Ravinia Takes on the Datapocalypse with CrossRealms’ Help

The concert season is in full swing at Ravinia Festival and for the first time in our history, we are way ahead of the wireless consumption curve. Ravinia teamed up with CrossRealms early this year to deploy an extendable, next-generation WIFI solution at the Park that would surpass our current needs and serve our customers well into 2020. Reliable, high-speed wireless service now is available to thousands of concurrent users, even when there is a full-capacity crowd of 15,000 visitors.

ravinia entrance

Our planet is undergoing a datapocalypse. Wireless carriers traditionally had to double capacity every 30 months to meet demand, but with more people both using handheld devices and looking at high definition video and images on these devices, bandwidth demand and cell tower traffic has skyrocketed. Today, voice communication represents less than five percent of all cell tower traffic, as shown in this graph: http://freshwaterinvestor.com/2012/01/28/wireless-demand/

Ravinia needed a new wireless network not only to ensure wireless connectivity for audience members, but also for back-office uses and front-office applications, including ticket scanners and point-of-sale systems. Our hand-held scanners and mobile credit card swipes are working better than ever, and it’s easier now to create ad hoc networks and deploy other wireless solutions for musicians and special guests. The Ravinia IT team now has built three public wireless networks from scratch and, through these progressive builds, learned much about providing wireless service to our more than 600,000 annual customers.

Lesson number one is that centralized management is crucial to providing good service. With Aruba Networks, we can visualize the entire system at once, and see if a client device is having a problem, on which antenna, and investigate the issue.

We also learned that there is a delicate balance between antenna placement, antenna throughput, and signal strength. WIFI antennas interfere with each other when they are placed too closely together, particularly if they are omnidirectional. Antennas with poor throughput or “data backplane” can provide customers with good signal strength, but lack capacity to serve customers concurrently. The new Aruba antennas give Ravinia the flexibility to provide directional and omnidirectional antennas, as needed.

CrossRealms has been a great partner. Their iterative approach matches our own, and they helped us plan and implement the new wireless network during our off season.  They’ve worked with us to fine-tune and modify our configuration during the concert season, using data collected in the field or, as we say at Ravinia, “the lawn.”

For more information about Ravinia Festival or to view the summer concert schedule, visit https://www.ravinia.org

For more information about the Ravinia wireless project, visit https://crossrealms.ca/next-generation-wi-fi-installing-wireless-mesh-network-ravinia

– Jamie Laing
Director of Internet Technology
Ravinia Festival, Highland Park, Ill.

For more information about wireless solutions for your business, contact Laurie Vendramin at CrossRealms.– –Laurie Vendramin
Business Development Executive
lvendramin@crossrealms.ca

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