Detroit’s Cobo Center Completes $2 Million Wireless Upgrade

December 13, 2016

Detroit’s Cobo Center recently completed a $2 million technology upgrade, which included an upgraded Nortel core switch that distributes the WiFi signal and along with several new Nortel edge switches located throughout the center.

“For the visitors that use our WiFi network, these upgrades will be like moving from a one lane highway to a three lane super-speedway,” said Claude Molinari, general manager of SMG/Cobo Center.

System improvements also include upgrading WiFi access points to 802.11ac Aruba APs and increasing the number of APs to 400 throughout the facility.

The network location of APs and configuration will be remapped based on events’ anticipated high use of WiFi in specific areas.

This pre-planning creates design cost-effective networks that support uninterrupted digital services, while minimizing cross-channel interference that can result from excessive and disorganized access points, according to Cobo officials.

The organic design smooths out the user’s experience and gives them “more on ramps” to the network.

These WiFi upgrades will allow 32,000 simultaneous users on the network. With device/client counts increasing every year for Cobo, the wireless continues to process ever increasing amounts of bandwidth per device/client and the upgrades will assure a fluid user experience.

Some Cobo event WiFi traffic examples include:

2016 SEIU: 6,516 unique clients, 1.8TB of data traffic

2016 NAIAS Press Week: 14,640 unique clients, 3.06TB of data traffic

2015 NAIAS Press Week: 9000 unique clients, 1.3TB of data traffic

Discovery during pre-event planning for a show in Cobo Center may reveal estimated high usage, in which case, the Technology Services department is prepared to add more APs to smooth out the user’s experience and allow for a greater number of guests and their wireless devices to access the Internet at ever-increasing speeds.

Visitor use of WiFi service always has been free throughout Cobo Center.

To create a more flexible WiFi network, the ClearPass Access Management System was installed to create an integrated platform, allow coherence of private networks and create a WiFi splash page for the facility-wide “CoboFree” WiFi network, that will require users to click through a splash page designed to highlight sponsors or include advertisers, thus generating event revenue.

“We will be launching our WiFi splash page feature at this year’s North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) to allow the show to display their branding to more than 800,000 attendees when they use the Cobo Free WiFi throughout the facility,” Molinari said.

He added, “We expect this to be a huge asset to events wishing to extend their brand and their sponsor brands to every attendee.”

Along with upgrades to the full facility fiber infrastructure, Cobo Center contracted Rocket Fiber, Detroit’s newest bandwidth provider that just recently completed its downtown Detroit fiber network with a hub on Cobo Center property, to upgrade Internet bandwidth to 10G.

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