Internet and the great outdoors

Previously, I’ve talked about how to generate cash to help cover the costs of Wi-Fi,
and the potential options for sponsorship and other alternatives, but
it seems many people, including experienced event professionals, still
have a misperception that installing a network at an event is just a
case of plug and play, so I wanted to shed some light on the murky world
of WiFi and underground cables, particularly for outdoor events.

Installing
a network for an event is one of those jobs that most people don’t even
really think about; Internet is in the ether, the common assumption is
that it’s ’just there’. In actual fact, it involves quite a lot of
shenanigans, luckily, shenanigans is what we’re good at. Here’s a
glimpse of what some of our outdoor installations involve:

From a field of cows to a field of connectivity

Your
first hurdle is getting an internet connection capable of providing
enough bandwidth for your expected audience into your field. This
problem is twofold, first is a matter of lead times, it takes an average
of 75 working days to get something like a 100Mb connection
commissioned, it’s not often that clients can give this length of notice
for an event. Secondly, the minimum term contract for a line like this
is one year – which when your show is likely to be a matter of days is a
bit annoying to say the least, and clearly has an impact on cost. An
ADSL connection can be used as an alternative, with a minimum contract
of a month, but it probably won’t give you enough bandwidth.

Satellite systems

Satellite
systems can be a great option especially now that their average speeds
are increasing, and we’ve used these successfully at a number of events
this year including Seaworks in Southampton and the premiere of the One
Direction movie in Leicester Square.  The satellites need to be
installed with clear lines of sight to the horizon (so building rooftops
for example are ideal, but we can mount them on scaffold towers if
necessary) but they mean you don’t need to worry about long-lead times
and minimum contracts with the ISP.

Once you have your connection
you need to start distributing it around the site. There are a couple
of ways of doing this, via Fibre Cable or Wireless Point to point links.

Wireless
Point to Point (P2P) links are great as they are generally quick to set
up, and can cover large distances, however, it’s not unusual to find
that your lovely clear line of sight now has a large marquee or vehicle
in the way. So it’s important to have a good understanding of the site
before you commit to positioning wireless P2P links.

However,
even on a small site the distance from where your internet connection
arrives to where you need to use it can be surprisingly far, and running
a fibre cable over a kilometre and keeping it safe from lawn mowers and
forklifts presents its own challenges.

Miles and miles of fibre cable

We
use over 30 miles of fibre on the Farnborough Airshow site – and that’s
before you start with the 100 miles of CAT5. This all has to be
protected, and weather-proof – if you are lucky there may be underground
ducts, if not then you will need a shovel…

Heavy rain,
short-lead times, round-the-clock work schedules, buried internet
cables, fields of cows and unexpected weather disruptions are all things
we take in our stride so you don’t have to. But next time you’re at an
outdoor event, whether it’s a festival, sporting event or exhibition,
and you’re connecting to the Wi-Fi to share your presence with your
world, remember the techies that have laboured long into the night to
help make your urgent file upload or your social media activity
possible.

Any comments? Email sarah@mashmedia.net

ConferenceNews Guest Author

Conference News hosts great guests on its pages. Our Blog section is the collection of the best opinions in the UK and international events industry.

ConferenceNews Guest Author

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ConferenceNews Guest Author

Conference News hosts great guests on its pages. Our Blog section is the collection of the best opinions in the UK and international events industry.

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