How a U.K. Telecom Keeps 180,00 Music Fans Online for 5-Day Glastonbury Festival

U.K.'s Biggest Mobile Company Takes Portable Gadgets And A 4G Network to Countryside For 24/7 Connectivity

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Keeping fans online during the Glastonbury festival is a massive challenge.
Keeping fans online during the Glastonbury festival is a massive challenge.

EE, the U.K.'s biggest mobile network with 27 million customers, is aiming to introduce a whole new level of communication to Glastonbury, the world's biggest music and arts festival, which has been running since 1970.

Instead of the intermittent phone signals, non-existent wi-fi and dead batteries normally associated with Glastonbury, EE is promising to keep all 180,000 festival-goers permanently online and charged up throughout the five-day event, to be held on a farm in the west of England this month.

As Glastonbury's official technology partner, EE has created a 4G network on site, as well as in-car wifi, an instantly-rechargeable battery, and a special edition, low-price 4G handset. EE, formerly known as Everything Everywhere, is a U.K. joint venture between Deutsche Telekom and Orange, set up in 2010.

The Festival Power Bar is a portable mini-charger costing $30. It can be exchanged for a fully-charged replacement as soon as it runs out of power, at any time of the day or night, and as often as needed during the five-day festival from June 25 through June 29.

EE is also launching what it claims is the U.K.'s first 4G car wifi, the Buzzard, which plugs into the cigarette lighter and sits in a car's cup holder. It costs $80 and connects up to 10 devices, so it can keep a whole camper-van full of music fans online.

EE's $30 Festival Power Bar
EE's $30 Festival Power Bar

The on-site 4G network will be serviced by five high capacity mobile base-stations. EE's low-priced 4G handset, called the Kestrel, is on sale for $165 ahead of the festival.

Hannah Matthews, the group marketing director of London agency Karmarama, has been to Glastonbury in a professional capacity every year for the last five years. She said, "I'm personally thrilled about this. Keeping in touch with friends and colleagues is usually a nightmare – Glastonbury is like a city, and it deserves its own 4G network."

A Karmarama client, the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood, is one of the festival's official charities, and this year they will be making the most of the new 4G service by creating an aerial photobooth, encouraging people to post their pics with the hashtage #hellomum.

Ms. Matthews is also artist liaison for the Crow's Nest Stage at Glastonbury, which features secret, intimate performances by some of the bigger bands at the festival. "The best uses [of EE's 4G] will be posting photos, keeping in touch with friends and finding out about secret gigs," Ms. Matthews added. "Glastonbury is such an other-worldly experience that people really throw themselves into it. I don't think the 4G will stop that happening."

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