When asked if they have given any consideration to security many event organisers and attendees admit they haven’t given it much thought. Unfortunately, but like many things in IT, security is not sexy but it is growing in importance. Within large corporate companies security teams get some weight but for most small and medium sized businesses they are relying on good behaviour from their users to keep data secure.

The recent incident at Sony has become what is likely to be one of a growing number of attacks by those with looking to cause damage to brands and governments. Sony spent over 13 million dollars dealing with the fallout of the issue. Although the risk to events by a security breach is lower, since systems are setup and then taken away in a relatively short period of time, it doesn’t mean that the data transferred could not be of value.

A further risk, which many do not realise, is that it’s not always obvious when a security breach has occurred, meaning that someone can take data for their own purposes and the user is none the wiser.

So faced with the risk of greater security related attacks what can organisers of events do?

Take a lead from your in house IT team.  Many organisations neglect to work with their in house IT teams when defining the specification for their event networks. This doesn’t mean that the IT team will have to provide resource or expertise regularly but what they can do is document a minimum specification of what is required. Providers can then use this to understand what they should be delivering. 

Use segmented networks.  An effective method for ensuring communications are private whilst on site is to operate a number of logical and segmented networks ensuring that any file shares are not visible to non-trusted users.

Use common sense.  Simple things can be done for example, not calling your event your company name. It may also be useful (for internal corporate events, or production teams) to have a wireless network profile already setup by the IT team on client devices, that way most people will never need to know the password since the profile is already in place.

Use software VPN.  When using networks which are not encrypted, one method of increasing security is to load a software VPN client prior to transmitting like having a private tunnel over the network.

Even though many events do not think network security is a cause for concern, but with more and more high profile cases some basic precautions can ensure the risk is limited.

Bonding an internet service means using various pieces of equipment to present multiple internet connections to the network as one single connection. By presenting the network with one single connection, all the logic of which external connection to use is removed from the internal routers and therefore the network just passes information.

Cellular bonding is a method of putting together multiple cellular modems, typically for more than one carrier (Vodafone, EE etc) so that if one network is under heavy demand, the bonding equipment will intelligently identify that and route more information down the other connections.

What is it?

A single box with external cellular antennas which supports up to 8 cellular connections. The connections are ‘4G’ capable but will work at the speed of the network in the local area, be that GPRS, 3G or 4G.

How fast is it?

Depending on the speeds of the local cellular network depends on how fast the connection may be. The table below (from CISCO) provides an overview of the ‘average’ speeds which customers may see on each network type (CISCO provide some interesting data about the number of users in each area in their report Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update, 2013–2018 here)


What’s its capacity?

Again depending on the local network, services maybe excellent one hour and then slower the next once crowds attend or even based on a routine of the day (for example networks tend to be under more pressure during commuting times so 0730 – 0930 & 1630 – 1800 weekdays).

For what type of event?

Cellular connectivity is useful for very quick setups when internet access is not critical. A bonded service delivers the best speeds possible because it is able to use multiple services from multiple carriers.

Further information about satellite services can be found on our product page here

Internet speeds are increasing all the time right? Well, things are better than they were but in reality many events are now reaching a ‘tipping point’ of needing as much internet capacity as a medium-sized business, which means they are looking at the investment in fibre optical connections.

Not only are there increases in production internet demands (drop box and other cloud services), but many sites are now required to provide sponsors, bars and ticking partners with internet access. All of this means older systems are creaking and eventually become untenable.

Copper (phone line) based services can only provide a certain speed and reliability, whilst wireless (point to point) links to sites can be flexible, they do carry an amount of risk (though a lot of technology has been developed in this space to improve the challenges of reliability and consistency) with respect to copper based services.  There is also an assumption that there is sufficient capacity within the BT infrastructure [ known commonly as “Spare pairs “ ] to be able to deliver additional temporary capacity.

Our experiences tell us that the locating of spare pairs by Openreach has become much more of a challenge on a daily basis.

Whilst fibre optics can support significantly higher speeds (up to gigabit per second) their primary drawback is installation lead times. Because fibre is a ‘new’ technology deploying it to sites can be very challenging (this is the reason why wireless point to point links are so popular, more about them in our next issue) especially when roads literally need to be dug up to run cables.

Etherlive processes around 200 connectivity orders each year, from phone lines on beaches to fibre optic connections in the middle off Glasgow. The table below is based on our experience:


Install time

Central London

70 working days

Southern town

90 working days

Remote location

110 working days

With the increased internet on site, many events are bringing partners on board to stream content either from the event in general or from the artists.

Things that can be done to reduce timelines:

Get the order in as quickly as possible. In many cases the supplier will allow you to cancel up until a certain point with no penalty; use this to your benefit.

Consider how you may sell the service to others. In many cases event sites are used by others throughout the year; can they use the service for a fee since you are already paying for it?

Look to partners. Companies like Etherlive can be used to sell the service to other events on your behalf even if those events are not in exactly the same place (by using wireless links).

Our next newsletter will address some of the commercial implications of service (for example, should you arrange a service over multiple years since you will be returning to the same location?).  Excess charges (the cost of installation) and how services can be purchased which operate for most of the year at a low speed but ‘burst’ as they are required.

