How do I provide short term internet access for an outdoor event?


Over the years we have assisted many clients with their telecommunications and internet requirements for short-term events. These events can be anything from a few days to a few months.

The most challenging events are those that are held outdoors with no connection to the fixed broadband network from within the event location.

In such cases there are two options, both of which involve creating a wireless bridge connection to an access point that can provide wired and wireless connections for use at the event.

The two options are:

  1. Create an outdoor access point using a wireless bridge to a nearby fixed internet connection; or
  2. Create an outdoor access point using a wireless bridge to a 3G or 4G connection to one of the mobile networks.

These two options are discussed in more detail in the paragraphs below.

Please note that both options require a generator to be available at the event location for the provision of electrical power. This is usually not a problem as most events require electrical power for other reasons.

Another option which we will not discuss here would be to connect to the wider internet using a satellite or microwave connection. This won’t be discussed as it is not usually a feasible option for our typical client and is appropriate only for large, well funded events.

Option 1: Wireless Bridge to nearby Fixed Internet Connection

This option requires a fixed internet connection to be available in premises that are close to (ie within 100 metres) the event location.

It also requires co-operation (and perhaps a financial arrangement) with the owner of the premises.

The owner must be willing to share their internet connection for the duration of the event.

To implement this option it is necessary to create a wireless bridge between the router in the nearby premises and an access point at the event location.

A wireless bridge can be thought of as a very long ethernet cable.

A wireless bridge would usually require an integrated antenna and radio device to be mounted on an external wall. This in turn would be pointed at a similar device mounted on a pole at the event location.

The antenna/radio at the premises would have a cable connection to the router either directly or via a network switch. The antenna/radio at the event location would have a cable connection to a network switch and wireless access point.

The diagram below illustrates the concept of a wireless bridge with the Annexe being the event location.

wireless-bridge-diagram

NB The diagram does not show a network switch in the Annexe, but it is easy to insert a network switch between the wireless access point shown and the wireless bridge radio or have a device that has an integrated network switch and wireless access point.

Option 2: Wireless Bridge to Mobile Network 3G or 4G Data Connection

If it is not possible to connect to a nearby fixed internet connection then the only other option is to create a wireless bridge connection to a 3G or 4G data connection from one of the mobile networks.

This would require a 3G or 4G router (ie a mobile data network gateway) combined with an internet-only package from one of the mobile phone providers.

If a 4G connection is available this would typically be a better option than Option 1. The exception would be if the the fixed internet connection in Option 1 is a leased line or fibre-to-the-cabinet connection.

The problem with Option 2 is that most mobile network data packages have long contract lengths and are therefore not suitable for short term events.

It is possible to get pay-as-you-go or one month rolling contracts, but these can be expensive and awkward to top-up if the data limits are breached.

Assuming that a suitable mobile data package is available, there are a number of mobile data network gateways that can create a wireless bridge to the mobile data network. Some of these also incorporate a WiFi wireless access point and network switch.

The best mobile data network gateways are those that allow insertion of a SIM card rather than a USB 3G or 4G modem (ie a dongle) connection.

There are also mobile data network gateways that are weather-proof and can be mounted on a pole (eg like the model shown at the top of the page). These are therefore ideal for outdoor events.

If the event is in an area of poor mobile coverage it may be necessary to choose a mobile data network gateway that supports the connection of a more powerful hi-gain antennae.

If a single 3G or 4G data connection does not provide sufficient speed or capacity for the event then additional mobile data network gateways could be used and if necessary combined via a slave router that can provide load sharing across multiple internet connections.

Get in touch with Premitel if you have a specific requirement or if you wish to discuss how your business could make better and more cost-effective use of its existing telecommunications and internet infrastructure and services.