Alexandra Palace has rolled out Wi-Fi connectivity across the historic venue, enabling visitors to stay connected when they come to events.
The famous North London building, once home to the BBC, sees up to one million people come through its doors each year and covers 10,873m² of 196-acre Alexandra Park.
It now focuses its efforts on providing space for gigs, sporting events and corporate hosting, for which the Grade II listed building needed to be brought up to date.
“Our aim is to help our clients enjoy the heritage of Alexandra Palace while enabling them to embrace the technology of the present and future,” says Emma Dagnes, commercial director at Alexandra Palace.
Olympic Wi-Fi legacy
The management first embraced the idea of Wi-Fi during the 2012 Olympic Games, when it played host to the Dutch Olympic team’s Holland Heineken House, used for hospitality suites and celebrations throughout the games.
Previously, the venue had only delivered temporary wireless connectivity on a case-by-case basis, but when the wireless network provided by Xirrus performed better than expected during London 2012, the idea of making Wi-Fi a permanent fixture was not far behind.
“We had the luxury of testing the system during one of the venue’s busiest times, with between 5,000 and 6,000 visitors per day wanting to use the Wi-Fi,” says Dagnes. “The deployment was hugely successful, so we decided to retain and extend the wireless network across our entire event space.”
We had looked at wireless in the past for Alexandra Palace, but its complex design and layout had caused connectivity issues
Jason Ozin, Technica
Modern technology meets historic architecture
But, having been built in 1863, Alexandra Palace was not designed for wireless networking. Dagnes says she chose to go with Xirrus because it had experience of dealing with older venues and the technology to suit.
“Given Alexandra Palace is a Grade II listed building, we needed a solution that not only provided flawless performance in a challenging architectural environment, but could be installed in adherence with strict construction guidelines,” she says. “We chose Xirrus because of its experience of delivering sympathetic installations in historic buildings.”
Xirrus deployed 100 wireless arrays across the venue to provide high bandwidth to the maximum occupancy of the building – 11,000.
Jason Ozin, owner of IT consultancy Technica, which helped Alexandra Palace with the project, says: “We had looked at wireless in the past for Alexandra Palace, but its complex design and layout had caused connectivity issues.
“During the Olympics, the Dutch team and visitors to Holland Heineken House were simply blown away by the high Wi-Fi speeds, and the Palace was the only venue during the Games that didn’t experience wireless issues thanks to Xirrus’s robust solution.”
The technology was in place within a few months.
“The process didn’t take as long as it usually would, as we had the kit installed for Holland Heineken House,” says Dagnes.
The management decided on the permanent solution in August 2012, with planning for the roll-out taking place during September and October. The deployment was completed in time for the Masters World Snooker championship, which the venue hosted in January 2013.
Flexible wireless infrastructure
“Xirrus’s design means you can cover high densities of bandwidth-hungry users, across vast indoor areas within the Palace. It also gave us the right level of flexibility and manageability,” says Ozin.
“As you can imagine, every event we host has completely different requirements, so we needed a flexible wireless infrastructure that would enable us to tailor the service accordingly. The Xirrus wireless network gives us real granularity, dependent on location, so we can offer visitors, exhibitors and production teams tailored Wi-Fi access all from the same wireless arrays.”
Ozin also praises the management software provided by Xirrus, which enables his team to remotely configure the arrays, rather than go to each box one by one across a vast space.
“We are also able to see exactly who is using the network and how, which helps the management team address any issues in real time,” he adds.
We chose Xirrus due to its experience of delivering sympathetic installations in historic buildings
Emma Dagnes, Alexandra Palace
Benefits for visitors, exhibitors and partners
Dagnes believes now the deployment is over, the benefits will be felt by all the visitors to the venue.
“For event visitors, having access to fast Wi-Fi will mean they can surf the net during live events and share content across social media channels,” she says.
“Our exhibitors and partners will be able to engage in new communication channels to engage with visitors, promote their services and take advantage of additional advertising and revenue-generating opportunities such as branded Wi-Fi portals linking directly to their websites.”
Although no further plans are set in stone, Dagnes is certain that having the wireless up and running will offer further opportunities for Alexandra Palace further down the line.
“Having a robust wireless network in place means we can consider monetising the offering in future," she says. "We will continue working with Xirrus to build on the Wi-Fi, offering a flexible solution to clients which comes with additional revenue opportunities.”