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Why WiFi for outdoor events is different to WiFi for indoor events

Is WiFi for outdoor events really different to WiFi for indoor events? We cover some surprising differences and highlight the skills requirements for the job.

So, you’re thinking about how to get connectivity across your event site, but did you know that it matters a lot whether you’re running an indoor or outdoor event?

It’s true, there are companies that deliver great connectivity at indoor spaces – think exhibition halls, conference centres, hotels and fixed venues, but who fail when it comes to connectivity at outdoor events. And the other way round. Knowing your skillsets can be a huge strength, and knowing who has the right skillsets for the job will make your events run a whole lot smoother.

Here we cover 4 key differences between WiFi for outdoor and indoor events and explain why the solutions and skillsets required are really quite different.

1. The Internet Service

Indoor events

Every indoor event venue, whether it’s an exhibition hall, converted building, barn, workshop, hotel or theatre will have an internet connection suppling that venue. And it’s normally a fixed fibre or fixed line connection.

If there are multiple organisations within the building, there may even be multiple fixed lines servicing the building, allowing each organisation to be guaranteed their own bandwidth, and to improve data security by keeping everyone separate. Some commercial buildings will have a spare fixed line for things like events and guests. You can refer to our article on the best WiFi for commercial buildings, but what’s important here is that indoor events will often already have a fixed fibre internet supply specifically for event use.

Outdoor events

Outdoor events, often being held on green field sites,  will in contrast often have no internet connection available. This means that it needs to be brought in, and built to supply the site throughout the duration of the event. Here’s your first difference, and with this difference comes the first area of expertise you’ll need to have to ensure a good internet service for your outdoor event site.

Consider the bandwidth required to cover all users, and their data usage across the site for the duration of the event. Then you’ll need to decide how reliable you need that internet connection to be. If, for example, your event success relies on taking payments, then it’s going to be pretty essential to guarantee uninterrupted internet service.

Event venues without a fixed fibre internet source will be looking at satellite or 4G/5G solutions. Both of these internet options carry risk of interruption, which can be further  impacted by contention from the sudden rise in people attending your event. The result means that they can drop out at any time. The question here therefore becomes: “Can you build resilience into your internet connection?”

The simple answer is yes, and this is how the good outdoor event WiFi providers do it.

Tip: It’s worth checking whether there is a fixed line in the vicinity of an outdoor event site that you can utilise. Sometimes a local estate house or internet line installed specifically for event purposes can be utilised for a fee.

2. The WiFi Network

Once you’ve addressed your internet connection, it’s time to consider your WiFi network. If you’re a little unsure as to the difference, then your WiFi network is how the internet connection is dispersed across the event site, allowing your device to wirelessly access the internet (without being physically plugged in to a cable).

It’s important to note here that whilst you are connecting to the internet without plugging a cable into your device, a WiFi network will still often involve running cables across the event site. This is because cables are the most stable vehicle for data transfer, without losing integrity. So by connecting access points via cables to your switches, your WiFi provider will achieve the best connectivity performance.

Indoor events

With indoor events, event spaces will usually already have a cable network installed. This can be utilised for all events, along with any WiFi access points that are already installed. The installation process is therefore faster, and cost savings can be made.

The event WiFi specialist can  configure the network using the hardware already there to fit the size of the event. For example, you may only need to use half of an exhibition hall, and configure half of the access points to distribute the WiFi adequately .

We call this hardware that’s already in situ at an indoor event site ‘passive hardware’.

Passive hardware should be well maintained and serviced to ensure that it is in good working order. Some external WiFi providers would rather bring their own than risk the unknown of pre-installed hardware.

The WiFi provider’s role then comes down to designing the network, installing switches and configuring the network so that the right access is granted to every device that needs it. That process in itself that can be very time consuming.

Outdoor events

With outdoor events, you’ll be starting with a green field site. Once the internet connection is in, and the networking design done, it’s time to start the build. Often hundreds of metres of cabling and hundreds of access points will need to be installed.

That’s an additional job that can require hours of labour and a strong team depending on the size of your event site. But, on the positive side, the WiFi provider will be in full control of the hardware quality going out onto site, and know that it meets their needs for the network they’ve designed.

Check out how much temporary WiFi for events costs.

 

3. Network design

With both indoor and outdoor events a full network design should be completed and signed off with the client before any installation takes place.

The network design will deliver a type of heat map showing where connectivity is strongest, available and unavailable.

In addition to this site design, we recommend a full project briefing detailing what WiFi useage is required in each area of the event site (e.g. are users looking for live streaming, access to SaaS tools, payment systems?  What devices need to connect and what do those devices need to do?)

You may find this resource useful: How to achieve robust WiFi at large events.

If the event production team is really specific with their requirements, the WiFi provider can easily design the service to fit those needs exactly.  There’s not a lot of difference when it comes to designing a WiFi network for an indoor or outdoor event, except for when it comes to planning for the elements.

And when we say elements, we’re talking about the wind, dust, rain, cold, heat and other conditions that can generally interfere with outdoor WiFi networks. Any provider will need to protect their network in an outdoor environment against these conditions to avoid WiFi failure.

4. Building High Availability

High availability means that you have a backup (or alternative), ready to take the slack if there is a failure at any point of your event WiFi solution. It should kick in instantly, without any interruption so that the users don’t experience any loss of service.

Due to the more unreliable nature of the internet service at outdoor events (satellite and 4G/5G), high availability design for both the internet and WiFi equipment is recommended. With an indoor event, it’s largely just the WiFi network that benefits from a high availability failover solution.

Nowadays, larger outdoor events have high availability built in as they’ve becoming more reliant on taking payments online.

Summary

WiFi solutions for outdoor and indoor events will naturally require quite different solutions. Not so much in their design, but more in their implementation and levels of resilience required.
 
When you start to consider the role of modern WiFi solutions in gathering the data and intelligence to drive better event success, WiFi requirements becomes larger than that of ‘taking payments’ and ‘accessing online systems’. The potential is huge and many event producers are still only just scratching the surface of what is capable.
 
If you need any help or advice on building event WiFi networks, or data intelligence with your event, please don’t hesitate to get in touch and I’d be happy to help.
 

Will Skewes
CEO
Wireless Solutions
Connect with me on LinkedIn
info@wireless.solutions

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