Alexandra Palace is an iconic Grade II listed entertainment and sports venue in London that is renowned for hosting world-class events and first-class hospitality.
Intended as ‘The People’s Palace’ and widely known as Ally Pally, it has been known as the UK’s hub of recreation, education, and entertainment since it was built in 1873 and hosts approximately three million people each year.
Ally Pally is renowned for driving innovation, putting on the most spectacular entertainments, offering the widest variety of public programmes, and providing leisure and well-being activities to communities on its doorstep and beyond.
Set in 196 acres of parkland, Alexandra Palace’s facilities include nine multi-purpose function rooms, including the Great Hall and West Hall which can accommodate up to 5,000 and 2,500 guests respectively, and an international-sized ice rink.
With a WiFi system that had been in place since the 2012 Olympic Games, Alexandra Palace required a technical infrastructure upgrade.
Another significant issue was posed by the fact it is a Grade II listed building. The listed and varied nature of the venue meant the design was crucial – particularly for areas such as the halls, theatre, and ice rink which are not only large, dense, spaces with high ceilings, but also do not allow mounting of hardware.
That aside, like many event venues, it experienced issues when it comes to connectivity and striving to provide a reliable internet connection for visitors. Common problems with WiFi at event venues include drop-outs and speed issues across WiFi networks and with a variety of devices.
Performance Networks was chosen to complete the project due to its proven expertise in the sector, which includes providing a new WiFi solution for the Manchester Central complex in 2018.
Performance Networks used Ekahau Site survey/Spectrum Analysis & Wireshark captures to determine what was happening at the venue.
WHAT DID THIS SHOW?
- Signal strength was good in areas, in fact, it was too strong, which was causing interference
- Heavy WiFi interference was recorded. The 2.4GHz band was very congested as usual, but so was the 5GHz band due to sub-optimal configuration
- Sub-optimal placement and mounting of Access Points. They were also using the wrong type of antennas. This meant the
- Access Points weren’t always covering the areas they were meant to and contributing to excessive Co-Channel interference. This was shown using coverage maps per AP
- Roaming issues – clients “hanging on” & not roaming to the correct AP
- Low data rates and old standards being supported
- Too many clients using the 2.4GHz range
- The Main Hall could not support the number of people and devices that were required for their large conference/events
During the initial consulting phase with Nick Johnson, IT Manager at Alexandra Palace, Performance Networks agreed on a creative solution that utilised bespoke brackets and different antenna patterns on existing rigging, enabling the building to host thousands of guests across its multiple facilities at any given time.
Performance Networks designed and installed a custom-fit Commscope/Ruckus solution which provides guaranteed coverage and performance for the building’s management team, as well as visibility across the whole venue from one central location, covering inside and outside its facilities.
“The solution gives the venue a single unified platform for management and visibility of WiFi and wired networks, which was a key goal for their team and especially important in such a large and complex building.
We’ve provided a system that’s meticulously designed to cover the width and depth of the venue, providing a WiFi network built around capacity that is fit for purpose across all areas – no matter what or even how many events it is hosting at any one time.
Ally Pally is a venue that hosts thousands of visitors in a dense space and its WiFi wasn’t in a position to cope with that before. In the future, once the pandemic restrictions allow, the venue will once again be attracting guests in large numbers and they’ll do so with a slicker and more secure online connection.”
Director at Performance Networks
“Performance Networks’ knowledge and expertise on WiFi solutions were invaluable to us during this huge and complex upscale project, and we are delighted with the work they have completed over the last few months.” “We’re really pleased to have completed this project, which is quite an undertaking and brings the technical infrastructure of our 19th century Palace very much up to speed with modern-day requirements.”Nick Johnson, IT Manager