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Events business uses fixed-wireless to serve demanding clients

Etherlive, a provider of networking and IT services to organisers of major outdoor events, is using Luminet’s Fibre-Air fixed-wireless access product to better address its clients’ needs

Events IT supplier Etherlive is delivering vastly improved levels of connectivity to its clients around the UK and Europe, after choosing Luminet’s Fibre-Air fixed wireless access (FWA) service to support their businesses.

Etherlive was set up 10 years ago to design, implement and deliver temporary ICT solutions to the organisers of major events such as national exhibitions, music festivals, product launches and sporting occasions. Some of its more notable clients have included the Royal Horticultural Society’s Chelsea Flower Show, and AEG Presents’ live music event BST Hyde Park.

The business runs ICT for about 400 events per annum, Etherlive director and co-founder Tom McInerney tells Computer Weekly, and the firm has been seeing increasing demand for higher quality services, driven by more stringent security requirements and greater use of cloud services.

The organisers of such events also frequently find that network connectivity and effective communications is one of the biggest challenges they face across large and frequently complex outdoor sites.

“A big component of our planning is connectivity, as this drives the provision of everything from outside broadcast media feeds, point of sale payment terminals and Wi-Fi hotspot provision, through to enabling rich media applications and CCTV,” says McInerney.

“Most clients want more bandwidth, high quality, and then core infrastructure on the support side, so we needed a partner that was a proper service organisation,” he says.

Historically, when Etherlive has built a network for a client, it grew with the site, starting with a resilient core fibre network backed up at a remote network operations centre (NOC), and scaling upwards in capacity and complexity as different elements of the event – such as catering, security, and finally exhibitors or talent – were put in place.

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However, this process can take a couple of months, says McInerney, and a key reason for choosing Luminet’s service was to be able to take advantage of its 10-day installation timeline to manage a greater number of concurrent clients.

Based on a standard service level agreement (SLA) of 99.5%, the Fibre-Air service uses FWA technology to deliver symmetrical clear channel services of anywhere between 10Mbps and 1Gbps. Combined with Luminet’s other fibre offerings, it can deliver diverse last-mile connectivity with multi-layer resilience.

As more large-scale events seek to add public Wi-Fi to their networking requirements – though this is still by no means a given, says McInerney, who estimates that only around a quarter of clients ask for it – the extra resilience can prove extremely useful.

Fibre-Air is also able to bypass the wayleave permissions generally needed to deploy fibre networks – the main reason for the streamlined deployment time.

Licensed frequency as a primary connection

Etherlive was particularly impressed by the availability of Fibre-Air on both licensed and shared spectrum frequencies. This means the firm can offer the licensed frequency as a primary connection while using the 5GHz shared band for another layer of resilience, says McInerney.

To date, the service has been rolled out at a number of events around the UK, typically offering a 200-300Mbps network to support mission critical applications, and has been deployed extremely tight timescales.

“From order to survey and install, Luminet has turned connections around in just three days. That is impressive, but the added value is knowing the service levels are so high, resilience is built-in and we have responsive 24/7 technical support to call upon if we ever need it,” says McInerney.

Etherlive has also been able to rewrite its service-level agreement for clients, especially when it comes to key applications underpinning a major event, such as security, environmental protocols and commercial viability.

“Many of our public events are very high-profile and require emergency access to live CCTV feeds for Met Police Gold Command on request,” says McInerney. “Connectivity also underpins the real-time measurement of sound pollution levels, which are a condition of license, as well as facilitating all the rich media and e-commerce applications demanded by exhibitors and hosts, and reliable high-speed internet access for guests and participants.”

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