Over 500,000 people will descend on Bristol for the 40th anniversary International Balloon Fiesta, doubling the size of the city for the weekend. The event is the largest in Europe, and places demands on the communications infrastructure.

Each year the Fiesta sets up its own 4G mobile phone basestation, with two sectors covering the event alongside the existing coverage. The data from visitors is transported by a high speed microwave link back to the centre of Bristol to connect to the main network.

Bristol, the UK’s leading smart city, will also be one of the first cities to roll out the next generation 5G mobile phone technology with Vodafone, and several projects have already demonstrated the high performance of 5G across the city with 1Gbit/s links. 5G will also be available for tourist sites across Bristol and Bath as part of a £5m project that uses technologies from several Bristol companies.

Business visitors to the Fiesta will also be looking at the latest technology. Solicitors Thrings will be hosting the annual business breakfast for the fifth year running. The sellout breakfast with Business West on Artificial Intelligence will be hosted by TV and radio broadcaster Steve Le Fevre, first thing on Friday morning.  This is particularly relevant as Bristol is home to the world’s leading AI chip startup, GraphCore, which has raised over $110m, and Bristol Robotics Lab also works on the technology. Dr Joanna Bryson at the Unversity of Bath is a globally recognised expert on AI systems.

“The Bristol International Balloon Fiesta is a world class event which has become synonymous with Bristol’s identity and has played a huge part in putting the city on the map. It attracts 500,000 visitors and injects as much as £15million into the local economy every year,” said Robert Barnes, commercial property partner at Thrings and BIBF committee member.

Nick Flaherty