Wireless At The Convention: Lots Of Cell Coverage, But No Wi-Fi
By Mike Masnick, Fri Jul 09 22:30:00 GMT 2004

It's political convention season in the US, and as the Democratic Presidential Convention approaches, all the important details are being finalized -- including what kinds of wireless connections will be available.

Over in Boston, they're getting ready for this year's Democratic National Convention. It's a big media event, and everyone wants to make sure that all of the details are set. Obviously, wireless technologies are a big part of those details, but the difference between cellular coverage and Wi-Fi coverage gives you some idea how these things are valued.

Cellular coverage is a big deal. After all, Nextel is paying to sponsor the convention (though, to make sure they play both sides, they're also sponsoring the Republican National Convention). However, the other cellular operators obviously don't want any bad publicity either.

Verizon Wireless, hoping to live up to their "can you hear me now?" reputation, is rolling out the big guns and upgrading the cells around the convention location, installing a new cell on the top of the building itself, and (just for good measure) bringing out mobile "cells on wheels" to add more coverage, in case everyone tries to make calls at once. Clearly, they're hoping that the Fleet Center is completely coated in cellular coverage.

Wi-Fi, however, is a different story. Both conventions have pointed out that there will be no Wi-Fi access on the floor of the convention, for fear that it would interfere with the ever-important-to-politicians TV technology. While many questioned just how Wi-Fi might interfere with TV, Glenn Fleishman went and asked Tim Pozar, about the potential for conflict. It turns out, indeed, that many television stations use licensed 2.4GHz for Electronic News Gathering (ENG), giving them priority over unlicensed 2.4GHz Wi-Fi. The news organizations don't want to risk any kind of interference and have made it clear that they want the 2.4GHz band all clear for themselves. As Glenn notes, it's unclear how that will stop anyone from either setting up ad hoc Wi-Fi networks or from dumping a Wi-Fi router at the end of a leased line (which Verizon is offering for a fee). For the time being, however, the pecking order of wireless technologies with politicians is clear: cellular is good, TV is good, Wi-Fi can wait.