Music Festival Wi-Fi at Infest 2016

Posted on 25 Aug 2016 by Marek 
Atari Teenage Riot live at Infest 2016

Each August bank holiday weekend we make what could only be described as a pilgrimage to Bradford. The university there is the long-established venue of Infest, a festival of alternative electronic music.

Several years ago a colleague, fellow packet pusher, and good friend — Richard from Bradford-local ISP Exa Networks — brought some Internet transit into the venue as a sort of experiment and fun project. Over the years this has grown from "nice to have" into "essential":

  • the production team are constantly emailing and keeping in touch with customer enquiries
  • the media team are engaging with social media, posting updates and photographs of the performances as they happen
  • artists have begun to rely on having decent Internet access themselves
  • traders in the market halls increasingly rely on Internet access for card payments (too deep into the building for 3G/4G to penetrate)
  • attendees love that they can post, tweet, stream, and share on social media (many wish that Infest could be their ISP at home!)
  • and this year the box office would need real-time access to the new ticketing agent, Gigantic, to check ticket validity

As the importance of the network grew year on year, Rich also wanted to improve on service and performance. This year was no exception, and we joined forces in supplying the connectivity, the infrastructure, the skills to build it, and the manpower to support it.

Exa Networks provides Internet connectivity to nearby student halls. The challenge has always been getting from Exa's network there to the festival venue. This year's backhaul upgrade used two of our MikroTik SXT 5 ac devices as a near-line-of-sight bridge — near on account of the ever larger trees now not just impinging but being smack in the middle of the fresnel zone.

Rich provided Ubiquiti access points and a controller for distributing the wifi within the venue. We used a mix of RouterOS and EdgeRouter devices for the captive portal and firewalls.

Performance was, on the whole, excellent. We broke 300Mbit/sec for downloads across the line-of-sight link, and service was rock solid for the entire festival weekend. My only desire is to improve the captive portal to be slicker and more tightly integrated with fulcrm to recognise attendees.

And now we plan how to outdo it next year…