Ruckus Wireless today announced that Malvern Showground has standardised on the company's dual-band 802.11n Smart Wi-Fi technology to build a permanent outdoor wireless network to cover its entire 90 acre site in Worcestershire, UK. The showground is home to the Three Counties Agricultural Society and attracts more than a million visitors every year, with 90,000 people expected to attend its flagship Three Counties Show which will be held this month.
The Ruckus network will support improved communications and public wireless broadband access, extending the showground's range of connectivity services and enabling it to compete for business with indoor event venues and conference centres. The solution was deployed by Ruckus partner, event and specialist IT services company, Etherlive.
According to Gartner, the smartphone market grew by 24 percent in 2009 alone. This, coupled with the increasing use of Wi-Fi enabled devices at events, such as CCTV cameras and VoIP handsets, means that anytime, anywhere wireless access is increasingly in demand at all venues - both indoor and outdoor. The Ruckus Wi-Fi network is said to be the first of its kind to be deployed across a showground site in the UK, and will support a number of applications including public broadband internet access, commercial PDQ point of sale devices, a CCTV camera network, organiser voice communications and site wide organiser access to the Three Counties electronic scoring system.
"With Wi-Fi the connection technology of choice both for the public and exhibitors, providing secure, reliable, wireless access to email, phone lines and wireless payment systems is no longer a luxury - it's a must," said Nick Vincent, CEO at the Malvern Showground. "In the past, we simply weren't able to compete with the range of services on offer in large indoor venues. Now, with the Ruckus technology, we're finally in a position to provide all our visitors with the level of connectivity and communications they expect. What's more, we can better equip our exhibitors and staff with mobile devices like chip and pin machines and VoIP handsets which will help them communicate out on the showground as effectively as they would in an office."
Previously, Malvern Showground relied on a wired network of fixed BT lines which ran to all of its entry gates. Excess cabling detracted from the natural beauty of the site and the solution did not deliver the flexibility required, says Ruckus.
In contrast, the Ruckus says its Wi-Fi network allows exhibitors to move freely around the site with their Wi-Fi enabled devices such as point-of-sale machines - enabling them to re-assign their staff to the areas they're needed most as conditions change throughout the day. The new network also makes it easier for security officials to better monitor the CCTV system at the showground. Because the Ruckus access points (APs) mesh automatically, staff can easily add new cameras as soon as they identify an area that needs additional coverage. A remote access option also enables owners and staff to log into the system even when they're not on site. So if a fire alarm goes off for example, they can immediately access live camera footage from wherever they are and assess the situation quickly.
"The dual-band Ruckus solution is the only outdoor 11n product we've come across that can reliably support this vast number of concurrent users over such a large area at a truly cost-effective price," said Tom McInerney, events director for Etherlive. "When you're outdoors, any number of things can interfere with the wireless signal because the environment is constantly changing. The Ruckus kit overcomes this problem with an intelligent mesh code that adapts automatically to choose the best path and best access point, redirecting signals as issues occur, and thereby avoiding any interference before it can cause problems. This of course has massive user benefits in terms of the time it takes to deploy and run a network of this size too, since we can trust the network to essentially run itself with minimal management."
During initial consultations with Etherlive, Malvern Showground specified that the new permanent wireless network must be capable of supporting critical applications without the risk of network failure. Etherlive advised the showground to deploy the Ruckus 802.11n system because it was the only centrally-managed concurrent 2.4/5GHz 802.11n Wi-Fi solution capable of delivering a reliable signal at range across such a vast outdoor environment. In addition, by combining advanced beamforming with sophisticated smart meshing technology, the Ruckus solution is able to deliver a robust, wide-ranging signal at the same or lower cost than existing 802.11g outdoor products. As well as the Ruckus Wireless technology, Etherlive has also developed a power management system with redundant 48 hour battery backup which ensures the network keeps running should on site power or generators fail.
The deployment consists of 13 Ruckus dual-band 802.11n Smart Wi-Fi APs and a centralised ZoneDirector 1000 Smart WLAN controller. The APs are housed in specially designed, weather-proofed PODs on telegraph poles and building corners across the site. Now in the final phase of implementation, the network can be scaled as usage increases, and has also been securely partitioned to provide a public wireless network for visitors and exhibitors which is chargeable, and a private network linked to the Three Counties corporate LAN providing access to their network from anywhere on the site. The networks are protected with separate SSIDs.
"Outdoor Wi-Fi has always been notoriously unreliable - the slightest gust of wind or even a van getting in the way of the signal would be all it took to disrupt connectivity," said Jim Calderbank, director of enterprise sales EMEA at Ruckus Wireless. "Our outdoor solution solves this problem, giving venues like the Malvern Showground the ability to deliver wireless connectivity that's on a par with that of any first class indoor venue - this is going to be key to helping them to attract more customers and visitors and drive revenue year on year."