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    Agile Stadiums Bring Digital Content To Sports Fans

Whether watching in a stadium or on television, today’s fans want to be more than just spectators — they want immersive experiences with maximum interaction.

Today’s always-on world means that fans not only demand 24/7 access to live sports and commentary, but also to be continually connected to their work via email and text.

Sports promoters have good reasons to support fans’ desire for connectivity. “Providing Wi-Fi can increase attendance,” says Rob Enderle, IT analyst of the California-based Enderle Group. “[People who] can also get their work done at the stadium are more likely to attend a game in person.”

The benefit of higher attendance is additional revenue for stadium owners. Recently Huawei installed a Wi-Fi network at Germany’s largest football stadium, Signal Iduna Park in Dortmund, which seats 80,700 people. Installing a wireless network to serve large numbers of people is far different than installing one in the usual office setting. The stadium coverage requires setting up more wireless routers across a large area and tuning them to provide high-density coverage across all areas where people will need access. Careful deployment is important for serving many people simultaneously, and many of those people have more than one mobile device.

Added revenue

Europe is the leader in providing digital content to spectators through Wi-Fi-equipped stadiums. Wi-Fi networks provide users with a rich array of services and content, allowing spectators to watch replays on their mobile devices, view game statistics, and discuss the game with their friends. Other services that enhance the overall experience include directions to the nearest parking space to avoid having drivers circling crowded lots to find a place to park.

Since the Wi-Fi network can track each user’s location, vendors can use the information to quickly deliver purchased items such as team merchandise, or food and beverages directly to spectators at their seats. To boost vendor sales, stadiums can offer e-coupons delivered directly to fans’ phones, that offer incentives for immediate purchases. Stadium owners can partner with other service and content providers to share revenue through the sale of ancillary items such as premium video content and tickets for upcoming matches.

Not all users need to receive the same type or quality of service. For example, higher-speed services and high-definition video can be delivered to media reporters as well as to those willing to pay a premium for broadband access.

And it’s not just good for the fans; a Wi-Fi network can aid stadium management by enabling remote control of facility changes to features such as the pitch, roof, and lighting.

Agile Stadium Solution

Given the huge number of mobile devices seeking access within a stadium, it is impractical to expect users to communicate entirely via 3G or 4G mobile telephone networks. Wi-Fi is the easiest way to offload data from the cellular networks and leave them free to handle voice traffic. As Enderle points out, however, “You need to use technology designed for large areas and watch for rogue access points that compromise security and performance.”

When called upon to set up a wireless LAN for Europe’s largest stadium, Huawei introduced its Agile Stadium Solution that features the company’s high-density Access Points (APs). The specific details include auto-radio, high-density boost, double 5-GHz-band coverage, space-airtime scheduling, and smaller antennas that allow greater AP densities without interference. The result is that all users are able to receive a high-quality connection.

The new wireless network plan matched the physical configuration and seating density of the stadium that allowed for fine-tuned service control for reducing interference levels, improving AP connection density, and dynamically assigning resources to the real-time demand for stadium services. The network assigns and recognizes VIP user identities that ensure a consistent service experience, regardless of access location.

This Agile Stadium solution includes centralized policy control for managing the user experience, Big Data analytics, dynamic resource scheduling, and security features to defend the Wi-Fi network from outside intrusion.

In addition to the Dortmund Stadium, Huawei has installed its Agile Stadium Solution at the Amsterdam ArenA, home of the famous Ajax soccer team. It has also partnered with digital sports content provider FanPlay to provide streaming video in the U.K., starting with Glasgow Rangers’ Ibrox stadium in Scotland.