Event Tech Knowledgebase
Our guide for event organisers and production managers to simplify terminology, detail the pros and cons of different services and provide some example setups for different types of events. Click on the headings for a list of questions and answers or use the search box below.
Common Scenarios (4)
Keeping a production team connected is a primary task and usually consists of a providing a good internet connection, Wi-Fi, VoIP (Phones), wired connections and associated IT support. Internet connectivity may be delivered via one or more services such as satellite, 3G/4G, ADSL, FTTC, wireless or fibre depending on requirements and budget. User access control is normally provided to control users, often coupled with rate shaping and prioritisation to ensure the production users always have good access.
Services are normally deployed when the production team arrive (“First Day Service”) and last until the team leave site (“Last Day Service”). Depending on the size of the event additional services may be deployed during the build as the team and site grows. For big sites multiple locations may be connected using different technologies including cabling, wireless links and optical fibre.
Mobile application launch events can place high demands on a temporary network depending on the type of application. Often for a native smartphone application the size of install may be over 100MB and with a large audience all trying to download simultaneously, this can create a high demand on the internet capacity available. Prior to the event it is important to understand the application size and the likely audience so that calculations can be done to estimate the required capacity. This information can then be used to ensure there is enough internet capacity available and that the Wi-Fi network deployed is suitable.If the attendees are also going to use the application at the event there may also be considerations around latency which often rules out the use of satellite.
If the attendees are also going to use the application at the event there may also be considerations around latency which may rule out the use of satellite as a form of connectivity. Occasionally non-standard protocols may also be used by applications and these need to be checked before the event to ensure there are no firewalls that are likely to block the connection. This is particularly important if a mobile network is used for connectivity as they often use transparent proxies which can cause unexpected effects.
In more advanced situations local caching can be used at the event site to reduce the demand on the internet connection, however, this is a relatively complex area and needs close coordination with the application developers.
Video streaming from an event site has some very specific requirements and must be considered well in advance of the event to ensure success. The first question is the level of quality required for the stream which may be SD (Standard Definition), HD (High Definition – 720p), Full-HD (High Definition – 1080p), 2K (1440p) or 4K (2160p). In simple terms the higher the quality the higher the bit-rate required, typically ranging from around 2Mbps at the low end up to over 45Mbps at the top end, possibly even higher for frame rates above 30fps!
The key point is that the bandwidth capacity is required on upload rather than download so it is essential the upload speed is checked as many services quote the headline download speed missing out the all important upload speed which may be considerably slowly. If a two-way video stream is proposed then synchronous bandwidth is essential. Alongside the upload speed, the quality of the connection is also very important. Streaming requires a very stable connection with low jitter and no packet loss.
The latency of the connection is generally only an issue if there is a two-way stream which means for uni-directional streaming satellite is an option. Low-grade ADSL connections do not have the upload capacity for streaming, however, a good quality FTTC service may be OK. Mobile 3G/4G connections, particularly when aggregated, can be OK in low-density environments but there are significant risks in an event environment where the arrival of the audience may well overloads the available capacity causing the stream to fail. For the best quality and reliability, a dedicated point-to-point link or optic fibre connection is the best solution.
In addition to the connectivity, it is also important to understand who is doing the encoding of the stream and configuring the distribution service such as YouTube or Ustream.
Public Wi-Fi internet access is often requested for event sites where mobile coverage is poor or has limited capacity, especially when the attendee numbers are likely to be in thousands. With current technology delivering a good quality W-Fi experience is achievable but there are some factors to consider:
- Backhaul connectivity – The actual connection to the internet is probably the most important success factor. With a large number of concurrent users there must be sufficient connectivity to ensure a good user experience and typically the cost of delivering this connectivity makes up a large proportion of the overall cost. Skimping on connectivity always leads to a poor experience and complaints that “it didn’t work”. From years of experience, we have built up a collection of models to calculate the likely level of connectivity required.
- Wi-Fi Density & Coverage – For a good user experience for thousands of users a significant number of wireless access points are needed to ensure appropriate coverage and density. This requires good planning and design to ensure that they do not interfere with each other. High-end professional access points can support up to several hundred users per unit depending on the type of usage compared to less than 50 on a cheap low-end product.
- Installation – Deploying a public network requires coordination across a number of areas, this is particularly important if the deployment is in a truly public space such as a city centre. Physical aspects of mounting, cabling (or Point-to-Point links), power, security and health & safety all need to be considered.
Alongside these aspects consideration also needs to be given to the method of access which may be totally open, perhaps with a terms and conditions “hi-jack/splash page” or it may be secured with some form of registration or code. The landing page may also be sponsored or branded to promote a product or event. Although ‘pay for access’ public networks can be deployed we do not typically recommend this for temporary events as users do not like this approach and take-up is generally very low.