Wireless Network for an Event

Recently I was tasked with arranging wireless for an event in Newcastle (www.digfestival.com.au) – this isn’t something I normally do so I started researching different options available.

I asked the event organisers how many people were expected and asked if they could take me to the venue to investigate space requirements which they did.

If you need to do this task at all here are the questions that you should be asking:

  1. Is there an internet connection available in the building (if there is test its speed, just because it is there doesn’t mean its useable)
  2. Is there access to power close to where your attendees will be
  3. Are data points available in the room you where you are putting your equipment
  4. How big is the area you are trying to cover
  5. How many people are attending the event

After inspecting the venue there were a few things that I was concerned with:

  1. The uplink to the building was terrible (8MBit connection…)
  2. The only way to get an uplink to our network equipment would be to run a cable taped to a few walls as no data points existed in the function area – or use 4G equipment and not rely on it at all
  3. The size of the room and amount of clients that would be using the equipment

So with this knowledge in mind I started considering what equipment we would need to ensure a stable and useable connection throughout the event. Here is the short list of equipment:

  • 4G Bonding Router
  • 4G Modems and sim cards
  • Data Plans
  • Commercial Wireless Access Points
  • Access to power
  • Firewall/routing to limit speed and access so a single user could not saturate the connection

Once I started to consider the costs of all these things I realised that for a one off event, we would be spending a significant amount of money on equipment alone – and – would be having to spend quite a significant amount of data access as well.

So with all of that in mind I decided to google for event wireless providers, mainly to get ideas about how other companies provided this service.

I found a company based in Manly called “Pop Up Wifi” and sent an enquiry through their website chat. The owner of the business Andrew offered to ring me and discuss the needs of the event.

I spoke to Andrew and let him know what I had already found out, what my concerns were and asked for the costs and what was required for the service they provide. He said “Just power, everything else is ready to go when you get the unit”

Seemed simple enough, I then asked some questions about SSID’s and they said we can set up two networks one with higher priority then the other and you can tell us in advance so we can configure before the device gets to you. After this I was incredibly confident that the unit would be reliable and suitable for the event.

I won’t discuss the exact costs of the unit here as there are multiple options they have available (Contact them via http://popupwifi.com.au/ for further info) However I will say this, to buy all of the equipment required – just buy it not configure was estimated to be roughly 8 to 10 times the cost of the hire – and then, you would need to have the expertise to configure the equipment or pay someone who did have the expertise.

The rate for data as well was nearly 50% less than buying through Optus or Telstra retail channels. So overall this unit was way more cost and time effective than us setting up a unit ourselves.

Here’s a photo of what the unit looks like:

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As Andrew said to me on the phone, all you do is plug it in and he was right – when the unit arrived to our office I simply plugged it in, waited about 5 minutes until I could see the SSID, connected up and could browse. I walked away from the unit to emulate the size of the room that this would be going in to and it had great and reliable range. I then contacted Pop Up Wifi again just to make sure they could see the unit remotely – they could.

The night before the event, we positioned the unit near the audio equipment for the event and did a final test, all still was fine. The following day we powered the unit up and let it run the wireless for the entire time.

The great thing about Pop Up Wifi is that they can give you information as you request it since they remotely monitor their equipment. At the beginning of the day I requested to know the amount of connected clients – it was 22 at this stage. At the end of the day I asked for an update on data usage, they responded quickly with 18GB.

After the entire event was done Pop Up Wifi provided us with a report that showed a breakdown of operating systems of devices connected, total unique devices connected and the amount of data that was used on each source, we were able to see that out of the social networks Twitter was the most heavily used. We were also able to see that we used 39GB of data over the two day event.

The next step after the entire event was to send the unit back to Pop Up Wifi – again, they make this super easy. In the box they send the unit in they supply you with a return con note, all we had to do was repackage the device and put the con note on the box. Pop Up Wifi had already pre-booked the collection and let us know when we needed the device ready by.

If you are planning on having wireless at your next event make sure you contact Pop Up Wifi – they have options available that suit various event requirements at a very affordable price and their devices are incredibly simple to use.

 


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