One of the challenges of going to a major convention like CES or E3 is connectivity. When you take a large group of hyperconnected geeks and slam them all in one hotel, odds are the hotel network just cant handle the load of the equipment that the temporary residents travel with. This was precisely the problem I ran into last week in LA. One of the official E3 hotels was jam-packed with attendees and their equipment. In the evenings, when I tested my speed I was getting an average of 150k down and about 75 k up. Not good. In addition, the Xbox.com and Inside Xbox team was stationed at the hotel as well, and we were pushing some fairly large video files back up to the Redmond offices to be processed and put on the service.
Clearly the connection was not going to work.
I was chatting with the Xbox events team that had set up E3 and made them aware of the problemthey said, Ohwe have an Internet guy that can probably help. Later that day, I received a call from Mark. I told him what I was up against and he said hed be right over. After surveying the hotel and looking at the surrounding buildings, he said he would have have a very fast connection set up for our team within 12 hours. It would all be legal and licensed, and with the cooperation of the hotel. Twelve hours for all that? I was intrigued. Sure enough, by the next morning my team was online with a VERY fast connection. How fast? 5500 kb/s down and 4800 kb/s up. When I asked him how he did ithe outlined what he had to do. While there is much more to it, here is basically how it went down, directly from an email Mark sent me ealier today:
From the 1 Gbps feed on the rooftop of an apartment building across the freeway we used a custom 2.4 Ghz mesh radio to get from one part of the roof to another. One of these devices also acted as the NAT router/firewall. From the corner of the apartment building roof to you we used Ligowave 5 Ghz point to point radios that are built into the panel antennas. All of the traffic from the Hotel to the 1 Gbps feed was encrypted by using a VPN which the radios do naturally. The apartment roof is part of a 1 Gbps ring around downtown Los Angeles using Freespace optics (ie lasers) which terminates in a building which houses the largest carrier hotel/interconnect point in Southern California. Their normal use is to provide internet and VOIP to tenants in the apartment buildings.
Where there is a will, there is a way. One of the common questions is how much did this cost. Lets just say, it was not as expensive as you may think and completely worth it in order to keep the operation going and to deliver the video you saw last week.
If you find yourself in Southern California, and you need a fast internet connection.give Mark a call.
I was unable to get a shot of the freespace optics (the laser beam) but you can see some photos of the set up on my Flickr