Campers are already on-site for what’s billed as “America’s biggest Labor Day party”, the three-day rock festival in Pryor, Oklahoma known as Rocklahoma that will draw tens of thousands of people each day this coming weekend.
Verizon Business will be supporting the event with a private 5G network using a turnkey, Celona-based network to cover the 975,000-square-foot Oklahoma event space and provide dedicated service for back-of-house applications for employees, sponsors and vendors. The private 5G network will cover parking and admission-gate areas, as well as vendor spaces, multiple stages and backstage areas, so that point-of-sale devices, ticket/barcode scanners and laptops work smoothly.
Talking about private networks and in-venue experiences can conjure images of ultra-low-latency replays or the ability to stream multiple camera angles viewable on mobile devices. But Jennifer Artley, SVP of 5G acceleration for Verizon Business, points out that there are much simpler and more integral parts of the customer experience in those environments. “There’s another aspect of fan experience which is less about that and more about, how long did I wait in line for the Taylor Swift merch? And when I swiped my card, did I have to wait another 15 seconds until it connected?” Artley says. “Being able to manage the flow of traffic is a really critical part of venue operations, whether it’s Bonnaroo or Rocklahoma or a major sporting event.”
“Fast, stable connectivity can reduce the amount of time our attendees have to wait in line for purchases and ticket scans, which means more time to rock,” said Dave Giencke, vice president of Pryor Creek Music Festivals, which owns and operates Rocklahoma and the venue.
“What we’re seeing more generally is that concert venues—venues in general—are a great use case for not just fan experience, but a lot of ancillary businesses that happen as a result of people coming together,” Artley explains. “Like parking, admissions gates, all point of sale activity”—in some cases, all the way down to things like pay-to-use showers where campers have to swipe a card to pay. If a venue can’t collect payments because of connectivity issues—either due to weak coverage to venues off the beaten path, or because vying for capacity with their attendees’ mobile phones gums up with works—they lose money. (Rocklahoma, it should be noted, is operating on a “cashless” basis and attendees can connect a credit card with a wristband—so smooth transactions are crucial.) So investing in a private network, even a temporary one, can have a strong business case—and Artley says that outdoor or temporary experiences like concerts, festivals and popups “represent one of the fastest growing private-network environments that Verizon Business is servicing right now.”
But, Artley says, such a network has to be very quick to set up and easy to use.
“When you think about an outdoor experience like a concert of a festival, it’s a really private they require short up-time, they need to be efficient. It has to be uncomplicated set-up and use. … And it needs to be both expansive and reliable,” she said. Mid-market venues like Rocklahoma also expect Verizon to take care of all the network aspects, Artley added.
For short-term venue coverage (as compared to long-term or permanent venue networks), efficiency is the by-word, Artley explained. “Being able to deploy quickly is really about that efficiency, anywhere you have a cellular-enabled point of sale that’s critical to the success of the event, where it’s important for the fan experience or the attendee experience, but also the seller experience—whoever’s running that point-of-sale—to be able to complete that sale quickly, keep the line moving and where you can’t solely rely on Wi-Fi when you think about the quantity of tablets, scanners, phones, laptops that your staff is managing. And often, a lot of this happens outdoors, where Wi-Fi isn’t really the best option.”
In the case of Rocklahoma, she said that Verizon designed and deployed the network (a CBRS-based private network using Celona’s tech) and integrates with partners to make sure that various devices from point to sale to cameras work on the network. This is a smaller-scale operation than the private networks that Verizon has implemented for, say, the National Football League; but Verizon has taken some of the lessons that it learned in those larger-scale private network deployments and implemented them into its turnkey offerings. For example, it took cues from the sideline network for NFL coaches that it designed, and put a smaller private network into a Las Vegas casino for bosses managing the casino floor. It also scored a win with providing a private network for a New Jersey tulip farm that sees heavy tourism during only a short period of the year, during which it is crucial that point-of-sale systems work.
“We think this is going to continue to gather momentum and we think it’s really be a growing segment for us, right alongside the work that we’re going with more industrial deployments as well,” Artley said.