Laurel School, a private girls school in Cleveland, has been an Ashton Technology Solutions client since 2012. In 2016, the school approached us and our sister company Neletech (structured data cabling) with a challenge: to provide network infrastructure and continuous Internet service for LaureLive, an outdoor, weekend music festival at the school’s Butler campus, a 140-acre, heavily wooded site in Novelty, Ohio, an exurb of Cleveland. This meant providing a secure network for dozens of vendors and a radio station, and another for the Geauga County emergency services team that would be on-site at all times. The organizers also wanted WiFi for the several thousand expected attendees. And with that many people, running temporary cable on the ground was not an option. We knocked the project out of the park, and were asked back again for the 2017 version of the event.
The opposite ends of the campus presented two distinct challenges, based on the geography as well as the stage layout.
On the south end, we were able to use a Ubiquiti Rocket AC with a 60-degree antenna for point-to-multipoint
connections with Ubiquiti NanoBeam ACs on the small third stage, tennis courts, the main ticket gate, and a trailer owned by the event production company. Each NanoBeam was powered and connected by a Ubiquiti
TOUGHSwitch, which also powered and connected Ubiquiti UniFi AC APs.
On the north side, however, where the two main stages were, a Rocket AC wouldn’t work. There were too many trees. So we used Ubiquiti NanoBeams for point-to-point connections. NanoBeams require clear line-of-sight alignment and the beam is easily obstructed — even, as we learned, by a few leaves. We had to trim some branches and tie down others. The management software on the NanoBeams allowed us to tweak
the alignment for maximum signal strength. The NanoBeams linked to more TOUGHSwitches at the stages and the main vendor tent, which connected and powered more APs installed high above the stages (in the rigging) and above the vendors. These APs provided service to the vendors who flanked the field and fans on the field between the two main stages.
All of the access points have two bands, 2.4 and 5GHz. The 2.4 GHz band travels through objects better, but is generally slower. The 5 GHz band is generally faster but more easily blocked by objects. Each band has a limited number of channels, which, if not carefully designed, will overlap and cause crosstalk, ruining wireless performance. It’s important to use channels that don’t overlap, like 1, 6 and 11 (2.4GHz band). Because each
radio in an AP can communicate with only one device at a time, even at lighting-fast speeds, there are limits to how much access the AP can provide.
Ubiquiti’s UniFi software, used to configure the access points and UniFi switches used in the wired core infrastructure, also allowed us to monitor the system in real time, and send alerts to our laptops and mobile devices during the festival. We were able to detect problems and fix them before anyone else even noticed. The day before the event began, one of the NanoBeams kept going offline. Later that night, we learned that
the most recent firmware update contained some significant flaws, including duplicate broadcast and multicast traffic, switchport flapping, and other critical issues. Fortunately, Ubiquiti had just that day released a revised firmware to solve these issue. We updated everything again and had no issues.
Very late in the set-up, we learned that a large VIP tent would be placed in an area for which we hadn’t
provided coverage. Had we known about this tent, and a nearby vendor stand, we would have placed additional APs there, but there wasn’t time. We bumped up the signal on the closest APs to the area. This slightly compromised our overall capacity as it overlapped with other APs, but there were no complaints as
they were able to process payments. Also late in the process, we were asked to provide WiFi specifically for the artists in the talent trailers parked behind the Butler building and to the changing/staging room in the basement. We quickly installed a few leftover APs in these areas and created a separate SSID and VLAN for this. Again, UniFi made this a cinch with its centralized management.