Mbps, upload, download, streaming…What does it all mean?
More and more, attendees want and need to stay connected while attending conferences. As a meeting planner, it falls to you to make this happen. With no competition or industry pricing standards, navigating conference internet can be like the wild west. Understanding a few key items, however, will empower you to make the best decisions when it comes to negotiating internet for your next conference.
Let’s Start with Some Basics!
The common measure of internet speed is megabits per second, or Mbps. This, plainly stated, expresses how much data is being transmitted to and from your devices over the internet. The higher the Mbps, the “faster” the internet.
Upload vs Download
There are two sides to internet speed, upload and download.
Upload speed is determined by how fast your device can send out data to the internet (email responses, uploading to the cloud, etc.).
Download speeds are a measure of how fast your device is receiving data from the internet (receiving emails, streaming videos, etc.).
How Fast is Fast Enough?
When navigating conference internet options, determine what speed works best for your attendees. Of course, as a meeting planner, you’d like to provide your attendees with what they need to stay connected, but do you need to provide enough Mbps for them to stream NetFlix while earning CE credits? Below is a basic breakdown of speeds required for performing typical tasks over the internet during a conference:
Email Browsing: .5-5Mbps
Video Calls (HD): 1.5Mbps
Downloading large files (HD Movies, Torrents): 5Mbps
Streaming Video (HD 1080p): 5Mbps
A Moment of Empowerment
Now that you understand how much speed you need to perform these typical attendee internet tasks, let’s get smart about your conference internet options:
By now, most, if not all, of your attendees should own their own wireless smart phone. Smart phones offer an alternative to expensive conference internet. While wireless providers differ on service speeds, smart phones offer fast upload and download speeds and can serve as individual hotspots. A hotspot allows a computer to log onto the internet by utilizing the phone's 4G/4G LTE connection.
What is 4G/4G LTE?
4G and 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) are the fourth generations of smart phone network connectivity (3G being the older generation). It is essentially a wireless internet signal that is supplied and maintained by smart phone service providers. While both offer fast upload and download speeds, 4G LTE is the most advanced and “fastest” smart phone network currently available.
The in house AV company is often quick to cast aside 4G/4G LTE as insufficient for conferences. While we wouldn’t recommend depending on these connections for presenters, attendees will have similar experience on this connection as with the standard conference internet connection. Let’s take a look:
The standard Conference Internet Connection: 1.5Mbps Upload/3Mbps Download
Cost to Meeting Planners: $0 - $$ Infinity (dependent upon negotiation)
The average 4G LTE by major US carriers*: 12.37Mpbs Upload/26.25Mbps Download
Cost to Meeting Planners: $0
*(Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile and AT&T), Sources: https://www.lifewire.com/how-fast-is-4g-wireless-service-577566
Who determines the price for venue internet?
That's a good question! Most often it is the contracted in house AV company that determines the price for internet. Internet is mainly charged based on how many connections you will have (ie - attendee counts). Most often the internet price presented to you is overly inflated and overly expensive. But don't worry! With some negotiation, you can ensure the in house AV company charges a fair rate regardless of who you select as your audio visual service provider.
Negotiating Tips: Flip the Script
If you determined that you would like to have the in house AV company provide a wireless internet connection at your conference, it is possible to negotiate the price.
At Turning Point AV we believe in empowering Meeting Planners to make informed decisions regarding event budgets and vendor partners. We believe an informed customer will make the best decisions.
When it comes to conference Internet, remember, you’re in the driver’s seat. Below are a few tips to tame the fluctuating conference internet pricing at your next event:
Determine your Conference Internet budget
The price for internet is negotiable. Coming up with a budget number helps you take control of the negotiation, rather than allowing the hotel and their contracted AV company to set the bar. Gather information such the price you paid for internet in the past and what you feel an appropriate price for internet should be at your conference.
Understand your internet needs
Do not be sold a bill of goods that you do not need. Do you need internet available in every meeting room? Is internet a requirement for each session or are you really paying for attendees to browse social media during a general session? Maybe an internet connection is just needed for staff and presenters - this could greatly reduce your internet needs at conference.
Negotiate internet pricing as soon as possible
It's best to negotiate a price for internet with the venue Sales Manager prior to signing a contract with the venue. Have them match your pre-determined price as a condition for signing.
If you did not negotiate a guaranteed discounted rate on internet prior to signing the venue contract, don't worry - it's not too late! The venue can negotiate at any time to keep you happy. Contact your venue Sales Manager today to start discussions on internet.
If you are presented with a price that is exorbitant, does not fit your budget, or pressures you to use the in house AV company, don't agree to pay it! Remember, internet does not cost the supplier very much and your power lies in your room nights and F&B. Work with your venue Sales Manager to agree to a price that is fair and allows you to select the best AV provider for your event.