There is a new way for all of your services to stay online and it doesn’t involve costly temporary wifi for events.

You might assume internet connectivity at festivals is no longer an issue in 2018, when pretty much everyone has a 4G internet connection right in their pocket – but you’d be wrong: Festivals are renowned for patchy internet access, made even patchier as attendees flood the local networks sharing their event experiences.

The way people enjoy and engage with events has evolved over the past decade, with most people morphing into full-blown photographers as soon as they arrive on-site. People love flaunting the highlights of their lives, and attending an amazing event is right up there with top experiences to share with friends, family and followers.

It’s become common practice for festival managers to hire professional internet and WiFi companies in order to set up internet on site, bolstering the mobile data networks with broadband coverage. This is usually meant not only to let guests keep posting those moments at marvelously high upload rates, but also to ensure payment processing systems stay operational throughout the event.

Should you jump on the wireless bandwagon? Let’s look at some of the pros and cons.

The Online Payments Conundrum

Since the move away from managing cash on-site, EFTPOS terminals have provided organisers with a way to process sales at their bars. Unfortunately though, these terminals still require a strong internet connection to operate, meaning that remote venues, or events struck by bad weather often experience connection drop-outs and slow processing times.

For the majority of event organisers, the money earned through bar sales is their largest event revenue stream. The ability to process payments without hold ups is a need, not a want.

So far, so obvious: If on-site payments are the lifeblood of your event, and you need internet connectivity to process these payments, purchasing third-party festival wi-fi seems like a no-brainer. But before you pull out your checkbook, read the rest of this article.

Festival Wifi Costs a Pretty Penny

Most companies that provide temporary internet service are quite coy about their pricing models, offering little to no information before sending you to speak with a salesperson. However, our clients report being quoted upwards of $20k for setting up wired and wifi connectivity at a single event.

That’s quite a steep price to pay, especially considering that no one can actually guarantee 100% uptime. For a smaller venue, it could easily raise the total cost of an event to such an extent that the profitability of the entire venture is jeopardised – and if anything goes wrong these costs will be compounded when food and alcohol sales slow down.

You might still think all of this is moot – after all, you’re not going to run a cash-only festival in this day and age. If you have to spend tens of thousands of dollars to keep your POS systems working, c’est la vie. However, I’m here to tell you that there is another way.

Move Forward with RFID and Mesh Networking

Cashless RFID is the fastest-growing technology trend at events worldwide. As an alternative payment method, it enables event organisers to process sales on-site without an internet connection. Attendees can load funds to their ‘digital wallet’ (usually in the form of a wristband or card) and vendors would use RFID-enabled devices to charge customers for food, drink and merch.

Robust RFID platforms will stay operational regardless of the strength or availability of internet connectivity, as transactions are handled on an internal mesh network. This way, bar and other vendor sales at the event can continue taking place, even if the internet is strained or breaks down completely. The system syncs everything that’s happened during offline hours once it regains signal.

This type of solution was recently used by the organisers of Vanfest, a music festival that takes places in Central NSW, Australia, where the access to a reliable internet connection on-site posed a challenge. Instead of purchasing third-party WiFi, Vanfest implemented an RFID system that had the ability to operate completely offline, yet still sync data with a server so as not to misplace information should a cashier’s device go missing. You can read about the results here.

Of course, there are other reasons to go cashless: once you have a contactless RFID system in place, there are many other ways to use it – streamlining access control at your event, reducing lineups, creating new social activations and more.

Don’t Rule Out Wifi Completely

While you shouldn’t shell out tens of thousands of dollars just to keep your POS systems operational, this isn’t to say that hiring a wifi provider for your event is always a bad idea. Sometimes it’s absolutely imperative for your guests have a very strong internet connection at all times. At other occasions, they could probably live with a weaker connection at peak hours. It all depends on the event, the audience and the context.

Whether or not it’s a worthy investment for the particular event you’re planning is for you to decide, on an ad-hoc basis. Also, you might want to invest in wireless internet AND run a cashless event, or streamline access control with RFID tags – the two are by no means mutually exclusive, and actually work quite well together (especially in the context of social media promotions).

However, if you have one takeaway from this article, it’s this: if you’re mostly concerned with processing payments, don’t waste your money on 3rd party festival WiFi – not when there’s a simpler and cheaper solution around.

To learn more, check out our page on event WiFi and connectivity solutions.

Token Team

Author Token Team

Token is a global leader in RFID technology for events. With over 20 years of event experience, we provide cashless payments, access control and experiential activations to organisers all around the world.

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