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The guys who power CES

To most, Cox is known as a cable television provider. To the exhibitors and attendees of the International CES, held annually in Las Vegas, Cox provides a lifeline. Preparing the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC) for its biggest technology-based tradeshow is no easy feat, and one that Cox must don many hats to accomplish.

Since being awarded the contract to provide telecommunications services to the third largest convention center in the U.S. in August 2013, Cox Business, a full-service, facilities-based, nationwide provider of advanced voice, video and data solutions to the business and hospitality verticals, has been hard at work to transform LVCC’s 2 million square feet of exhibition space.

“We worked really hard to make LVCC one of the most competitive, if not the most competitive, convention centers in the U.S.,” said Derrick Hill, vice president, Cox Business/Hospitality Network, Las Vegas. “Cox doubled wireless and Internet speeds, and also added innovative features, such as location-based services and advertising.”

Bundles of CAT 5 Ethernet cable are pre-staged for deployment inside a vendor booth at CES by Cox Business installation technicians.

Bundles of CAT 5 Ethernet cable are pre-staged for deployment inside a vendor booth at CES by Cox Business installation technicians.

As the facilities-based provider, Cox designs, installs, manages high-density wireless and wired Internet services for the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority (LVCVA), operator of LVCC.

Taking over from the previous network provider, when the convention center had 166 wireless access points (APs) through which delegates could connect to the Internet, Cox installed 800 APs by the opening of CES 2014 and increased the number to 2,000 by CES 2015, adding over 10 times the level of Wi-Fi coverage than the facility had ever had since its opening in 1964.

Using a combination of Cisco APs and external antennas, Cox created a wireless local area network (LAN) throughout the entire convention center. The result is a high-density Wi-Fi canopy based on the 802.11ac networking standard with each AP able to service approximately 300 devices at once.

Cox executives estimate their wireless LAN handled over 15,000 unique devices simultaneously during each of the four days of the 2015 edition of CES, held Jan. 6-9. That is a number equal to nearly one-fourth of all CES attendees per day, totaling 70,000 at this year’s show.

“It’s the first time that show personnel could walk around and use a tablet while addressing a customer, and continue to do so in the halls, lobby areas, anywhere in the Las Vegas Convention Center,” said John Fountain, director of technology, Cox Business/Hospitality Network, Las Vegas.

Cox President Pat Esser (center) displays one of 2,000 access points deployed by Cox Business throughout LVCC. Esser is joined by Cox Business SVP Steve Rowley (right) and Cox Business/Hospitality Network Vice President Derrick Hill.

Cox President Pat Esser (center) displays one of 2,000 access points deployed by Cox Business throughout LVCC. Esser is joined by Cox Business SVP Steve Rowley (right) and Cox Business/Hospitality Network Vice President Derrick Hill.

Yet prepping the facility for CES and other technology tradeshows isn’t the sole purpose for the network overhaul. Hill explained that winning the contract to be LVCC’s exclusive telecommunications provider was also a victory for the local Southern Nevada economy.

Las Vegas hosts some of the nation’s top shows, including CES, SEMA and World of Concrete, and stands to bring even more economic value to the city by attracting additional shows to its convention center.

“It was a perfect marriage from a technological standpoint. It fits right in line with Cox’s core strategy and objective to help LVCC become more technologically advanced to attract more shows,” Hill stated. “We will continue to add value to why exhibitors want to come to Las Vegas.”

Working with the facility’s engineering team, who provided key recommendations, Cox’s role as LVCC’s technology partner helped to drive technological changes, including the installation of a 10 Gbps dual-homed, diverse and redundant fiber optic network that connects two of the company’s telecommunications hubs in Southern Nevada to the Data Command Center at LVCC. Cox engineers eliminated single points of failure to ensure 99.999 percent uptime availability and virtually uninterrupted service to the convention center.

“When we deploy a network, we go to great lengths to ensure its reliability,” Hill commented.

With 39 onsite employees at LVCC, Cox is also creating jobs in the Las Vegas market. Composed of 28 full-time local contractors, seven part-time local convention service specialists as well as four full-time managers, Cox oversees its day-to-day activities at the facility.

In addition, up to 25 additional local contractors are brought on board to service larger shows. The telecommunications company also staffs a primary customer service desk in the grand lobby of LVCC as well as a satellite service desk at each of the facility’s three halls that are opened as show demands require.

Cox technicians Eric Wieber (left) and Tracy Johnson pull CAT 5 Ethernet through plastic sheeting in the floor blueprint.

Cox technicians Eric Wieber (left) and Tracy Johnson pull CAT 5 Ethernet through plastic sheeting in the floor blueprint.

As if having a dual-homed, diverse, redundant network wasn’t enough, two oversized diesel backup generators on the grounds of LVCC provide uninterrupted power to the Data Command Center, where Cox Business houses its critical systems, in the event of a complete power outage. Cox also maintains a high-reliability battery backup system for additional redundancy.

So far, Cox has invested over $10 million in new technology at LVCC. The company has installed 40 route miles of fiber optic cable, added 7,500 fiber terminations, over 80 nodes and will be replacing some 200 pre-existing network switches in the facility with newer 5.0 GHz equipment, among other upgrades.

In addition to the Wi-Fi installation, Cox Business is completing its design for a neutral host Distributed Antenna System (DAS) inside LVCC. The DAS will improve signal strength, network capacity and reliability for wireless carriers to provide their customers better coverage within the facility.

Scheduled for late 2015, Cox Business will then partner with wireless carriers and serve as lead provider. Neutral host DAS systems are installed to handle voice and data services that require higher capacity and greater coverage while also eliminating dead spots.

Before the advent of Wi-Fi and other Internet services, the most requested service was a cup of Joe.

“Back in the day, convention center delegates used to ask, ‘Do you have hot coffee?’ Nowadays, people are asking if there’s high-speed Internet,” commented Juergen Barbusca, manager of communications, Cox Communications, Las Vegas.

Cox is continually enhancing the “coffee” at Las Vegas Convention Center.

 

COX HOSPITALITY NETWORK
Delegates may not realize that the same Internet services they’re connecting to at the convention center may also be available within their hotel rooms. Hospitality Network, a product of Cox Business in Las Vegas, provides voice, video and data solutions to more than 110,000 guest rooms in Nevada and at a host of other gaming jurisdictions and properties throughout the U.S.

  • Video content: State-of-the-art video-on-demand episodes of popular cable and TV shows, Hollywood hit movies; Linear programming of popular news, sports, entertainment, in-language channels and music.
  • High-speed Internet services: Guests plug into Ethernet ports for wired services; Wireless access is available in guestrooms and in common areas of hotel lobbies, lounges, restaurants and pool areas.
  • iGuestbook®: A high-tech, in-room interactive resource allows guests to book hotel amenities through their TV such as dining reservations, spa appointments, golf tee-times and show ticket purchase.
  • Voice services: Provides Primary Rate Interface digital trunk services as well as business-grade local service designed to manage the full range of voice needs; Systems integrate with current telephone equipment, including large PBX systems or standard desktop phones.
  • Advanced Convention Services (ACS): An operating unit under Hospitality Network, ACS provides wired and wireless data services to 1.8 million square feet of event and convention space throughout the U.S.; 24-hour, in-house customer support ensures constant connectivity.

 

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