than half of its guests now have 5GHz-capable devices.“As the proportion of 5GHz devices continues to grow, we’ll reprogram more of our radios to operate in the 5GHz band — with a few mouse clicks,” Gay says. The IT team will also upgrade some radios from the 802.11n to the faster 802.11ac standard. This upgrade, too, requires only a mouse click. Software upgrades eliminate the cost of new access points.
Adapting to Evolving Wi-Fi Habits and Standards
As event attendees begin using more and new kinds of wireless devices, including wearables, CCIB will add more radios to its existing Xirrus access points. Setting up for events will be just as fast because the additional radios fit in the same number of access points.
Chaler concludes,“Xirrus helps us provide an excellent Wi-Fi experience at any type of event because it’s easy to install, easy to expand and easy to manage. When we had our old Wi-Fi network, I used to be scared about costs when Jordi told me he had to upgrade the equipment. Now I’m at ease because we can upgrade our Xirrus networks with a few mouse clicks.”