Achilles was an all-powerful god with one deadly weakness in spite of his overall strength. As a baby Achilles was dipped into the River Styx, which was supposed to offer powers of invulnerability, by Thetis. When Thetis dipped the young Achilles into the river he held him by his heel and thus that part was not washed and become his weak point. The rest, which includes a poison arrow and a good shot, is history

The story from ancient Greece reminds us that everything has a weak point and with wireless technology its interference. Without acknowledging or managing interference the most expensive, well designed event wireless network will become useless.

In a recent industry forum interference became a topic with generated lots of questions so we have put together a brief list of some key considerations to ensure the wireless network at your event doesn’t suffer.

1. Manage expectations and set formal guidelines

Delegates and exhibitors should be informed in advance that any personal equipment will be subject to certain guidelines to prevent interference with the in-house Wi-Fi. It is recommended users are requested to sign a simple pre-registration form containing the guidelines prior to the event. Have technical resource or partner on hand should any exhibitor wish to ask questions.

2. Use a technology partner to scan the airwaves

Once guidelines have been set, wireless scanners can be used by on-site technology experts to ensure the agreements are being followed and to locate equipment causing interference. It’s not just other Wi-Fi devices that can be a problem – DECT phones, Bluetooth, alarms, telemetry systems and even industrial microwaves can all be sources of interference.

3. Manage other suppliers

Any wireless networks used by other suppliers should be taken into account during the early stages of Wi-Fi negotiations; wireless networks may be of equipment used by AV companies for example, so it is worthwhile engaging to pre-determine any possible interference and pre-assign channels so systems can coexist.

4. Get skilled up

Ensuring that the team running the event have access to technical resources or an on-site technology partner are essential in enabling an organiser to address any interference affecting delegates during the event.

Everything has an Achilles Heel

5. Put in place a back-up plan

If local interference cannot be eliminated, there should be a back-up plan to minimise the impact i.e. the installation of some hard-wire cables which delegates and exhibitors can use. Whilst wireless offers freedom, many venues suggest that those requiring a ‘guaranteed’ service should consider a backup wired connection assuming the device supports this.

6. Make the necessary pre-event considerations

Check the venue before choosing it in order to identify any potential problems; a good question to ask in the first instance is whether the in-house network can be turned off if it is not required for the event reducing interference.

7. Know your frequencies

Interference can often occur as a result of too many technologies crowding the same frequency channel;. A way of counteracting this is to advise those requiring a larger wireless range to use a 5GHz network, which can offer more transmission channels than the overused 2.4GHz. More and more devices now support 5GHz including a number of the current range of smartphones.

8. Use the right equipment

Domestic Wi-Fi equipment and even lower cost so called business equipment does not have the more advanced antennas and management to deal with interference effectively. Higher end professional equipment can automatically work around interference and deliver a much stronger & higher quality connection even when interference is present.

We were truly flattered to receive the Communications Company of the Year 2012 award at last Wednesdays (1st Feb) Event Production Awards at the Hilton Hotel, Park Lane, London.

Any recognition of our company is fantastic but to be judged by a group of peers is an excellent testament for the team at Etherlive who consistently go above ad beyond to keep our customers working through day and night.

The thanks would not be complete without mentioning our customers who choose to use Etherlive at their events. We understand the amount of trust which customers place in us to deliver their critical communications at their events so we back up our delivery with a continuous focus on improving existing services and bringing new services to the market through innovation.

