Having access to the internet is becoming as fundamental to trade shows as having branded giveaways, but ordering services can be confusing. This guide will help you determine the best internet option for your next  trade show needs. 

Determining Your Internet Needs

The first place to start is figuring out what you need by knowing what you are trying to do at your trade show. Consider asking yourself the following questions:

  • What speed/bandwidth do we need?
  • How many IP addresses do we need?
  • Do we need to route our internet to multiple devices?

Dedicated Wired Internet Service for Optimal Performance 

If you need an internet connection that is fast, highly reliable, and you have a budget for it, dedicated wired internet service is the way to go. Wired internet will outperform wireless/Wi-Fi in pretty much any venue.  This option requires labor for its installation, so there are deadlines for ordering it (check your manual for these). Ordering wired internet necessitates ordering specific hardware, such as a router.
Bottom line: If you are streaming high-resolution video content, downloading large files, or connecting multiple devices to the internet, a dedicated wired internet service from the show provider is a must.

Cost-Effective Solutions for Moderate Internet Speed

If you can manage with a modest at best internet speed, there are 2 options – Shared wired internet or “pay as you go” option. Pay as you go is similar to how hotels and airports charge you for the internet – you pay directly from your mobile device. Daily fees are around $75, but some shows will offer multi-day packages for the duration of the show.  A shared wired internet option will provide better internet than wireless, but you will share the bandwidth with your neighbors.
Bottom line: If you are only checking email and basic web browsing – or you have a tight budget – a shared internet or pay as you go wireless connection might be all you need.

Empowering Yourself with Do-It-Yourself Internet Options

A 2015 ruling by the Federal Communications Commission said that convention centers could not prohibit exhibitors from sourcing their own Wi-Fi and thus sidestepping show-provided internet access. DIY options include using your smartphone as a hotspot or purchasing a mobile Wi-Fi device, sometimes called “internet-in-a-box.” These options will provide decent bandwidth, even comparable to show-provided services.
Bottom line: If you are tech-savvy enough to set it up, you can save yourself a lot of money with DIY options.  The only disadvantage is if something goes wrong, you won’t have the luxury of on-site resources like you would have with show-provided services.

Leveraging Complimentary Wi-Fi at Convention Centers

Your easiest and cheapest option is the complimentary free Wi-Fi that some convention centers offer. Some restrictions make this option less than ideal.  The connection might only be available during move in and move out times. Or, if it’s available for the duration of the show, you might only get the signal in certain spaces like meeting rooms and common areas.
Bottom line: The speed for this type of connection will be slow – passable for checking email and surfing basic websites. We would not classify this option as reliable.

Going Wi-Fi Independent with Portable Hard Drives 

If your budget disallows you from affording a dedicated connection or Wi-Fi, tethering, and mobile hotspots don’t fit your needs, you might consider eliminating your need for the internet altogether.

Load all presentations and documents on a portable hard drive(s), which can be loaded on various devices you might have in your booth. Portable hard drives (also called external hard drives) run between $50 and $250, depending on storage size. For example, a six terabyte hard drive can store 2 million photos or 1,500+ hours of high-definition video!
Bottom line: If you want to eliminate the cost (and potential headache) of ordering internet services, plan ahead and load everything you need onto mobile/external hard drive(s).

Start Planning with an Experienced Exhibit House

By understanding your specific trade show requirements and the available internet options, you can make an informed decision. Whether you choose a dedicated wired connection, a budget-friendly alternative, a DIY solution, or go Wi-Fi independent with portable hard drives, plan ahead to ensure a successful and hassle-free trade show experience.

Ready to build an impressive trade show booth for your next event? Exhibit Options has a team of experts who can advise you on the best way forward and bring your vision to life with a custom-designed booth that reflects your brand’s uniqueness. Don’t miss out on making a lasting impression at your next trade show and contact us today!