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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

WiFi, conferences and hotels

Right, enough is enough.

I spend a lot of time at conferences, as a delegate, speaker, or chair. Unsurprisingly, these tend to be wireless-related events - wVoIP, FMC, wireless broadband, handsets and so forth.

Most of these events are organised by major, professional, conference companies, or sometimes technology vendors. Most are held in major cities, in large business hotels that are parts of international chains.

I'm getting fed up with paying extortionate fees for WiFi - often at almost as ludicrous a price as cellular data roaming rates. An event last week was fairly typical, at €28 for a day - and it didn't even work in the hotel room as well as the conference centre.

There are three groups at fault here:

1) Conference organisers that don't provide WiFi to delegates as a basic utility
2) Hotels that don't provide WiFi to conference organisers at sensible rates
3) WiFi hotspot providers that maintain rip-off pricing levels for captive audiences

From now on, I am going to name and shame offenders in all three groups.

I want to encourage delegates & sponsors to insist on WiFi from conference organisers or negotiate appropriate discounts. I want organisers to boycott hotels that rip off delegates. And I want hotels to force their hotspot partners to revamp their pricing, which is often utterly stupid.

To be fair on some conference organisers, many are put in invidious positions - I have heard of hotels wanting to charge them more than €2000 per day to provide WiFi to a conference room full of people. Simple solution: tell the hotel operator to get real, or don't sign up for that venue.

Most conferences take 5-6 months to plan. Starting from the beginning of November 2006, I will be refusing to speak at events that do not promise to offer free WiFi to delegates. I encourage readers - many of whom I know are fellow regular presenters - to do the same.

And if any HSDPA, WiMAX, TDD or Flash-OFDM service providers out there want to sponsor a mobile-backhauled WiFi router & bandwidth for me to take to events, I'm happy to report back on the results.


Anonymous said...

conference organisers in popular venues do not have as many choices available to them as you might think! Venues know this and drive a VERY hard bargain.

Dean Bubley said...

I'm aware of that, having discussed it with conference organisers. Which is why I will be naming the venues on this blog, hoping to influence both the organisers, and also attendees who can vote with their feet & stay at a nearby competing hotel.

And it's also is why I think that someone could make some decent money with a portable DSL or 3G-backhauled WiFi AP that the conference organisers could bring with them, disintermediating the venue's own WiFi.

Unknown said...

Just entering this debate and totally agree with you both. As a conference organiser you should read my message at http://www.confpeople.co.uk/blog/2007/01/24/matt-takes-a-stand-against-wifi-costs/ and you'll see what we're up against.