Feature Story

Behind the Scenes: The Global Citizen Festival, a pop-up Cisco VIP Wi-Fi network

The Global Citizen Festival pop-up Wi-Fi network in Central Park

Hear from the Director of Business Development of TOURtech about how they provide Wi-Fi in entertainment environments.

This is a guest post by Laura Lawton

When I go to an NHL game with my family to support our team the Carolina Hurricanes, we have our ritual: Get refreshments, settle into our seats, take a few family selfies, and then share on Instagram or Twitter before the puck drops. Most of the time, the ritual is smooth sailing except for a slow or bad Wi-Fi connection. These days, we often assume that large venues like indoor stadiums have a decent or strong Wi-Fi signal. That’s not always the case. Frustration sets in when your post still hasn’t shown up and the first hooking or slashing penalty is called. If you think providing Wi-Fi indoors for thousands of people is challenging, imagine what it’s like to build a pop-up Cisco VIP Wi-Fi network entirely from scratch in a portion of the 55-acre world-famous New York City outdoor park.

I spent some time with TOURtech’s Director of Business Development Josh Larimar. The company is an award winning, North-Carolina based company that provides Wi-Fi in entertainment environments, music festivals, technology product launches, concert tours, and tradeshows. We talked about some of the challenges and considerations of building the pop-up Cisco VIP Wi-Fi network in a portion of Central Park for the upcoming Global Citizen Festival. TOURtech’s work will allow attendees in the Cisco VIP areas to effortlessly share precious moments from the festival with friends, family, and other social activists. The festival, co-presented by Cisco and Citi, takes place September 28.

What are some of the considerations and challenges when building an outdoor network?

I’m sure everyone on our team has their own list of challenges when building an outdoor network. Everything from weather, access to vertical assists, reliable cable pathways, RF signal interference, having enough time, having enough equipment, and the list goes on and on.

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That said, one constant that will remain the most frequent and unpredictable is the human element. Due to the nature of any outdoor, large scale event you have several different groups of people involved to making the event a success. That’s everyone from security, food and beverage, vendors, sponsors, audio/video, etc. Each one of these groups has a job to do. Many times, these groups require power and will do things like unplug our equipment to access a power outlet. Occasionally, these other groups will dig their own cable pathway and cut our fiber lines. This results in a broken network connection.

How long does it take to build a network in an outdoor venue and how many people will be needed to do it?

Typically, we have five-to-nine days to build out an outdoor network for a special event. Depending on the physical size and scope of the deployment, we will have a team of between two-to-ten people onsite to support the build schedule. There are several factors that go into determining the number of people needed and the type of equipment chosen to be deployed. Some of those factors include:

  • The number of required points of service
  • The need for a public Wi-Fi network
  • The need for CCTV cameras
  • The location of the network operations center trailer  
  • The amount of time for actual show load in (set up and preparation)

What will the network be used for at Global Citizen Festival?

As a whole, we will be supporting the entire event with connections to the internet and local servers. Specifically, this will include supporting the production offices, ticketing, CCTV and the Wi-Fi for the Cisco VIP area. The VIP area includes a portion of the crowd in front of the stage and the Cisco VIP lounge.

What Cisco solutions will be used?

Approximately 30-40 Cisco Meraki switching access points and routers will be used for the Cisco VIP Wi-Fi network. They are by far the most requested gear to be shipped for each job we do. The primary reasons for this are reliability, broadcast strength, and ease to configure on the network. The VIP Wi-Fi area will be built with end-to-end Meraki Cisco equipment.

TOURtech has supported many large-scale events around the globe. What makes the Global Citizen Festival different from other events you’ve supported?

Global Citizen festival goers work toward a global call to action for the greater good to end extreme poverty. The activists make a difference in the world and are there for more than the entertainment. TOURtech is proud to support an organization that creates lasting change around the world.

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