Canada’s largest convention centre has bolstered its wireless local area network with the recent addition of more than 100 wireless VoIP phones for use by managers, staff and exhibitors.

The Metro Toronto Convention Centre’s

initiative should facilitate many work-related tasks at the 2,000,000-sq.-ft. facility — including 460,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space — capable of accommodating groups of 40 to 40,000 persons for events ranging from trade shows to conferences.

Based on Wi-Fi technology, the phones, provided by SpectraLink in Boulder, Colo., allow not only calls to and from points outside the venue, but also calls between people inside the building. Calls will be transmitted wirelessly over the MTCC’s converged voice and data network, which is able to handle 1,000 simultaneous mobile users.

Key features provided by the phones include the ability to receive, display and respond to text messages sent from the MTCC’s corporate desktop; access a dial-by-name directory for staff; access features common on traditional business phones such as call transfer, call forwarding and ringer choices; use speaker-phone feature to talk to numerous users simultaneously; and dedicate different channels to specific departments.

“”There’s a growing need for wireless, particularly since wireless standards have been established,”” said Bill McDonald, director of technology at the MTCC. Working at a large facility that in many instances extends more than three levels below ground, he continued, requires staff to be mobile rather than to be tethered to their desks. “”It’s a role where they have to be out dealing with exhibitors.””

As for the MTCC’s projections for cost savings stemming from the deployment in September, McDonald said it would take at least six months to come up with a solid figure. But he said there will certainly be cost savings down the line.

“”It’ll be a factor of what is the adoption rate of wireless over wired,”” he remarked, adding that the convention centre’s WLAN was implemented early this year. “”Over the long haul, (the deployment of wireless phones) will lead to cost savings.””

So far, 96 of the NetLink i640 wireless telephones have been deployed to managers and staff. Armed with the phones, users can better move about the facility to meet the needs of clients. The MTCC is also making a number of the wireless phones available for rental to clients’ event managers and staff.

According to Ben Guderian, director of market strategy and industry relations at SpectraLink, there are a number of reasons his company’s phones fit the MTCC’s needs. SpectraLink’s technology, for instance, bridges the gap between cordless and cellular. He added that Wi-Fi, which supports voice applications and broadband data access, provides the versatility and functionality needed by a large convention centre.

“”The solution operates under an unlicensed spectrum,”” said Guderian, stressing that the MTCC doesn’t have to deal with the monthly airtime charges they would have had to deal with had they been using cellular phones. “”And the people there can have the same phone numbers on their wireless devices and on their desksets.””

The Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance, based in Ottawa, Ont., has held events at the MTCC in the past and will likely do so in the future, said Barry Gander, vice-president of the CATAAlliance. The wireless phones deployment spearheaded by the MTCC, he said, makes the facility an even more inviting place to hold future CATAAlliance events.

“”If the association were ever to book a facility lacking wireless functionality, there would be complaints by attendees that there are no communications tools that they can use to run the booths and to communicate among themselves,”” said Gander. “”Our logistics planner would make sure there’s wireless before booking an event.””

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