Here’s to a successful and busy 2012 event season for organisers, production teams and suppliers alike. Article from Event Industry News here

Etherlive pickup Best Communications Company award (photo from eventindustrynews.co.uk

The statement above is the headline of an Inquirer story published on Monday 6th Feb based on information taken from a PDF distributed by London 2012 to help businesses prepare for the Olympics. The headline may be a bit sensationalist – ‘may cause internet access to be slow for some’ isn’t quite as eye-catching – but there are some valid points to take on board:

1. The main issue is the expected increase in volume of usage of the internet by locals and visitors alike. The problem though is not the internet itself (or more correctly the ‘backbone’ of high capacity links that form the network), it is the local broadband access via services like ADSL and cable which may become overloaded at exchanges and concentration points. Many of these services are based on a ‘contention ratio’, sometimes as high as 50:1, which relies on not everyone using their internet connection at the same time for good performance to be maintained. Business ADSL/SDSL services typically have a much lower contention ratio (around 10:1 or lower) and if you are relying on internet access during the Games it would be wise to check this for your provider. At events we operate at we typically only use services which have a 1:1 contention ratio to eliminate this risk. Services such as optic fibre and leased lines in general should also have a 1:1 ratio.

2. Exchange congestion is another concern as many broadband ADSL providers use BT infrastructure to provide their service. Again it can be the case that there is element of contention across the services leading to a slowdown. This area is harder to deal with but providers who are using an LLU (“Local Loop Unbundled”) service have more control over their capacity so should be able to manage performance better. Again at events we will always an LLU service wherever possible and in fact in many locations we do not traverse any BT infrastructure other than the ‘last mile’ copper pairs or fibre.

3. Site-to-Site internet links are a concern for businesses where they have multiple sites connected via a VPN (Virtual Private Network) which traverses the internet, as any general congestion will also impact their site to site links. This is a deeper technical discussion based on needs but one approach is what is known as an ‘MPLS network’ which routes data between sites without it going out onto the true public internet. This is generally only possible if the same connectivity provider is used at all locations (this is an approach we use for larger and more complex multi-site events) which can have significant benefits.

4. Home based or remote workers will be another challenge as it is expected that far more people will work from home during the Games and many companies do not have capacity for everyone to be connected remotely on a VPN at the same time. The issues above may apply to the home based or remote worker but in addition it is important that the central location has enough internet capacity and infrastructure to deal with all these additional users.

5. We all know what happens to mobile networks at a large event and the situation is expected to be similar during the Games. Yes lots of additional capacity will be put in place but there is only so much the mobile operators can do so it would be wise to assume there will be problems. In the events area it will be much safer to deploy a standalone phone system (VoIP/DECT) which will operate outside of the mobile network. Another aspect to consider is any ‘chip & pin’ payment terminals as many of these operate using the mobile GPRS network which may have issues during the Games. The alternative is Wi-Fi/IP based units which operate over an internet connection – assuming the issues above have been considered!

In summary, it is wise to examine internet provision at locations and at home if it is a critical service as there could well be impacts but with the right planning and service provision these issues can be minimised. For events organisers, especially those organising events in London during the Games period, it is very important that internet access is considered as soon as possible and the right level of provision is made – where in previous years a normal ADSL line has sufficed the risk this year may make it wise to change this to a businesss service which does not have contention issues.

If you are concerned about internet access provision and performance during the games then contact us at 2012@www.etherlive.co.uk

If you are attending the Event Production Show on Wednesday 1st and Thursday 2nd of February at Olympia you may be surprised to find Etherlive do not have a stand as in previous years. This year our approach to trade shows is different, evolving from feedback and activity undertaken during the last year.

In broad terms we are moving away from a traditional trade show approach (we will still be attending the Showman’s Show) to focus our efforts on more direct interaction with customers and potential customers – taking the form of involvement with forums and working groups such as the ESSA Wi-Fi Working Group, the HBAA Forum and the AIF. Alongside this we will continue to expand our own technology forum – The Gathering – to work with customers, suppliers and technology partners to understand, discuss and resolve the technology challenges important to event organisers, production managers and venues.

The reasoning behind this is simple, we strongly believe in partnering with customers and suppliers to deliver the best solutions for the industry and our investment in working directly and interactively with the industry delivers much more value to everyone involved rather than a simple ‘shop front’ approach at trade shows.

