Some 300 of the 4,000 members attending the Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) 71st International Convention in Albuquerque, N.M., participated in an experiment to bring high-speed wireless Internet access to large temporary gatherings of people.
“This was one of the largest outdoor networks ever set up,” said Jamison Stewart, president and CEO of Coach Connect Corp., Austin, Tex., whose company installed 10 antennas on the periphery of Albuquerque’s 76-acre Balloon Fiesta Park. ( Wi-Fi is telecommunications industry jargon for wireless fidelity).
“It was a huge experiment for us,” Stewart said.
The antennas streamed a broadband wireless signal throughout the park that allowed owners of properly equipped laptop computers to receive high-speed access to the Internet.
The convention, March 16-18, was split between two locations – Balloon Fiesta Park, where member coaches parked, and Expo New Mexico at the New Mexico State Fair Grounds 13 miles away, where commercial coaches were displayed.
Owners paid $15 to access the Wi-Fi network at Balloon Fiesta Park during the convention, although Monaco owners had free access through a sponsorship arrangement with Coach Connect and Monaco Coach Corp., Coburg, Ore.
“The thing that we learned, which kind of took us by surprise, is how few people have used Wi-Fi before,” said Stewart, whose year-old company has installed smaller Wi-Fi networks in about 30 campgrounds nationwide. “Because of the demographics and because this is fairly new for the RV industry, we spent more time educating people than we had anticipated.”
Coach Connect plans to set up a similar network for some 4,000 RVers who are expected to attend the Great North American RV Rally (GNAR), June 21-24, at the Kansas State Fairgrounds, Hutchinson, Kan. GNAR is sponsored by Affinity Group Inc., the parent company of TL Enterprises,which publishes RV Business and RVBUSINESS.com.