• Tina Rosén

Festival woes - When there’s rock and roll but no data to share the experience



Whether you’re hoping to see Taylor Swift at Roskilde, the Artic Monkeys at Sziget, Kiss and Iron Maiden at Download, or Billie Eilish at Glastonbury, Europe is just entering festival season, which attracts young people from across the continent.


The best festival experience of 2022, however, now requires a mobile phone that works well, according to UK MVNO GiffGaff, which found that 62% of people think their mobile phones improve their festival experience. GiffGaff’s research also revealed that 59% of festival goers use their phones for at least three hours, each day of the festival to communicate with friends (87%), take photos or videos (72%), browse social media (47%), use the official app (27%), or check news sites (25%) and emails (9%).


But not all festivals deliver the kind of experience that festival goers now expect. At the recent Sweden Rock festival, it was reported by local radio that 3 out of 4 Swedish CSPs provided slow data speeds to attendees. Like many festivals, Sweden Rock presented three key challenges to CSPs:

  • customer volume – by nature, festivals mean a large volume of people gathering in a small geographic area

  • data volume – the mobile is now an integral part of the festival experience with festival goers wanting to be able to record and share their experiences. This includes using data-intensive services, such as taking photos and videos and then uploading these to cloud storage or social media

  • location – festivals often take place in remote or rural areas rather than in better-connected cities. In the case of Sweden Rock, the location was the small town of Sölvesborg (pop. approx. 10,000).


Prior to the festival, 3 Sweden (Tre) communicated that it would provide 5G to the festival site and local area to handle increased demand. 3 Sweden also uses the Subtonomy application Crowds, which is designed for just this type of scenario – helping CSPs monitor high-usage areas at venues, sporting events or summer festivals, pinpointing any problems, and enabling them to address these quickly.


There was a huge difference between the experience delivered to festival goers by rival CSPs, according to Swedish Radio.

"Messages and images have been delivered the day after they were sent,” complained festival goer Robin Lundström, who was understandably disappointed by this experience.

Swedish Radio’s own measurements confirmed that 3 out of 4 operators were not delivering a great experience.


While phones had good coverage and voice calls were not affected, Swedish Radio confirmed that customers of Tele2, Telia and Telenor struggled with data services (such as surfing, uploading pictures and video, and using social media) as well as texting – both of which were extremely slow. Lundström explained this made it hard to plan and decide what to do at the festival if you couldn’t use popular VoIP services such as WhatsApp, or text your friends.


“There’s huge and increasing demand for mobile data during Sweden Rock,” explained Per Stigenberg, CTO, Three Sweden, “as many people want to share their experiences and livestream. Supporting these needs takes a lot of bandwidth, so for the last two years we’ve set up a new mast in collaboration with the festival organizers. This 5G mast uses the c-band spectrum, which enables it to support a lot of data in areas of high usage. We’re really happy that it worked so well, and that we’ve been able to contribute to a positive experience for our customers.”

Recent Subtonomy research has found that service quality is now so important to Swedish customers that many are prepared to pay extra to get a quality guarantee. The youngest customers – the cohort most likely to be attending festivals – are both the most sensitive to reduced quality, as well as the most willing to pay more to get guaranteed quality of service. However, emphasizing how important quality is to all customers, 8 out of 10 now say the offer of guaranteed quality combined with compensation for non-performance would influence their choice of supplier.


The scale of the problem can be seen at the grandaddy of festivals – Glastonbury – where the festival’s telecoms partner EE expects data usage from the 200,000 attendees to double in 2022 to over 200 terabytes (equivalent to 8 billion Instagram posts), fueled by increasing demand for uploading video. Like Three Sweden, it is installing temporary masts onsite to cope.


EE’s Pete Jeavons said: “Over the years we’ve worked with the team at Glastonbury to use our technology to improve the experience of festival-goers – whether that’s keeping your phone charged, getting in touch with friends at the festival or sharing memories with those that aren’t there. With the increasing data demands seen at live events across the country, we’re working hard at Worthy Farm to make sure we have a network in place that can cope with these demands.”

Although festivals occur mainly in the summer, sporting and other cultural events take place all year round and suffer from similar challenges. The problems of huge data usage in these geographically defined areas is just set to get worse as more attendees use apps such as TikTok or stream video to the cloud.


But this needn’t be a source of complaints, frustration and churn. With a combination of 5G technology and Crowds from Subtonomy CSPs can ensure their customers have the best possible experience – making it more likely they will stay loyal to their CSP thanks to a great experience at home, at work and when they’re at play.