Lightning in a Bottle Festival 2023: DDR.Live deploys AWS Private 5G
In the world of live events, conferences, music festivals, and pop-ups, reliable connectivity has become an essential element in the success of any event. The ability to provide guests seamless interactions with a variety of technologies, such as Point of Sale (PoS), access control, ticketing, and check-in is crucial for events of all sizes. However, achieving this level of connectivity can be challenging, especially in remote or infrastructure-limited areas.
The network team (managed by DDR.Live) and the Do LaB team, owners and producers of the Lightning in a Bottle Music and Arts Festival (LIB), held at Buena Vista Aquatic Recreation Area in Bakersfield, Calif, recognized the significance of a reliable network for their event’s success. In previous years, they faced difficulties with inbound network connections, site-wide deployment, and consistent connectivity, that hindered the festival’s ability to handle thousands of verification requests and PoS transactions over the festival’s cashless payment system for approximately 20,000 guests.
For the 2023 edition of LIB, the network team (managed by DDR.Live) sought a solution that would complement their existing Point-to-Multipoint (PTMP) wireless deployment to address unique challenges present at BVAR. These challenges included pre-show deployments in temporary locations, rapid deployments for arriving teams, deployments in obstructed areas, and connectivity for staff and emergency services throughout the event-from the start of build until the end of the event.
AWS Private 5G emerged as a viable solution and transformed the LIB network deployment, scalability, and decommissioning process while minimizing staffing needs. By leveraging AWS Private 5G, DDR.Live could focus on delivering a remarkable event experience while reducing the complexities of temporary network deployments in remote sites with physical challenges.
Who are we?
AWS Private 5G is a managed service that simplifies the deployment, operation, and scaling of private mobile networks. AWS provides all of the hardware and software components necessary, and offers an on-demand 60-day pricing option as well as 1-year and 3-year pricing options, at a lower per-hourly rate, ensuring a consistent total cost of ownership.
DDR.Live is an event management company in the entertainment industry that provides production services for various events, including large music festivals and sporting events. Co-founder Michael (Meik) Kenworthy approached AWS with the interest in utilizing AWS Private 5G to enhance DDR.Live’s critical infrastructure for the LIB event. They understood that AWS Private 5G, which operates in the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) spectrum, could complement their existing PTMP wireless infrastructure.
The Buena Vista Aquatic Recreation Area is a remote campground in Kern County, CA, without existing wireless infrastructure or vertical assets for distribution points. Each year in May, the site undergoes a transformation to host the LIB music festival during Memorial Day weekend.
In previous years, the LIB network team used local Wireless Internet Service Providers (WISPs) and Point-to-Multipoint (PTMP) wireless technology to serve the festival site. While this approach worked, performance and coverage were limited.
The previous approach used an unlicensed radio link for the incoming WISP connection, resulting in unreliable outbound connectivity and frequent outages during the event. When services were restored, the network would be flooded with queued traffic, causing overload and disruptions. These issues led to delays at the festival gate, failed transactions, and a negative guest experience.
In prior years, local distribution of the network posed challenges due to the site’s topology, the speed required for the build process, and the scale of the resulting network. Deployments required scouting locations, determining line-of-sight to distribution points, deploying equipment, and preparing locations to withstand weather conditions and environmental factors. This process could take up to two hours per location and was not resilient to frequent changes. For some changes, like completing stage builds or movement of infrastructure, a complete re-deploy for the location may be necessary. The result created a lot of duplicated efforts and difficulty in scheduling.
Additionally, the network needed to support a large number of clients with varying needs. The media team, for example, required heavy upload activity in short bursts, while PoS and access functions required consistent low-level download and upload activity.
Preliminary Preparation: Deploying AWS Private 5G Network for a Large-Scale Music Festival
DDR.Live started its preparations for the event by thoroughly understanding the requirements of various technology providers, staff members, and other on-site infrastructure. This investigation revealed that a wide range of devices would be present, but the primary focus for connectivity using cellular technology would be handheld devices, tablets, and the custom hardware used for PoS transactions and access control. For non-financial or mission-critical use cases, the PTMP system would remain in place.
