How Exhibition Place sets the stage for connectivity

Events like the CNE and the International Boat Show demand constant uptime and Wi-Fi everywhere. The organization’s IT and telecommunications manager offers an inside look

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Most organizations conducting telecom and IT upgrades have a particular need to fill or a specific issue to address. Or if they’re doing a more complex system modernization project, their technology is consistently focused on enabling core tasks related to their business. Things are a little different at Exhibition Place.

Our complex has nine major venues spread over almost 200 acres, a variety of permanent tenants, and a revolving door of recurring and one-off conventions, trade shows and events. Our technology upgrades over the last five years have strived to meet the changing needs of an amazing variety of clients—not to mention our own. And with many of these clients holding very large events, such as the CNE or the Toronto International Boat Show, it’s been a real challenge—or more accurately, a series of challenges.

We’ve taken a number of steps to modernize communications technology across the grounds, both for indoor and outdoor events. We’ve upgraded switches, both the main switch and perimeter data switches; improved our PRI and Internet management capabilities; changed our voice system to Avaya, updating both hardware and software; and built redundant data feeds and upgraded services to support particularly prominent events like the G20 conference, where unbroken service is a must.

Our goal of making Wi-Fi available in every corner of Exhibition Place has been particularly challenging. In the Allstream Centre, for example, we offer free Wi-Fi for all patrons. While this sets us apart from venues that only offer public Wi-Fi hotspots, the fact that the show floor can hold 600 – 1,500 people at any given time, possibly using two or even three devices each, creates serious user density and corresponding bandwidth issues. To meet the need, the Allstream Centre has been significantly upgraded with all-Cisco Wi-Fi equipment, so during the CNE, for example, the venue can support 1,000 simultaneous Wi-Fi connections and between 3,000 and 4,000 daily users.

Of course, a further challenge is to accomplish all this on a limited budget. It’s quite an operation. We work with our provider to clarify our needs, and they develop a quote. Then we go to Exhibition Place purchasing to see what they’ll approve based on the project’s goals. Next it goes to the city for final approval then back to our provider, at which point they refine the project to fit the budget. It’s a real group process and one that requires a forthright exchange of goals and limits. Vendors need an honest evaluation of your needs, as opposed to a wish list of nice-to-haves. Sometimes, technology can draw you toward the latest and greatest, but it’s about making a rational assessment of what you really want to accomplish. That’s why the company you’re partnered with should be a solution provider, not just a technology source.

Done right and in a streamlined way, the process makes a real difference. The work we’ve done has certainly helped us prepare for the future by technologically enabling Exhibition Place to attract prestigious, large-scale events from a variety of clients and industries. And attracting business through our improvements means our business/technology model is delivering a real ROI. Our IT group is happy, The Exhibition Place Board is happy, as are clients and visitors. That’s a lot of wins.

Learn more by downloading an in-depth case study about Allstream’s work with Exhibition Place, ‘Grounds for Innovation.’

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  1. Speed tests of the CNE Wifi hotspots in Toronto – my observations | The Statesman - August 23, 2013

    […] I was reading a case study that Allstream had prepared last year and it basically describes some of the challenges that the Exhibition Place has overcome when overhauling their technology equipment (from Wi-Fi access points, to VOIP equipment, etc.) to meet the growing needs for the customers who attended Exhibition Place (whether it’s for the CNE, the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, etc.). You can read the case study here. […]

  2. It’s that time of year again – the CNE in Toronto… | Simon the Statesman - August 13, 2014

    […] with technology, I was reading a case study from Allstream about how they worked with Exhibition Place on building a “main stage” of connectivity. […]