The rise of WiFi: music festival connectivity*

As WiFi has become a seemingly essential part of our lives it has become impossible to imagine a world where we don’t connect to the internet every day. These days there are very few places where we can’t connect to WiFi or use our mobile phones as a connected device, however festivals remain one of the few places where WiFi isn’t fully operational across a whole festival site for the entire event.

Festival organisers are seeking to change this and although there has been limited connectivity across festival sites in the past, full-connectivity from mobile devices is set to be a normal part of the festival experience. Together with KBR, specialist WiFi installers we explore what the festival industry is set to gain from staying connected, and how this industry can implement reliable WiFi infrastructures in the future.

(Photo by Aranxa Esteve on Unsplash)

Why have WiFi at a Festival?
Since the turn of the century the number of people attending music festivals has grown massively. From 2004 to 2013 the number of festivals 100 to 700. Alongside this, in 2014 alone festivals generated £3.1bn. Due to the market being so financially successful there is huge competition within the industry. What this means is that festival organisers need to establish a competitive edge and a USP — with this USP being WiFi.

For festival organisers investing in a WiFi connection is not a wasted cost- 90% of all festival goers are smartphone users making an event with free WiFi more appealing than one without. In an age where people regularly stay connected and share their plans and memories with each other via social media it is no surprise that WiFi for such popular events like festivals is becoming a must have for those who attend.

How are WiFi structures reliably implemented?
Because festivals usually take place in remote locations establishing a reliable WiFi connection is no easy task. In response there are a number of specialist companies that have been established in order to keep festival goers connected.
Of course, given the size of the site and the sheer number of people trying to connect to the WiFi network, at present it’s difficult to provide a festival-wide connection. This means that using the connection in your tent is still widely unavailable but WiFi hotspots are being created.
One of the most notable examples of these hotspots was the ‘WiFi cows’ that popped up across Glastonbury in 2014. These fibreglass cows acted as a 4G hotspot provided by EE, allowing festival-goers to get connected in true outrageous festival style. The WiFi structure also enabled contactless card payments across the festival’s 25 bars.
In the future, and as our dependence on digital grows it’s likely that festival WiFi will become even more widespread- eventually turning each site into a hotspot.

Is WiFi at a festival really beneficial?
As many celebrate the availability of WiFi at these events some people are questioning whether this new level of connectivity will detract from the overall festival experience. If attendees are too busy tweeting and posting about their experience are they truly experiencing it?

However the many benefits of WiFi outweigh this slight negative. WiFi not only helps promote a festival through attendee social coverage it also helps festival-goers stay connected with their friends at the event (potentially increasing safety) and those at home. Clearly festival WiFi is the way forwards and here to stay.


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