Device Types Selection & Capacity Planning
While most targeted devices fully supported CBRS, some devices still required a traditional Wi-Fi network for connectivity. To address this, gateway devices were used. These gateways directly connected to the AWS Private 5G radio units and provided a Wi-Fi network for end-devices. The overall plan accounted for approximately 300 devices, with around 75 requiring gateways for connectivity. A mix of gateways was used to cater to different locations and use cases, including portable, short-range, and long-range connectivity.
Radio Unit Placements for Coverage and Capacity
After understanding the network usage requirements, DDR.Live determined the optimal placement of AWS Private 5G radio units to ensure sufficient coverage and capacity for end-devices and gateways. Through site scouting, basic connectivity tests with a single radio on-site, and using the AWS Private RF estimator, DDR.Live identified that strategic placement of five radios was required to ensure overlapping coverage and strong signal strength regardless of obstacles such as foliage and existing or planned structures. These radios would establish direct connections with CBRS devices and indirect connections with non-CBRS devices through a CBRS gateway device. The deployment included an additional standby radio for backup, which went unused for the duration of the event.
To enable AWS Private 5G radios to reach the AWS Private 5G Core hosted in the US-West-2 AWS region, third-party backhaul connectivity was provided to the site. This included a dedicated licensed 11GHz link from the local WISP, unlicensed 60GHz links from the WAN connection to the distribution Cell On Wheels (COW) tower within the festival, and additional 60GHz links from the central tower to various sub-towers. One AWS radio was positioned on the central tower at a height of 80ft, while the remaining four radios were mounted at each sub-tower.
The following image is an aerial shot of the site depicting the proposed deployment:
Image 1: Aerial photograph of the site depicting the proposed deployment
In the preceding image shot, the festival grounds are highlighted in blue. Each orange cellular icon is an AWS radio unit connected over the orange lines back to the central tower. The blue line from the central tower connects to the permanent tower where the festival receives its licensed WAN link from the local WISP.
The following image show each of the five locations AWS radio units were deployed:
Image 2: Deployment Location
Moving from top to bottom, left to right, in image 2, the COW tower is an 80ft deployment closest to the entrance to the festival. The Boneyard is the festival’s primary work and equipment storage location and sits on the side of the venue. The West Peninsula sits in the most central location of the venue, while the Grand Artique covers the southwest corner. The South Peninsula provides a signal North to ensure there aren’t any gaps.
Testing and Staging
Prior to deployment on-site, DDR.Live obtained and enabled three radio units in three different locations. The team tested each radio with various environments and connectivity use-cases. They configured the radio units with a baseline signal strength of -115dBi for data connections.
The tested device interoperability to ensure the Private 5G network could be used as primary connectivity with failover to the PTMP network in the event of signal degradation or loss. For one of these tests, devices were connected to AWS radios at another music festival to ensure the use case was sound.
Leading into the event, DDR.Live obtained the final three radio units. Migrating the existing three radios to the site and enabling the three new radios was accomplished through the AWS Private 5G Console. Spectrum grant certification was completed quickly using the interface and devices were ready to go in about 10 minutes from configuration.
Following is an image depicting the coverage reported from initial testing:
Image 3: A single radio was able to establish a wide range including some level of access through foliage.
Network Deployment Architecture
DDR.Live prioritized implementing a repeatable and reliable network architecture that could be easily repurposed for future events. Unlike typical LTE deployments that require reconfiguring and redeploying the LTE core and radios on a case-by-case basis, the AWS Private 5G Core architecture maintained an always available cellular core within an AWS Region, allowing radio units to be moved to new locations redeployed with minimal configuration updates using the AWS management console.
The following architecture diagram shows the AWS Private 5G Core solution:
Image 4: AWS Private 5G Network Architecture
The update in the AWS Private 5G console consists of two steps. The first step is for a Certified Professional Installer (CPI) to provide their certification. This certification is necessary to obtain grants in the CBRS spectrum. Second, the CPI must specify the new location of the radio by providing its latitude, longitude, and elevation.
Once updates such as location and height are made, AWS manages the remaining provisioning of the radios using service APIs. The Private 5G service will also automatically negotiate with the Spectrum Access System (SAS) to re-certify the radio and receive a spectrum grant for the new location.
AWS delivers and maintains all required components for the Private 5G service. This includes small-cell radio units that can operate in the CBRS LTE band48 spectrum in the US, network core software running in the AWS Region, and SIM cards necessary for connecting end-devices.
