Sundance Film Festival Offers High-Speed Wi-Fi Services for the First Time Using Advanced Technology From Ruckus Wireless

January 18, 2011

PARK CITY, Utah and SUNNYVALE, Calif., Jan. 18, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — Ruckus Wireless(TM) and Sundance Institute today announced that they are teaming to provide the very first reliable, high-speed Wi-Fi access at the internationally renowned Sundance Film Festival, expected to attract more than 40,000 festival patrons over the two-week event.

Taking place January 20 – 30 in Park City, Utah, the Sundance Film Festival will feature a state-of-the-art public Wi-Fi network, based on patented technology from Ruckus Wireless, to deal with an onslaught of smart mobile devices used by festivalgoers, film industry representatives and members of the press.

The large-scale, multi-site Wi-Fi infrastructure will cover 12 indoor and outdoor venues and be offered as a free service to festival patrons. Sundance Film Festival will actively use the network to provide schedule and movie information to movie-goers through its popular iPhone application that lets movie-goers check show times, event information and history, read articles, view videos and learn about past winners and films. Staff and operations personnel will also use the Wi-Fi network for a variety of administrative purposes.

According to Sundance Institute, Wi-Fi plays an ever-important role in enhancing the experience of festival-goers by enabling on-demand distribution of information. According to organizers, the Wi-Fi network is also essential for offloading capacity from local cellular networks to give users much faster and more ubiquitous wireless access.

To blanket festival venues with powerful Wi-Fi, Sundance Institute IT staff selected Ruckus “Smart Wi-Fi” systems and technology because of its unique ability to support high-density user environments and deliver more reliable wireless connectivity at longer ranges. This is achieved through advanced dynamic beamforming technology that automatically picks the fastest transmission path for each client while steering Wi-Fi signals around interference, which often causes connection problems.

The Mobile Internet is Driving Strong Demand for Better Wi-Fi Connectivity

“Our patrons are technically sophisticated and now armed with powerful, smart handheld devices that support anytime, anywhere multimedia communications,” said Joe Beyer, Director of Digital Initiatives at the Sundance Institute. “Our ability to deliver high-speed connectivity to keep our customers connected and informed only enhances their Sundance Film Festival experience. This is why we are not only embracing Wi-Fi but pushing to make it one of the centerpieces of our festival.”

“Deploying a festival-wide Wi-Fi network presented a real challenge. We have indoor and outdoor venues spread all over town and only a few weeks for setup and testing,” said Justin Simmons, Associate Director of IT at Sundance Institute. “With tens of thousands of people converging on our festival within a short period of time, we decided to implement the best Wi-Fi technology we could find. This technology needed to be capable of delivering reliable connectivity in the face of a large volume of concurrent users, and also support latency-sensitive multimedia applications. We needed a proven enterprise-grade solution that would work the first time. There are no second chances with an event like this.”

Simmons noted that high-speed Wi-Fi coverage within high-density areas helps mitigate connection problems people experience when trying to connect to the Internet using conventional 3G cellular technology. “The first thing people do is pull out their phones and try to get online,” said Simmons. “Cellular networks just can’t keep up with the data needs and density festival-goers are demanding, so we needed a high-bandwidth Wi-Fi network to support the influx of media hungry users all trying to connect at the same time.”

Unplugging Sundance Film Festival with “Smarter Wi-Fi”

Working with its integration partner Cinergy Wi-Fi, the Sundance Film Festival will provide high-performance, reliable Wi-Fi coverage to 12 festival venues, including the 1,200-seat Eccles Theatre, which includes an outdoor wait list tent and ticketholder queue; the Festival Headquarters located at the Park City Marriott, where more than 2,200 event staff and volunteers are centralized; and the New Frontier venue and Filmmaker Lodge, where patrons can meet filmmakers and attend panel discussions about the movies being showcased.

The entire Wi-Fi network across all venues includes 20 Ruckus ZoneFlex 7962 802.11n dual-band access points (APs), 20 ZoneFlex 7762 802.11n outdoor dual-band APs and two long-range 802.11n point-to-point bridges (for backhaul). A ZoneDirector 3100 with a 100 Mbps connection provides central management at Sundance Institute’s data center for all the remote sites, eliminating the need to have local controllers at each site. Dave Nichols, the senior network administrator for Sundance Institute, says they are tapping into Park City’s fiber optic backbone as well as Comcast’s local fiber and coaxial network to backhaul the Wi-Fi network from each site through connections ranging from 25-100 Mbps.

For resiliency, Sundance Institute is using Ruckus long-range 802.11n point-to-point bridges to provide high-speed wireless backup from the Park City Marriott to its headquarters three miles away. “The Park City Marriott is effectively the hub of the entire festival,” said Nichols. “In the event of some broadband failure at the hotel we wanted to ensure non-stop operation of all of our communications, including the wireless system. The point-to-point 802.11n bridges give us a high capacity, long-range connection to Sundance Film Festival Headquarters at a very low cost and small form factor that can deal with the harsh environmental conditions in Park City.”

For Sundance Institute, the Ruckus ZoneFlex system provides a number of advanced features that help optimize the wireless environment. For some venues where wiring does not exist, Sundance Institute will leverage Ruckus Smart Meshing capabilities. Smart Meshing allows wireless connectivity without having to run Ethernet cables to every AP. Where service is desired, an AP can simply be plugged into a power source. The APs then automatically establish a reliable Wi-Fi connection to a nearby AP.

To ensure that the wireless system doesn’t become a problem at movie screenings, Sundance Institute can define specific times for the entire system when Wi-Fi APs can be in service. During show times, the system can automatically turn off the Wi-Fi radios at specific locations where movies are playing, with no human intervention.

And to better deal with a high-density of concurrent users, Sundance Institute will leverage new Ruckus Wi-Fi technology that automatically directs end devices to less congested bands or channels while constantly balancing traffic loads among APs to give users the best possible experience.

To ensure secure mobility for its staff, Sundance Institute will take advantage of Ruckus’ patented Dynamic Pre-shared Key (PSK) technology. Dynamic PSK simplifies the laborious process of manually configuring a shared encryption key (that can be easily compromised) on each user device. After users successfully authenticate to Sundance Institute’s Active Directory database, the Ruckus ZoneFlex system will dynamically generate a strong, unique security key for each authenticated user. This encryption key, and the requisite Wi-Fi network information, is then automatically installed on end user devices with little or no human intervention.

“This is an exceedingly advanced wireless system which we look forward to utilizing for the first time in our history,” said Nichols. “The combination of sophisticated RF controls and advanced functionality within a brain-dead simple management system allows us to focus more on our customers and less on babysitting the network.”

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SOURCE Ruckus Wireless

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