Arizona office broadcasts free service for visitors to annual tech festival
About 3,000 people in Tempe, Ariz. tapped into Wi-Fi beams from the ViaSat-2 satellite during Tempe’s March 20 Geeks Night Out event.
Viasat, which has a campus in Tempe, set up and donated several hours of its Community Wi-Fi service during the 8th annual gathering, during which the city and more than 70 organizations invited the public to discover the joy of science. The free event, part of the Arizona SciTech Festival, was held at the Tempe Community Complex.
As visitors came into the festival grounds, they were invited to log their mobile devices onto Viasat’s Community Wi-Fi, and use it throughout their stay. About 35 of the vendors also used Viasat’s Wi-Fi during the event.
“I used Viasat for the whole duration during our exhibit at Geeks Night Out to preview our curriculum for students; I was impressed,” said Girls Who Code coordinator Ngan Pham, who’d never before used Viasat Internet. “It was wonderful, and fast. Students were able to click through the curriculum really well.
“There were exhibitors around me who had more interactive activities, and it seemed to work seamlessly for them too.”
Viasat engineer Omar Alam, who works in the Tempe office, coordinated the complimentary Wi-Fi service, a complex task that required help from six Viasat campuses. Omar has spearheaded a community volunteer effort, creating a partnership between Viasat Tempe and the Arizona SciTech Institute, which hosts the SciTech Festival. Viasat is a festival sponsor.
At the 2018 Geeks Night Out, Viasat employees did a point-and-peak demonstration – letting festival visitors align an antenna with the satellite to acquire the signal.
“We thought, why not take it one step further and deliver internet at one of these festival events?” Alam said. “Viasat Arizona designs the radio frequency (RF) satellite payloads, such as ViaSat-3, and the RF technologies that receive and transmit the signals in the air, and on the ground, but we don’t oversee the internet service. So I networked throughout the company.
“This Community Wi-Fi demonstration required multiple business units working together. It shows how Viasat as a whole comes together to deliver a product to our customers.”
Alam coordinated with several departments on multiple Viasat campuses, including the Global Business Services team in College Station, Texas, the Duluth, Georgia team that designs the dish antenna, residential services in Denver, the Social Impact team in Carlsbad, the Tempe team that designs the electronics for the dish antenna and Tempe’s municipal government.
Together, they designed the deployment – everything from cable placement to antenna positioning, and how much bandwidth would be allocated to each festival visitor.
Viasat had two booths at the event, each with a dish antenna, modem control box, and Community Wi-Fi access point (AP) mounted on a pole to broadcast the network. One of Viasat’s booths was broadcasting the ViaSat-2 launch video, and both booths had hands-on RF activities for kids and families.
As festival-goers entered the grounds, signs urged them to log their phones and tables onto Viasat’s Community Wi-Fi.
“This was really the first time in Arizona that a public Wi-Fi donation of this magnitude has been delivered,” Omar said. “Three thousand students, families and community officials came, and they were able to check emails, stream videos and use our internet service.”
The ViaSat-2 service launched in early 2018, so Alam said Geeks Night Out was an ideal opportunity to showcase it to the public.
“From last year to this year, there’s been so much growth. We’ve been very excited to let people see that and increase our brand awareness.”
An employee at Tempe’s SciTech Institute felt a sense of awe at seeing the technology.
“It’s crazy to think that probably no one when my grandma was a kid would have imagined space satellites or the internet, let alone a combination of the two,” said Kaci Fankhauser, the institute’s STEM Ecosystem Coordinator.