Many events look to provide free Wi-Fi for attendees. For today’s smartphone generation connectivity is always in demand. With cellular networks, under increasing pressure, cell towers are not deployed to anticipate large user ‘spikes’ which events create. Even when towers are brought in many are uplinked through the local town which is already busy.

The challenge for those looking to provide Wi-Fi is how to manage the associated costs?

Two main options exist:

Sponsorship – Finding a partner who wants to increase brand exposure is the best way to fund services. It’s a great deal for both parties. The sponsor gains excellent visibility from their ‘Complimentary Wi-Fi’ which can be used across site, advertised with flyers and posters. VIP customers can be offered a faster service and invited to a special bar whilst everyone else has that association with the brand when they are desperately trying to check into Facebook or send those photos to a friend.

Collecting data – Many events now use the data from their customers to help brands looking to find a specific range of customers. Those connecting to the wireless network can contribute to this data since some key things are known about them; for example what type of handset they have, their email and what content (i.e. sites) they browsed. A few simple questions are posed as part of the network login function, permission is sought and then the information can be passed over.

Many providers now provide robust systems for managing content and customer data including Ucopia, Purple WiFi, Global reach

Are you looking to understand more about event technology?

Do you want to know more about Wi-Fi, social media, people counting and how these technologies can be used to increase revenues or improve health and safety at your event?

Etherlive will be running ‘Mind the gap’ sessions for event planners throughout 2016.

The content, which includes some of the topic below is delivered by industry experts in an informal breakfast session where questions are welcome and networking is encouraged. Breakfast is provided.

Email info@etherlive.co.uk to register your interest

Over 6 months since the Apple Pay launch, US customers are becoming used to approving transactions by a swipe of their handset on a payment terminal. With acceptance in the US, other countries are scheduled to follow during 2015. Questions about security will be forgotten as more people see others using it (just like chip and pin from signature or card from cash) and systems such as Apple Pay show users just how simple things can be (the same as they have done with purchasing digital content through iTunes)

The launch of the Apple watch will usher in a new era of wearable devices (manufactures like Samsung, LG and Motorola already have ‘chunky’ systems in the market which will be on their second generation this year) which will mean quick and convenient payments will start to shift the ‘wallet’ from the pocket to the handset.

Of course the wallet will never disappear just like the CD continues to enjoy a healthy market years after digital content has reached tipping point, but it does mean that people are familiar and understand the alternatives.

All this means the event industry needs to prepare for contactless payment; finding a partner who can meet their requirements either with a system in house or brought in as and when required (just as many do today for chip and pin terminals). A key consideration is ensuring that whichever direction is taken, connecting the systems back to the internet to process their transactions is considered at the early stages. Transaction data requirements are very small (less than an email) it’s more about getting the connections to whichever stand or bar will host the terminal. Those relying on the cellular network (GPRS etc) need to be very sure that the local infrastructure will be capable of hosting the system when the crowds arrive.

A good article from the New York Times documented the current experience of Apple Pay http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/01/02/a-day-with-apple-pay/?_r=1

A question that we are often asked at trade shows and events that we do is how satellite internet works. To many it seems a daunting prospect but in fact it is a simple, powerful system with a large capacity and high performance.

What is it? In principle satellite systems communicate from a dish at the event which beams signals to a geostationary satellite in space which ‘bounces’ the beam to a receiving station on the ground. We typically deploy a 78cm type dish at event sites which is responsible for beaming to the satellite to send data.

How fast is it? Speeds depend on which type of dish and packages are selected. Most events operate on a service which is on par with ADSL/home broadband type speeds. The main advantage of satellite is that it can be deployed in less than an hour.

What’s its capacity? Speeds offered range from around 10 Mbps (similar to home broadband) to 50 or 60 Mbps. System can be offered which support video streaming or general internet access.

For what type of event? Depending on budgets typically the most appropriate is two systems providing high speed internet for a press or organiser network. 

Further information about satellite services can be found on our product page here

Working with venues can be challenging; there is a lot to arrange in a short amount of time. Services like catering and staffing are critical; but have you asked the right questions about the IT services to avoid issues on the day?

Our top 5 things to check with venues prior to signing or live

Bandwidth – it’s always a good idea to ask what the bandwidth is when you’re trying to decide on a venue but you could go one step further and test the bandwidth during a site visit. Sites like www.speedtest.net are easy to use and give a quick indication. Try and be clear about how much bandwidth you’ll need for your event or meeting, if you’re likely to be streaming or downloading you may need a higher bandwidth capability. Ask if the bandwidth you have access to during the site visit is dedicated to your event or shared (perhaps with rooms? Or the corporate side of the hotel)

Support – to be effective for your event, bandwidth should be managed so that everyone gets a similar experience. It’s also useful to know who will be on hand to support your Wi-Fi on the day and in the run up to the event.

Dedicated Wi-Fi – does the venue have dedicated Wi-Fi for meetings and events which will fit your requirements? Some venues may share the incoming internet with guest rooms, public you need to ensure the service for your event will not be impacted by their demands.

Security – this is an increasingly important issue when considering a venue for an event. Wi-Fi networks should be password protected, ideally with a strong password. Always check this beforehand.

Consistent coverage – depending on your event or venue, you may have a number of break out rooms or separate rooms which all need the same Wi-Fi capabilities. Make sure you check if the coverage is consistent over all these areas to suit your requirements.