There are a few things that you can always predict to be complained about at festivals. The toilets, the rain and the mud are all common festival grumbles. But more recently they’ve been joined by a new gripe – poor Internet connectivity.
There is no question the way that many of us consume live entertainment has changed massively over the past few years, since the dawn of the smart phone.
No experience is truly complete without a selfie, a video or a tagged status – all shared across as many social networks as you’re connected to. We expect to and enjoy sharing these experiences with our friends and family, who aren’t lucky enough to be there with us, and we don’t really want to wait till the end of the weekend to do so.
And don’t we like to share! Over just three days, Download’s 90,000 festival goers consumed over 2 terabytes of data from intechnologyWiFi’s open Wi-Fi network alone - that's the equivalent of 11 million photos, 200,000 high quality videos, or over 25 million tweets shared!
But beyond sharing the experience with others, a decent connection can be crucial to geting the VIP festival experience. This year we’ve seen big names, including Ed Sheeran and Thom Yorke, announcing their secret gigs over Twitter, meaning only the lucky fans who made it online were able to find their idol.
Connectivity simply has never been so important to fans, and being situated in a field shouldn’t stop festival goers sharing their experiences and memories with their friends, family and the wider world. Festival planners need to consider solutions that will bring connectivity to fans.
Challenges of traditional connectivity
But connectivity poses a massive challenge to festival and event organisers. With many event sites purposefully held out in the sticks, relying on strong 3G or 4G coverage is a pipedream, unless its lucky enough to be situated right next to a mobile antenna. Even then, with tens of thousands of excited festival goers attempting to connect to such networks, the performance often proves intermittent and slow at best.
For example, even though the crowd capacity at the Latitude Festival this summer (around 40,000) was significantly smaller than festivals like Glastonbury and Download, it faced the same coverage and capacity challenges as the other large-scale open events. The high number of people trying to connect within one concentrated area resulted in many traditional forms of connectivity proving insufficient and, for some festival goers, completely unavailable.
For event organisers, it is a fact of life that common connectivity infrastructure – such as 3G – simply isn’t up to the challenge. And whilst 4G does offer improved connectivity, as the number of users continues to increase, this technology will begin to encounter exactly the same connection issues.
Whilst connecting a field or farm swarming with tens of thousands of festivals goers may seem like a daunting challenge to any festival planner, open Wi-Fi solutions provide the opportunity to keep fans connected.
Open Wi-Fi providers can design tailored solutions to create network capacity, even for high-density locations. From its design, installation to maintaining the network at the event, a seamless public Wi-Fi experience is within reach for both festival planners and attendees.
It’s a sound investment for festival organisers too, who can no longer rely on brand names to build their event’s reputation. Fans tell the festival story through their online engagement, and equipping them with the latest Wi-Fi services will ultimately encourage others to visit and book tickets.
Whilst many festival goers may still don their most hippy gear and plan on “getting back to nature” once the tents have been constructed, connectivity still plays an important role in sharing that experience with those around them and their friends back home.
With open Wi-Fi springing up across towns and cities, our expectations for fast, seamless internet connection are growing.
Whilst some lucky festival goers this year at Reading and Creamfields will benefit from open Wi-Fi solutions, festival organisers across the country need to start considering how they’re going to make 2016 the year of the connected festival.
Natalie Duffield, CEO of intechnologyWiFi, discusses fans’ demands for connected festivals and how festivals can offer the best connectivity.