Wi-Fi Demand Grows For Shows

What could be better than seeing a performance by your favorite artist? For many, it’s instagramming, tweeting or snapchatting friends from the show.

Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP
The new iPhone 5c during a new product announcement at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, Calif.

The demand for data on cellular networks at concerts and festivals is on the rise and the concert industry simply can’t afford to ignore the issue.

After all, a fan that can’t share a special moments with the world during an event isn’t the only one missing out – everyone from the artist, to the promoter, venues and sponsors benefits from the exposure social media provides in real time, for free.

Though tech giants like Cisco Systems have tried to address the issue in many stadiums across the country, the problem of taking temporary Wi-Fi on the road is still in its infancy, with only a handful of startups working to fix the problem. Insomniac recently recruited a company called SignalShare to set up Wi-Fi during the Electric Daisy Carnival in Orlando, Fla., the Wall Street Journal reported, and Kevin Holman, a consultant for the firm, explained to the paper how antennas in the VIP area boosted the Wi-Fi signal for the high-priced ticketholders.

“These people get a little more bandwidth than the great unwashed” in the general admission section, Holman said. SignalShare plugged into the Citrus Bowl stadium network, then pulled fiber cables to dozens of antennas around the main stage to create a two-acre coverage area that could support the internet traffic of a small town, the paper said. The company also apparently toughened up the gear by covering it with plastic, in case concertgoers spilled beer or other drinks on any of the cables or antennae. And here’s the kicker – it was all installed in one day.

But the price for installing temporary networks doesn’t come cheap. SignalShare CTO Joe Costanzo told the WSJ the company was hired to supply Wi-Fi for one of three of stages at the fest. Covering all stages would have cost roughly $75,000, he said, adding that “maybe they could book an up-and-coming DJ” instead.

The cost to outfit stadiums with Wi-Fi is reportedly in the millions, but Cisco’s sports and entertainment GM Chris White explained many venues are finally coming around to the fact that fans want to be connected during every event.

“The rate of change and fan expectation is huge,” he told the paper. And “if they can sell you that T-shirt or hot dog easier, or upgrade your seat [through their wireless network], that’s the business of the venue.”