Shining a spotlight on temporary mobile networks


By Greg McCall, Chief Networks Officer at BT Group

For many people, summer is about spending time making memories with family and friends. The last few months have seen hundreds of thousands of people enjoy the crowning of King Charles III at Westminster Abbey, a final farewell from the Rocket Man at Glastonbury, the adrenaline rush of a record-breaking British Grand Prix at Silverstone, and much more.

To help manage the huge surge in seasonal demand for mobile connectivity, this summer also saw us temporarily expand our EE network by deploying more than 125 upgrades on 4G and 5G masts at venues across the UK to enhance the live event experience for our customers.

These temporary mobile networks complement our existing permanent sites by bringing our fast 4G and 5G download speeds, reliable coverage, and high-quality calling to locations that need extra capacity for a specific period. Having supported more than 350 major music festivals, sporting events and local shows in recent years, our temporary mobile networks empower people to stay connected to the things they love most at the busiest time of year.

The power of Pokémon

For thousands of people in London this August, that thing was Pokémon GO Fest 2023. The latest in-person meetup for the world-famous augmented reality (AR) mobile game saw people from across the UK head to Brockwell Park in South London, where our expanded mobile network powered them to discover rare Pokémon, spin PokéStops and connect with their friends and family.

The special projects team in our network division is responsible for the design and build of all our temporary mobile networks. This involves us working closely with organisers (in this case, Niantic, who manage Pokémon GO events around the world) to forecast, design, build, and then optimise a temporary network to best suit the scale and needs of every event.  For a unique gaming event like Pokémon GO Fest, reliable mobile infrastructure is critical to its success.

As Philip Marz, Director of Regional Marketing EMEA, at Niantic highlights: "Niantic's mission is to encourage people to exercise, explore and connect with others outside. We couldn't make this happen at scale at our live events without a robust mobile network and infrastructure. The strong connectivity which EE provided is key to allowing tens of thousands of players at Pokémon GO Fest London to come together to play the game in real life during every session. Trainers want to focus on the joy of catching a new Pokémon together, rather than worrying about whether they can get a good signal."

Our engineers installed two masts in the park to deliver the fast and reliable mobile connectivity attendees needed for a weekend of immersive gaming. Almost 40,000 voice calls were delivered across the temporary network over the course of the weekend, with excited Pokémon Trainers using nearly 5.5TB of data – a 62 percent increase compared to what a permanent mast in the area sees on an average weekend in the summer holidays.

To put that into context, 5.5TB of data is the equivalent of sharing more than 610,000 photos of your favourite Pokémon on social media or nearly 200,000 hours of online gaming as you take on the quest to become the world’s greatest Pokémon Trainer!

A summer to remember

2023 has been a record-breaking year for our network, as it was named the UK's best and most reliable mobile network for the tenth year in a row. Having already supported more than 35 events this summer alone – from Boardmasters and Badminton Horse Trials, to Goodwood, Glastonbury, and the Coronation – our engineers are busy preparing for what is to come as the festival season continues with Reading and Leeds, The Big Feastival, and Victorious. While the mobile masts they install may be temporary, the memories and connections our network helps create will last a lifetime.