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Rolling Stones marry hi-fi and Wi-Fi for concert shows

Other bands are also using Wi-Fi equipment to produce their events

By Rebecca Reid, ITWorld Canada
July 30, 2003 12:00 PM ET

A Rolling Stones concert today in Toronto will be made possible in part thanks to wireless technologies, according to Todd Griffith, IT specialist for the band.
For Griffith, it was all tech, plugs and rock 'n' roll until about a year ago, when he realized he could drastically decrease the amount of plugs required at a concert venue by deploying wireless networks instead of a traditional wired network.
Now he's no longer consumed by stringing up cable, instead strategically deploying wireless access points, gateways, wireless PC cards and building-to-building gateways.
For the past year, Griffith has been employed by the Rolling Stones, making it possible for the band's crew to update the rollingstones.com Web site and keep in contact with their families via e-mail. He has also enabled the production crew to receive large computer-aided design drawings of each venue. Griffith said they normally get speeds of 1.5M to 3Mbit/sec., similar to a Digital Subscriber Line connection.
Although he usually deploys a network for 60 to 75 users, the number of users for today's concert at Downsview Park in Toronto will quadruple.
The Rolling Stones are participating in an event to help Toronto recover from the financial setbacks caused by the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome. Others performing at the concert include Justin Timberlake, Sam Roberts, AC/DC, Rush and the Flaming Lips.
Not only did Griffith say that the total cost of ownership is a lot lower with wireless, but the network rollout time is also drastically reduced, usually taking one to two hours to set up. He added that he's thrilled that the IT crew doesn't have to cart around equipment for a full-fledged network while on tour.
"Just the nature of this business -- we move every two or three days," he said. "To pull cable and try to get traditional switches and cable in some of these venues is not only difficult, in some cases it's impossible. The wireless basically circumvents all that."
The Rolling Stones weren't the first band on tour to set up a wireless network. Griffith said the Dave Matthews Band was one of the first to do so, and almost every major act on tour now relies on wireless.
Griffith's network is an 802.11b wireless network with hardware almost exclusively from Santa Clara, Calif.-based 3Com Corp., consisting of wireless-enabled notebook computers and other hardware. He said he selected 3Com because the company took an interest in this type of deployment and has excellent technical support. Montreal-based Bell Canada International Inc. is providing the Internet access.
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