I am sitting in a Starbucks in Miami after an intensive conference week right now and starting to reflect on what I have seen and noted during the week. One of the straight forward things that comes to mind about last week is that conference organizers, especially in the high tech sector, have to ask about the details of Internet connectivity of the place they want to use. Just having Wi-Fi in a place is not enough, capacity on the backhaul link is even more important. In our case, 300 people were rendered without a usable Internet connection for the week because the backhaul was hopelessly underdimensioned for the load. When I arrived as one of the first on Sunday, the best I got was about half a megabit per second. During the week it was a few kbit/s at best. eMails just trickled in and using the Internet connection for Voice calls was impossible.
While some might see this just an inconvenience and argue that you should concentrate on the conference anyway there are others, like me, that require to answer a couple of eMails and call people throughout the day to keep the normal business going. So instead of making free calls, I and many others had to fall back on their mobile phones and paid a dollar/euro or more per minute due to high roaming charges. The extra cost of that to the company multiplied by 300 is significant. Last year, same conference, different venue there was an 8 MBit/s backhaul link and things ran a lot smoother. But I guess by next year, even that will not be good enough anymore to keep things going when 300 engineers arrive.
P.S.: Good that I had my AT&T prepaid SIM card. With the MediaNet add-on I could access the net and get to my eMails via AT&T’s EDGE network. Definitely not at multimegabit speed but a lot faster than over the hotel’s Wi-Fi.