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WOMAD Music Festival Moves to Better and Faster 802.11n Wi-Fi to Keep Everyone Unplugged but Well Connected

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WOMAD Music Festival Moves to Better and Faster 802.11n Wi-Fi to Keep Everyone Unplugged but Well Connected

Etherlive deploys high performance Ruckus Wireless mesh network to meet wireless needs of organisers, traders and festival-goers

SUNNYVALE, CA, July 20, 2009 Ruckus Wireless today announced that Etherlive, an event and specialist IT services company, has selected the new Ruckus Wireless dual-band 802.11n Smart Wi-Fi system to provide outdoor wireless infrastructure services and public access to support the annual World of Music and Dance (WOMAD) festival.  Co-Founded by Peter Gabriel, WOMAD will be held in Charlton Park, Malmesbury, Wiltshire from July 24th to 26th.  The festival attracts some 40,000 visitors, and covers an area of over 250 acres.

After extensive evaluation of various vendor outdoor Wi-Fi products, Etherlive selected the new Ruckus 802.11n system because it was the only centrally-managed concurrent 2.4/5GHz 802.11n Wi-Fi solution that combined advanced beamforming technology to deliver extended range and reliability, with sophisticated smart meshing technology at the same or lower cost than existing 802.11g outdoor products.

The massive, ultra high speed Wi-Fi network is the primary infrastructure to support a number of applications including organiser voice communications, public broadband Internet access, commercial PDQ point of sale devices and even sound monitoring units around the grounds.

“The new Ruckus kit effectively redefines the outdoor market with respect to price, performance and cost,” said Tom McInerney, operations director for Etherlive.  “With the new dual-band outdoor system we were able to more than double the performance and range at a lower cost and with fewer APs to deploy and manage.  But more importantly, the mesh code automatically forms and self-heals as the environment changes.  This solves some huge problems for use with respect to dealing with interference and the time it takes to manage and tune such a large network.”

With InStat predicting that more than one billion Wi-Fi-enabled devices will be in use by 2012, there is a growing demand for ubiquitous Wi-Fi coverage everywhere.  At outdoor festivals it is critical that organisers and production teams are able to communicate out in the field as effectively as if they were in their offices to ensure the event runs as smoothly as possible.  Previously, festivals had to rely on incumbent telecoms providers to install telegraph poles around the desired sites.  This was not only extremely expensive; it also did not provide the flexibility required to support delay-sensitive applications like voice over Wi-Fi or chip-and-pin machines. 

WOMAD consulted with Etherlive about installing a temporary wireless network to cover the site in Wiltshire, further specifying that the connection had to be robust enough to support critical applications without the risk of network failure.

Etherlive installed a Ruckus Wi-Fi high performance mesh network at the site to provide a reliable Wi-Fi connection for the organisers, traders and the general visiting public.  The network is already in use by the operational team, and when the festival opens it will also support a number of critical applications such as voice over Wi-Fi phones used by site managers, IP cameras, and Wi-Fi point of sale (PDQ) chip-and-pin machines used by traders.  For festival-goers there will be free internet access to a WOMAD portal & iPhone application from the main arena, and across the extensive camping areas, providing visitors with live, up-to-date information about the event including audio streams from Radio WOMAD. Using the iPhone application users can even download music from the artists playing. 

Sound engineers will be using the Wi-Fi network to remotely monitor and manage decibel levels around the event without having to physically walk the property.  As sound levels can be affected by even slight changes in weather such as cloud cover or rain, keeping them within the required range, as set by the local authority, has traditionally been a tricky task with engineers patrolling the edge of the site and then having to rush back to the stage to adjust the volume when required.  With the Ruckus system, the likelihood of fines is dramatically reduced as engineers gain complete visibility to sound levels from wherever they are on site, meaning much quicker reaction times.

“There’s a growing expectation among festival-goers that Wi-Fi should be freely available, and that internet access and access to social networking should be part and parcel of the WOMAD experience,” said Chris Smith, Festival Director at WOMAD.  “What’s more, we need a reliable wireless network to run the site efficiently and ensure the event goes off without a hitch.  When we saw the demo from Etherlive we knew this was exactly what we needed.”

The deployment consists of Ruckus dual-band 802.11n Smart Wi-Fi access points (APs) and a centralised ZoneDirector Smart WLAN controller.  The units, which are all weather-proofed to withstand harsh outdoor conditions, are installed within specially designed PODs across the site.  In addition to the Ruckus wireless technology, Etherlive has developed a power management system with redundant 48 hour battery backup which ensures the network keeps running should one of the on-site generators fail.  A team of experts from Etherlive will also be on hand throughout the festival to trouble-shoot any potential issues.