We will still be at the Event Production Show – we are chairing the Access Session ‘Plastic Passion’ around RFID/cashless payment technology and will be involved with the ESSA Wi-Fi forum. Etherlive people (Tom, Mike, Steve, Chris) will also be having a number of customer meetings at the show and if you would like to arrange an informal chat over coffee please do drop us an email at eps@www.etherlive.co.uk or send a tweet to @etherlive and we will arrange a time to meet up.

What does it say about society that a report on two UK 4G trials hits prime time nine o’clock news on the BBC? Probably that everyone still can’t get their heads around billions of Euros being thrown about and is looking for a little good news or at worse a new topic.

I thought the report, which had to address a rather wide 9pm audience, was good. In summary, 4G is coming and the speed and performance look great. A quick Google search finds that Gizmo has been using the O2 London-based trial for a week and is giving it rave reviews.

So with that good news ringing in our ears, we may think the battle of mobile data is done, but unfortunately wars are never that straight forward.

I would highlight to the event world that, whilst 4G will help tremendously with getting data access where we want it, it won’t address the primary challenges.

The march of progress: when 3G was starting to hit the market in 2003, it was to be the fastest, most reliable service in the world. At that time, most people in the UK used GPRS services on their devices, which delivered a speed of 9 kbps (pioneers at the time were using data cards with their laptops); compared to that, the theoretical throughput speed jump of 3G (2048 kbps) was immense. 3G was released and what happened? Firstly, deployment was slow and the real world speeds were much slower than the hype. Nearly 10 years on, coverage is still patchy and performance erratic.

Then we all got smartphones. So now not only do we want access to web sites, but we also want to watch iPlayer. We don’t make calls any more: we want to use face time. You get the picture (no pun intended). These developments are brilliant and make us more productive, keep us in touch with our families, etc. but what we continue to do is increase our data demand exponentially. That demand will not stop; 4G will just catch up, arguably to behind the demand curve when it eventually comes to market.

All mobile networks end with a cable somewhere

All mobile networks end with a cable somewhere

Law and order; OFCOM controls all licenced wireless broadcasts in the UK. For any UK carrier to broadcast on a 4G frequency and therefore offer services they must buy the licence. The sales of those licences has just been pushed back until the back end of 2012. So first not only do the carriers have to buy the licence (a massive investment which even for the largest carriers is a significant spend) but then they have to actually start to pay to upgrade their base stations to 4G just like they have with 3G. Have they finished upgrading all base stations with 3G yet? Ah. Good point.

The density spike; a key point for our event customers. 4G fundamentally operates in the same way as all GSM technologies in that it’s designed to be broadcast from several central points to cover a town. The design relies on relatively consistent demand. Throughput is constrained by the amount of spectrum each company has purchased from OFCOM and not solely on the amount of hardware deployed. Therefore when that bandwidth is fully utilised during abnormal spikes of activity there is not much that can be done to improve service. You can’t deploy 30 base stations around a site however much you wanted as you can’t service any more customers than you can with say 4. Service can be cleverly deployed using the topography of the site but in reality you are designing around the limitations of the way the system is designed. Here Wi-Fi has the edge since each ‘cell’ is much smaller and can be deployed all over an event site.

The cost; as always this is the million pound question. The carriers learnt from a lot of mistakes when they deployed 3G – and we should all sympathise. They purchased the licence from OFCOM for billions (Vodafone paid £5.9 billion for the rights to some 3G spectrum in 2000) and then tried to charge per MB but no one bought it because they found themselves operating in a world where customers want unlimited tariffs just like their home internet. Now they have to pay again for 4G licences. How will the charging model work? People want data ‘free’ but there is a huge infrastructure cost at a time when chargeable call volumes are dropping.

Just a little food for thought, it will be interesting to see how the trial in Cornwall, which is looking at how 4G can be used to help get internet access to remote locations (a great application) goes over the next few months and how manufactures start to line up devices for us to enjoy this need for speed with.

