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Ask Slashdot: 4G Networking Advice For Large Outdoor Festival? 140

New submitter xanadu113 writes "I help out with a large outdoor festival each year (Seattle Hempfest), and we use 4G hotspots on-site for our internet needs. Due to being at the bottom of the hill (in Myrtle Edwards park in downtown Seattle, WA right on the sound), we have problems with loss of signal, bandwidth switching (going between 4G/3G/2G, etc.). As wireless internet is our only option on site, we need to do something about improving the signals. What would be the best way to do a site survey of the 4G signals to select the best locations for hotspots, as well as the best carrier to use? We need potentially up to 10 devices per hotspot, and up to 10 hotspots or so. Also, would putting up a 4G repeater be a good option to solve this problem?"
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Ask Slashdot: 4G Networking Advice For Large Outdoor Festival?

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  • Why not WiFi (Score:5, Informative)

    by Quick Reply ( 688867 ) on Saturday August 24, 2013 @03:19PM (#44665267) Journal

    WiFi is going to be cheaper.

  • COWs, lots of COWs (Score:5, Informative)

    by waddgodd ( 34934 ) on Saturday August 24, 2013 @03:27PM (#44665309) Homepage Journal

    Talk to the major cell providers, get some Celltowers On Wheels. They loves them some COW events, every COW is a dozen overage charges waiting to happen.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 24, 2013 @03:34PM (#44665343)

    With so many people at the festival, they will easily eat up the cellular connection with their cell phones, so you really shouldn't rely on 4g or any cellular broadband source.
    I would recommend finding a wireless carrier that can send you internet via 5.8ghz or 3.65ghz (wimax). Once you have a source at the fest, you would want to redistribute it yourself to various locations for your hotspots at different venues by using an Access Point at each location. You should use a 5.8ghz bridge to redistribute it through the site but you would want to site survey first. Look into Ubiquiti products - easy to use.
    Alternatively, instead of going to an expensive wireless carrier to send you bandwidth to the site, you could find somebody that owns a house or business with a good cable internet connection and redistribute down to the fest yourself using 5.8ghz bridging.
    Good luck. And P.S. don't waste your time trying to fix the 4g issue - its a lost cause when too many people are in the area taking up the signal.

  • by westlake ( 615356 ) on Saturday August 24, 2013 @03:38PM (#44665363)
    2013 Schedule [hempfest.org] (August 16-August 18)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 24, 2013 @04:30PM (#44665613)

    Yes, COW's are the way to go. They are free, will be set up and operated, and powered, by the cellphone providers. Just tell them the numbers of people you expect to have and the dates and times.

  • by BitZtream ( 692029 ) on Saturday August 24, 2013 @04:42PM (#44665675)

    y that owns a house or business with a good cable internet connection and redistribute down to the fest yourself using 5.8ghz bridging

    Which would be against the ToS of pretty much every ISP on the planet. Thats a stupid suggestion, and a good way to get yourself in trouble.

  • by bugnuts ( 94678 ) on Saturday August 24, 2013 @04:45PM (#44665697) Journal

    I've used this method to find celltowers closest to a house in a forest. On your cellphone, turn off GPS and google location services, and go into airplane mode.

    Then turn off airplane mode and as soon as it connects try to get a fix on your position in google maps using only celltower information. Basically, it'll place you a certain distance within range of a celltower. The center of the circle is where the tower is. If you can get LOS on that tower, that will help your signal a lot. Sometimes they're even marked in google maps. You can move around the perimeter, and it may switch to a different cell indicating another tower you can use. Not all carriers use the same celltowers, either, so this has to be the same provider you have for your hotspots.

    If you really want to play around to increase signal, try mounting an old satellite dish up high aiming directly at the celltower, and place the hotspot at the focal point.

    A 4G repeater won't help since you'd have to place it in LOS to the tower anyway, so you might as well just place your hotspot and a wifi repeater there with a directional antenna. Wifi equipment should be cheaper and faster, too, for the infrastructure.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 24, 2013 @04:58PM (#44665783)

    I should also mention that if there is a tower in the area, and your event is getting it close to 75% utilization, it will set off alarms. They may already know about your event and have a COW planned. Talk to them and ask them to check their records for last year. The last thing they want is a tower hitting 100% and no one being able to use it.

  • by ancientt ( 569920 ) <ancientt@yahoo.com> on Saturday August 24, 2013 @05:34PM (#44665907) Homepage Journal

    The person asking the question thinks the solution to needing to provide Wifi Hotspots is to use cellular based devices and maybe try to find a way to get better 4G coverage.

    You're trying to solve the wrong problem. Using 4G to provide wifi has several drawbacks, first is cost. Second, you can't get the bandwidth you really need, and third, you have to compete with every device there trying to connect to thier cellular provider. Provide hotspots with Wifi Routers getting their connections from a wired source instead. Ideally, you'd run wires to your wifi access points but if you can't do that very well in some places, use wifi repeaters.

    If putting wires to the places you need access points is really a serious problem that you can't solve with wifi repeaters, then use microwave. It's not too expensive to set up and it can give you a no-wires high bandwidth internet connection for long distances.

    Since the wrong question was asked, it is hard to provide the right answer, but here are some tips:

  • Look at Burning Man (Score:5, Informative)

    by nick0909 ( 721613 ) on Saturday August 24, 2013 @10:51PM (#44667195)
    Going on right now (well, starting soon) is the greatest wild party in the middle of nowhere, 2 hours from the closes cell signal, and they have internet access. Ask some of the Burning Man guys to help with such a setup. They don't use 4G, but they have T1s in nearby towns and they microwave it out to the festival site. It works very well, even in the worst dust storms, and is not nearly as reliant on the whims of cellular carriers.

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