With this architecture, DDR.Live was able to improve its network coverage, increase stability of device connectivity, and reduce its deployment and maintenance burden for LIB 2023. Deployment of all technology was simple, easy, and enabled DDR.Live to anticipate a number of future events in other locations with minimal network management overhead.
Operation and Support of AWS Private 5G at LIB
In early May, AWS radios were positioned in their designated locations, connected to power and the internet. Final CBRS CPI certification was completed using the AWS Private 5G Console, and the radio units were automatically provisioned by the service. Having already conducted pre-validation and testing, the time to deploy each radio in production was minimal.
Once the AWS Private 5G system was operational, DDR.Live used the new technology to create a streamlined timeline for full-site network deployment. Unlike previous years, when event installation teams had to wait up to 72 hours to get connected to the site network upon arrival, AWS Private 5G allowed DDR.Live to temporarily connect departments within 30 minutes of their arrival. This approach eliminated the need for immediate installation of PTMP deployments, allowing site infrastructure to be fully deployed prior to installation. This enhanced the festival’s production crew’s experience by eliminating waiting times, earning trust in the network’s reliability, and reducing network team redeployments and reconfigurations.
During the Event
Throughout the event, DDR.Live monitored the network’s health and performance in key locations and overall usage metrics available in AWS CloudWatch. The dashboards available in CloudWatch allowed the team to see the health of the overall system. The screenshots that follow (Image 5, 6, and 7) show some of the metrics obtained while the event was in operation:
Image 5: SAS grants on the AWS Private 5G radio units during the LIB event
As shown in Image 5, the team could monitor the status of the SAS grants on each radio unit.
Image 6: Active devices on the AWS Private 5G radio units during the LIB event
Image 6 illustrates how many active devices were connected to each radio unit.
Image 7: Total throughput (UL+DL) on the AWS Private 5G radio units during the LIB event
Finally, image 7 shows the total throughput on the radio units during the event.
Using these metrics, DDR.Live was able to proactively respond to situations such as radio unit congestion, or grant failures.
After the event, the AWS Private 5G system continued to provide benefits during the strike process, keeping staff connected while allowing progress on disassembling the PTMP network deployed on-site. Decommissioning the LTE network was hassle-free, with all units unmounted and stored in their original boxes, ready for deployment in new locations with minimal configuration necessary.
Lightning in a Bottle has taken a huge step to create an improved experience for guests, increase security, simplify purchasing, and pioneer technology for music festivals. In partnering with various technology providers, the need for a reliable, secure, and functional network deployment is paramount. By using AWS Private 5G with the existing PTMP deployment, DDR.Live successfully provided the necessary connectivity for the festival and its technical partners.
The AWS Private 5G infrastructure directly contributed to improvements in the guest experience, the IT deployment process, and site production progress. Minimal lines were observed at the box office due to uninterrupted connections to devices, vendors and bars operated smoothly throughout the night, and the IT team experienced stability in their deployment timeline. The ease and reliability of the network infrastructure allowed to team to relax and not have to fight network issues, as everything functioned seamlessly. One of the senior members of the network team said, “This is the first time I’ve worked on a team at a music festival where we could relax the first night of the show because everything was functional.”
DDR.Live’s implementation of the AWS Private 5G network, consisting of six radio units (including one spare), supported a peak of 105 concurrent devices and approximately 250 end-clients (including connections through Wi-Fi gateways) during LIB 2023. The network facilitated the transfer of 550 GB of data with no outages or interruptions. The consistent and repeatable network architecture enabled DDR.Live to effortlessly set up the cellular network infrastructure, ensuring connectivity for critical systems and enhancing the guest experience.
The ease of deployment and decommissioning saved valuable time and resources while providing the flexibility to adapt to future event locations and device requirements. With the launch of multi-year commitment pricing options, such as 1-year and 3-year commitments, customers like DDR.Live can ensure a consistent total cost of ownership across multiple events over an extended period.
Are you ready to revolutionize your network infrastructure and harness the power of AWS Private 5G’s seamless deployment and relocation capabilities? Take the first steps towards unlocking unparalleled connectivity, flexibility, and adaptability for your organization. Contact us today to learn more about how we can empower you to effortlessly deploy and relocate your private 5G network, with minimal disruption and maximizing operational efficiency. To get started go to the AWS Private 5G product page.