Meru Networks provided Wi-Fi for this year's IBU World Championships Biathlon at the Kontionlahti Stadium in Eastern Finland in early March.
Temperatures in Kontionlahti can drop below -25°C and there is frequent rain and snow, but despite these tough conditions demand for fast, reliable internet access was high throughout the 12-day event.
At the biathlon – which combines cross-country skiing and rifle shooting – around 2,100journalists, photographers, VIPs, International Biathlon Union (IBU) staff and athletes from 38 countries used the wireless network. More than 77,000 spectators were also present.
“We put huge demands on the Wi-Fi, both in terms of number of users and traffic,” said Heimo Koskela, the IBU local organising committee member. “As each competition ended, we regularly saw up to 250 photographers logging on to send images wirelessly, while competitors and support staff were on it continuously using multiple devices to access social media and the IBU site.”
Meru’s Wi-Fi network was designed for the winter conditions and implemented by Palmionet, the company’s partner in Finland. Palmionet used climate-proof housing to deploy Meru’s 802.11ac AP832e access points to withstand sub-zero temperatures, wind and snow. Of the 22 access points deployed, around 60% were installed outdoors.
“This is probably one of the toughest environments you can test a wireless network in – not only harsh weather conditions and low temperatures, but also the challenges of working alongside other wireless technologies such as time-keeping systems with the potential for channel interference,” said Matti Pölönen from Palmionet.
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Meru also provided the network controller and a network manager unit for monitoring the network environment during the event and reported high concurrent use for wide-bandwidth applications, such as video and raw image files.
To guarantee speed and reliability, Meru put access points very close to each other in the critical parts of network. “We also had to monitor the radio channels so we didn’t have any rogue access points or stations in the network,” Pölönen told Computer Weekly.
“In the media centre, the upload and download speeds for a new laptop were around 170Mbps. Over 100Mbps was very typical with a laptop, and around 60-100Mbps with a basic tablet. In a room of 200m² there were hundreds of local area devices connected into the network.”
Meru Networks, which focuses on 802.11ac Wi-Fi solutions for high-density environments including schools and conference centres, believes demand for similar connectivity at sporting events and arenas is on the rise.
“People want to be online 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, so I think it is something that is coming on very strongly,” said Andreas Öhman, territory sales manager at Meru. “It is going to be a key thing for a lot of different events, not only for sports. It can be rock concerts or wherever people are counting on wireless to be top of the line.”