“Building a flexible and robust Wi-Fi network on such a large scale to support a massive area and a huge number of concurrent users is a major undertaking – especially outdoors where interference and noise is everywhere and can’t be controlled,” said McInerney.  “The Ruckus kit solves all these problems because it is designed to be self-optimising and highly adaptive, it’s the only solution that can cope in this environment, directing signals exactly where they are needed and avoiding any interference as and when it occurs.”

The Ruckus Wi-Fi mesh uses dynamic beamforming APs on both ends of every mesh link to eliminate performance variability on the mesh backbone.  In addition, the network will erase dead spots to ensure reliable connections and provide stable performance across the entire site, delivering a two- to four-fold increase in signal range and reliability.  Pioneered by Ruckus Wireless, dynamic beamforming is the latest Wi-Fi innovation that automatically directs transmissions to the best performing signal path on a per packet basis using real time feedback mechanisms inherent in the 802.11 protocol.  In this way, Ruckus is able to overcome problems that have previously hindered outdoor Wi-Fi deployments at large festivals and events, namely interference, physical obstructions such as moving trucks and even metal stages, network management complexity and cost. 

“Outdoor Wi-Fi has traditionally had a bad reputation, suffering performance problems when the wind blows or when a tree is in the way of the signal – obstacles you can’t really do much about,” said Jim Calderbank, director of enterprise sales EMEA at Ruckus Wireless.  “But with Wi-Fi becoming ubiquitous, this needed to change and we’ve done just that.  For festivals and organisers of large outdoor events, this is going to make their life much easier.  The organisers will be able to work more efficiently, traders will be able to process transactions reliably, and festival-goers will be able to easily access the internet from their smartphones – a recipe that will surely help WOMAD continue to attract more visitors and artists year on year.”

About WOMAD

WOMAD stands for World of Music, Arts and Dance and gives its name to the internationally established WOMAD Festival, which brings together artists from all over the globe.  The central aim of the WOMAD festival is to celebrate the world’s many forms of music, arts and dance. As an organisation, WOMAD now works in many different ways, but our aims are always the same – at festivals, performance events, through recorded releases and through educational projects, we aim to excite, to inform, and to create awareness of the worth and potential of a multicultural society. Peter Gabriel was one of WOMAD’s co-founders: “Pure enthusiasm for music from around the world led us to the idea of WOMAD in 1980 and thus to the first WOMAD festival in 1982. The festivals have always been wonderful and unique occasions and have succeeded in introducing an international audience to many talented artists.”Equally important, the festivals have also allowed many different audiences to gain an insight into cultures other than their own through the enjoyment of music. Music is a universal language; it draws people together and proves, as well as anything, the stupidity of racism.”

About Etherlive

Based in Wiltshire, England, Etherlive is a technology services company working in partnership with event organisers to deliver key services such as VoIP, internet, CCTV, payment processing, interactive advertising and rich media to all types of festivals, events, product launches and conferences. A finalist in the Red Herring 2009 technology awards, Etherlive has developed a range of solutions tailored to meet the demands of the live event environment all backed by experienced deployment & support teams. For more information visit http://events.www.etherlive.co.uk

About Ruckus Wireless, Inc.

Based in Sunnyvale, California, Ruckus Wireless is a next-generation Wi-Fi company credited with pioneering “Smart Wi-Fi” technology. Named a 2007 Technology Pioneer by the World Economic Forum, Ruckus Wireless was formed in 2004 at Sequoia Capital. The company designs, develops and markets industrial-strength Wi-Fi systems that provide reliable distribution of delay-sensitive multimedia content and services over standard 802.11 technology. Its flagship product, ZoneFlex, is the first wireless LAN system to combine the best in centralized wireless LAN principles with state-of-the-art Wi-Fi advances such as smart antenna arrays and wireless meshing. Its MediaFlex line of multimedia wireless routers is used by more than 125 broadband operators around the world to extend digital services such as IPTV throughout the home without wires. The company’s patented hardware and software technologies deliver predictable performance, extended range and real-time adaptability to changing Wi-Fi environments. The company has raised approximately $42 million in financing from premier venture capital investors, consumer electronics companies and broadband operators such as Motorola, T-Ventures, Telus, Sutter Hill Ventures, Mitsui, Sequoia and others. Ruckus Wireless is led by President and CEO Selina Lo. For more information, visit the company’s Web site at http://www.ruckuswireless.com.

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