DDR.Live taps AWS Private 5G to catch Lightning in a Bottle

This syndicated post originally appeared at Zeus Kerravala – SiliconANGLE.

5G cellular technology has come into the spotlight in recent years, revolutionizing how businesses operate and creating new opportunities for innovation, and Amazon Web Services Inc. has stepped up to the challenge.

A couple of years ago, it launched AWS Private 5G, a service that offers customers flexible pricing options ranging from a 60-day plan to one- and three-year plans. This service was designed to provide companies with the ability to set up their own private mobile networks, using everything ranging from hardware to software.

A successful AWS Private 5G deployment was carried out by DDR.Live, an event management company in the entertainment industry, at a music festival called Lightning in a Bottle. Held at the Buena Vista Aquatic Recreation Area in Bakersfield, California, the LIB festival site is situated in a remote location devoid of any existing wireless infrastructure.

Historically, the LIB event posed significant challenges for DDR.Live because of its location. With no pre-existing wireless infrastructure, the company had to rely on local wireless providers and point-to-multipoint technology, which resulted in performance limitations and network issues.

Adding to these challenges, the event site was available for setup only about a month in advance, and the layout was subject to change as more festivalgoers arrived. New structures, including stages, were built. This required frequently moving and adjusting Wi-Fi access points to meet demand. Further complicating matters, the site’s varied terrain, trees and tall structures with metal siding caused signal quality issues. After grappling with these obstacles, DDR.Live decided to leverage a private mobile network in conjunction with the existing Wi-Fi network for the LIB event.

By deploying AWS Private 5G, DDR.Live was able to establish an access point and provide hotspots to users, who could then navigate the site freely with stable service. This was particularly crucial for areas where secure and dependable network access was needed, such as cash processing.

Moreover, food vendors at the festival had varying setups, including tents, trailers and other structures, which required different types of connectivity. With a private mobile network, DDR.Live deployed different connectivity solutions as needed, which meant the network had to be set up in those areas once. Overall, AWS Private 5G offered a more flexible and scalable solution for LIB.

Most devices connected to the private mobile network were phones and tablets compatible with the Citizens Broadband Radio Service, or CBRS. DDR.Live also used a mix of Baicells and Peplink/Pepwave hotspots, which included “jetpacks,” tabletop routers and outdoor high-gain routers, explained Jordan Reed, network integration architect at DDR.Live. These outdoor routers, with a narrower beam, came in handy in situations with dense tree coverage or when handheld devices were too far away and needed extra height to maintain a good signal.

To minimize interference with the existing Wi-Fi network at the event, Baicells devices emitted a 5-gigahertz Wi-Fi signal of low power. This design allowed most data to be transferred over the LTE network, avoiding potential overload on the public Wi-Fi spectrum. On the user end, connections could be made directly to the LTE network using a SIM card or via a small Wi-Fi hotspot that could cover about two vendor booths without causing interference with the existing network on site. This balance between LTE and Wi-Fi connections ensured efficient data transportation and prevented network interference.

“Previously if the internet went down, we had to scramble and do a full diagnostic of what was happening,” Reed said. “The connectivity part is so simple that if the Wi-Fi goes down, and the vendors have an LTE SIM card in their device, it just fails over to the LTE seamlessly. Then as soon as the Wi-Fi comes back up, it sees the connectivity again and reconnects to the network that it’s supposed to be on.”

To ensure compatibility across devices, DDR.Live used gateway devices that enabled even non-CBRS compatible devices to connect to the network via Wi-Fi. The company planned for approximately 300 devices, 75 of which required these gateways. Using the AWS Private 5G Self-Service Network Estimator tool, DDR.Live strategically determined the placement for AWS Private 5G radio units to provide the best coverage and capacity. Five radio units were used, with an additional one kept as backup.

AWS Private 5G’s ability to easily redeploy was one of its standout features, according to Meik Kenworthy, DDR.Live’s co-founder and president. Even though the radio units had to connect to the AWS Private 5G core hosted in a different location, DDR.Live was able to establish third-party backhaul connectivity and relocate the radio units with minimal changes.

In the end, implementing AWS Private 5G at LIB proved to be a tremendous success. The enhanced network coverage and stability simplified the task of setting up and maintaining the network, saving DDR.Live significant time and resources. At its peak, the network supported 105 devices concurrently and about 250 end-users. Over the course of the event, it transferred 550 gigabytes of data without any interruption.

“Before, our team had to work reactively to the needs of critical festival infrastructure,” Reed said. “But this year, having those needs met before the show even started, with such a simplified and streamlined deployment, gave us the ability to be proactive and seek out other issues and areas we could improve during the show, without risking any part of the network that we need for critical functions.”

DDR.Live plans to enhance its event operations further by integrating internet of things devices into the power infrastructure next year. Given the remote location of LIB in the desert, the festival relies heavily on generator power. Running numerous massive generators around the entire site is costly and energy-consuming. DDR.Live sees an opportunity to use IoT devices to monitor and manage the usage of these generators, said Kenworthy.

The plan involves equipping all the generators with IoT devices, which would track and transmit data on the generators’ power output. The generators will be monitored remotely, which means the power output of the generators can be controlled based on real-time demand. Furthermore, by analyzing the IoT data, the team can gain insights into the power usage across the festival site. DDR.Live can potentially reduce the amount of fuel consumed, which would lower the operational costs associated with powering the festival.

Author: Zeus Kerravala

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long term strategic advice.