San Diego's Balboa Park Brings High-Capacity Wi-Fi to the Masses

SUNNYVALE, CA, January 3, 2012 – Ruckus Wireless™ today announced that Balboa Park Online Collaborative (BPOC), an innovative technology project serving more than 25 cultural institutions in San Diego’s Balboa Park, has selected and deployed its Smart Wi-Fi products and technology to bring high-capacity, high-performance Wi-Fi to the millions of people who visit the park each year.

Home of the world-renowned San Diego Zoo, 15 museums, and numerous cultural centers, Balboa Park has been a popular destination for family fun and recreational activities for nearly a century. The need for high-density Wi-Fi – both indoors and outdoors – stemmed from the growing use of mobile devices and applications by a large number of the park’s more than 10 million annual visitors. Mobile traffic to the park’s website increased 150% September 2011 over September 2010.

Of particular importance is Balboa Park’s popular “December Nights” event, an annual two-day holiday celebration that attracts 300,000 visitors, and which for the first time in 2011 offered a smartphone app, QR code video tour, and mobile navigation guide to provide an enhanced interactive experience for attendees.

“The museums and recreation centers at Balboa Park have seen a major shift over the past couple years, as more and more people are coming with mobile devices,” said Maren Dougherty, senior editor at BPOC. “To meet their needs, the BPOC team has developed several mobile applications as a way to give people a more dynamic and flexible tour than traditional audio tours provide, allowing people to go at their own pace, take a different route, or stream video along the way. All of this has put increased demands on the local cellular networks, which aren’t always able to keep up. For us, providing a robust, comprehensive Wi-Fi network was critical, and Ruckus delivered.”

Prior to deploying Ruckus, Balboa Park had a pilot project with wireless access points at a handful of kiosks and museums but coverage was not pervasive and didn’t offer broadband access outdoors. The build-out of a campus-wide fiber optic network and the subsequent Ruckus Smart Wi-Fi network have changed all of that.

To cover a large, 400-acre area, including 10 buildings and several large outdoor spaces, Balboa Park Online Collaborative purchased and deployed 60 Ruckus ZoneFlex 7962 dual-band 802.11n indoor access points (APs), 10 ZoneFlex 7762 dual-band 802.11n outdoor APs, 10 ZoneFlex 7762-S 802.11n outdoor APs, and two ZoneDirector 3050 centralized WLAN controllers. Most of the APs are hard-wired to the park’s fiber network or through Power over Ethernet (PoE), although a few outdoor APs are deployed in a mesh configuration.

“We looked at several Wi-Fi vendors before choosing Ruckus,” said Rich Cherry, BPOC director. “Of all the systems we looked at, Ruckus’ unique antenna technology was the only one that specifically addressed Wi-Fi performance, and was the best to address our coverage and capacity needs. We’ve been particularly impressed with the reach of the 7762-S APs. Additionally, the APs are highly customizable and allowed us great flexibility in placement and other aesthetic options to keep the natural beauty of the park.”

Future plans for the network are to broaden its coverage area, including several performing arts venues and gardens, while also using it to support mobile ticket purchases and to accept donations patrons want to make on their smartphones.

Ruckus Smart Wi-Fi is designed to uniquely overcome the physical and technical challenges of bringing high-performance Internet access to hospitality environments with indoor/outdoor, high-capacity coverage requirements. Smart Wi-Fi is developed with state-of-the-art adaptive antenna technology that extends signal range and automatically adapts to changes in the environment that degrade performance. Access points integrate a patented smart antenna array that focuses and directs Wi-Fi signals over the best signal path, automatically avoiding interference with other devices to ensure consistent performance and high data rates.

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Balboa Park Online Collaborative can be found online at www.twitter.com/bpoc_sd or at www.bpoc.org.