Venue Case Study – Election Debate
The UK Election debates, held during the summer of 2010, were the first in history to have members of the rival political parties directly debating issues in front of a public panel. For many years, these have been taking place in other democracies, the United States being the most well known, yet they have never taken place in the UK. In 2010, three debates took place, one for each broadcaster.
Etherlive provided the network for the Sky Election debate on behalf of Easynet, who provided the internet connectivity for the event. Etherlive was asked to design, deploy, support and de-rig the wired and wireless network for the event, which hosted up to 450 national and international members of the press. It was critical that the event took place without any issues, and therefore the Etherlive network was designed with full redundancy.
High Density Network
A critical part of delivering the wireless network was the ability to handle the relatively small space with the high amount of wireless clients. Typically, the size of the media centre could be covered with two or three access points; however, this would not service the total amount of wireless clients. The Etherlive deployment involved 10 enterprise level 802.11n (2.4Ghz, 5Ghz) access points managed by a central controller. By managing the radio power of access points in conjunction with having dedicated access points for 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz, Etherlive was able to manage the amount of bandwidth per user. Etherlive also used advanced network features such as band steering to ensure clients joined the most appropriate access point.
Experienced Etherlive engineers were present at all times during the event to monitor activity and resolve any user issues. A structure of first, second and third line support was used to ensure basic user issues could be quickly addressed by the technicians on the floor, whilst infrastructure engineers managed and monitored the network behind the scenes. Any issues were quickly communicated through radios.
Etherlive engineers have worked at several media centre and product launches and are aware of the high levels of interference which can be present. Technicians were armed with full radio scanning devices to ensure any interference was quickly identified and action taken. Up to 130 sources of interference were identified during the event, but none of these had an effect on the users joined to the network. Etherlive worked with the media broadcasters present to discuss potential sources of interference, and remove or, where possible, disable the potential causes.
Two independent networks were operated from the infrastructure: Organisers and Media. Each network was managed to ensure maximum bandwidth throughput. Both networks had authentication per user to ensure no access was granted to unauthorised clients. By using a per-user login method, Etherlive could monitor usage per user account and identify those who required greater bandwidth to meet their requirements.
Short Lead Times
The Etherlive network was designed to be deployed and de-rigged quickly. The venue was only available for a short time, during which Etherlive also ran a full soak test to ensure no issues were present before the event began. By using Etherlive temporary networking equipment, deployment took place in under three hours. Engineers were on standby towards the end of the event to ensure equipment was promptly removed.