This week sees our 4th consecutive year exhibiting at the Showman’s Show. The show, at Newbury Showground on Wednesday 19th and Thursday 20th October, in a way marks a transition from the 2011 outdoor event season to the start of the 2012 season, although these days we see a variety of outdoor events year-round.

Etherlive ready for it's 4th Showmans Show

Etherlive prepares for its 4th Showmans Show

2012 in the UK is of course a bit of a one off with the Olympics and Paralympics occurring right at the peak of the outdoor event season. We are providing a number of services for Olympic related activity, such as all the IT, communications and broadcast provision for the London Media Centre, but we have been very careful to ensure this has no impact on our existing customers and their events.

What is important though is booking and planning for 2012, especially in London and other locations that will see Olympic activity. Provision of connectivity such as fibre and broadband services will see longer lead times due to sheer demand (we are ordering many services already so that they are provisioned very early next year). Transportation is another area which is impacted with requirements on suppliers to submit transport plans for London well in advance of events if they occur during the broad Olympic period. These aspects and others are all good topics for discussion at Showman’s if you are planning an event in 2012.

This year we are on Stand 71 of the indoor hall where we will be demonstrating a new generation of mobile VoIP handsets – allowing the freedom of a mobile phone with the cost advantages of VoIP. These units also couple up with an alarm and monitoring system providing a new level of integrated service for event organisers.

We will also be launching our latest innovation; Event Band, a suite of tools using RFID technology facilitating payment systems, loyalty services, accreditation and crew management. This technology will sit alongside the latest generation wireless chip & pin PDQs providing reliable payment methods for bars, merchants, exhibitors and ticketing.

The latest networked noise monitoring support offered by Etherlive will be on display, along with a demonstration of next generation satellite broadband, offering internet anywhere from the new KA band with higher internet speeds.

Alongside all the new products we will also have our core network, communications and CCTV technologies on display, solutions that have been used time and time again across a wide range of events connecting thousands of users. Outside we will also have one of our communications tower lights offering CCTV, Wi-Fi and public address as well as an economical lighting system. This can be found on the Aceplant stand (169) at the end of Avenue G.

Recently we announced that Etherlive has joined ESSA (Event Supplier and Services Association), alongside ongoing membership of the AIF (Association of Independent Festivals) and the ASAO (Association of Show and Agricultural Organisations). As well as actively participating in these organisations we also offer special services to fellow members.

We will have plenty of staff on hand to discuss event requirements and provide cost effective solutions to a broad range of connectivity, communications and other event IT needs.

 

Our latest investment in the new KA band satellite equipment means more flexibility when providing internet connectivity for temporary events.

Satellite internet connectivity can offer significant benefits to customers who are looking for a solution which can be setup in less than 30 minutes and support high speed email and web browsing. The system uses a 0.8 metre diameter dish which needs Southern facing sky to provide download speeds of up to 10 Mbps, similar to a normal ADSL line. The dish communicates with geostationary satellites located in orbit approximately 36,000 kilometres above the equator so is not suitable for all uses but we can advise on where and when satellite works well. Included with the dish and modem is pre-fetch technology which reduces the load time of websites.

In conjunction with Etherlives mobile networking equipment the satellite internet connectivity can quickly be shared out through Wi-Fi networking for press, production crews and exhibitors. In many cases satellite services may be used for first day services followed up with higher speed connectivity as the site builds.

More information on our satellite service is available from our website here or give us a call

Tinfoil hat Satellite

Deploying satellite has never been so easy. Image courtesy of Google.

 

Etherlive is very pleased to announce it has been nominated as a finalist in the Association of Event Organisers Excellence Awards. Our submission focused on our continued delivery of innovative technology for the events industry, which this year includes femtocells, a crew accreditation system and cordless VoIP in addition to our normal services. The awards, which are held annually, highlight the best suppliers within the events industry so we find ourselves in the same category as 360 Creative Event Services, Melville Middle East and asp, which is praise itself. Winners will be announced on the 1st July.

AEO