6 Steps to Avoiding Internet Overload at Your Event

A positive event experience benefits everyone involved and, through social media, guests can share that experience instantly with a global audience. That positive association is of such high value to brands and sponsors that they are investing more than ever in live events.

For every positive, there can of course be a negative, and you don’t want your event to hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Networking and internet connectivity is complex, so how can you make sure it doesn’t happen to you?

Major problems with wireless and server capacities made headlines in 2016 at the Pokemon Go Festival in Chicago. We’re going to show you how to avoid situations like this in 6 simple steps.

Number 1: How many guests are you expecting?

The total number of guests you are expecting on the day and their peak arrival times are very important.  Informing your provider about the venue and staffing requirements also helps plan the network capacity required.

The guest numbers at this particular event peaked at around 4PM, and a bulk of guests arrived in the preceding hour.

This is important data in any circumstance, but for an event where guests are expecting to download or update an app on arrival, understanding this flow is critical.

Number 2: How much network capacity do I need?

We’re going to go into some detail here in order to illustrate how we would approach this question.

The Pokemon Go app has a file size of 298Mb on iOS. If you are expecting 20,000 guests, arriving between 9am and 12pm, with 10% requiring an app update, that is 600Gb of network traffic. On a 100Mb network at full utilization that is going to take over 7 hours, but you only have 3 hours to get it done, while handling all of the other network traffic as well.

The Pokemon Go app consumes approximate 10mb of data per hour during normal usage, which is actually quite low. That is until you get 20,000 people all trying to play the game at the same time in the same place.

That equates to 200Gb per hour of network traffic.

Our total bandwidth estimate for the first three hours of an event with an expected 20,000 people in attendance is now 400Gb per hour.

This will not be the only traffic generated by your guests. Average data usage by US mobile subscribers is currently 100Mb per day. If 80% of that data is spread between the hours of 8am and 10pm that equates to 6Mb per hour per user, which adds up to another 120Gb per hour.

That brings us to a total of 520Gb of network traffic per hour in the first three hours of the event.

As stated earlier, we’ve gone into some detail here to illustrate what process should be followed to estimate requirements. You don’t have to do this yourself.  An experienced event network provider like TOURtech will be able to work through this with you.

Another note worth mentioning is that this is just the requirement for your guests. That does not include any requirements for production offices, digital teams, live streaming, etc. You can see how quickly the data requirements add up.

Number 3: How do we get our guests connected?

Firstly, it is unreasonable to expect a mobile carrier’s infrastructure to support the exceptional demands of your event for just 2 days.

That being said, they will, at significant cost to themselves, deploy COWs (cell on wheels) to augment existing network capacity for some events. This requires significant advanced planning and a high number of man hours to install and operate. However, you have zero control or visibility of the carrier network, which means you cannot control your guest experience.

Building high capacity Wi-Fi networks in an outdoor situation requires specialized hardware and in depth planning; talking to an experienced event Wi-Fi service provider is a must. They will help you examine your site plan and assess likely user distribution across the space. User density increases around stages, indoor areas, food and beverage and sponsor locations. 

That is where you deploy your Wi-Fi coverage.

The goal for an event of this type would be to ‘offload’ some of the traffic from mobile carrier cell towers onto the Wi-Fi network. Remember, you have zero control over the mobile carrier network, but you can control the Wi-Fi infrastructure.

Number 4: Priorities, Priorities, Priorities.

As well as the provision of adequate Wi-Fi capacity, we can prioritize certain types of traffic on the Wi-Fi networks we deploy. At an event like the Pokemon Go festival we would work in conjunction with their engineering team to prioritize all traffic to/from their cloud infrastructure.

Most events now use RFID access control and cashless point of sale, services which heavily rely on the network to operate efficiently. That type of network traffic is low in terms of bandwidth, but it does require fast response times from the servers.

Sponsored Live Streaming is also a regular component of events these days. That requires consistent, high bandwidth capacity throughout the event.

Whatever the requirement, the network can be configured to deliver priority to the specific requirements of the situation.

Number 5: Get Creative!

You could create a special “App Download/Update” zone that has a capacity of 300 people and create a super high speed Wi-Fi hotspot for that number of users. Doing this would perform two functions: it offloads the bulk of bandwidth requirement to the Wi-Fi network and provides a better experience for guests.

Number 6: Invest in Advance.

Delivering a great experience to your guests on show day requires an advance investment, both in time and budget. It might be a sizable amount of both, but your attendees and everyone involved are worth it!