With the digital disruption and adoption that has been in its full swing, the expectations and attitudes of the sport fans when it comes to connectivity and Wi-Fi in stadiums have also increased spectacularly. It is the venues’ responsibility to create an environment for the fans to interact and engage in a way that aligns with their habits and expectations today. This not only heightens the investment prospect in strategic technologies to augment the fan experience, but also amplifies the competition among sporting venue.
Fans are consuming the Wi-Fi bandwidth as fast as the stadiums can deliver them, and their hunger seems voracious. And why wouldn’t it? Any sporting fan who has ever attended a game in a packed stadium will know that that the network connectivity there can be awfully slow. And we’re not talking about just the little-sluggish kinda’ slow, but so slow that your Instagrams won’t publish, the tweets won’t make it - let alone any other form of mobile internet browsing. In part, this happens because large mass of people are simultaneously trying to access the internet from the same location, which causes the mobile networks to get congested and the speeds to plummet.
Venues’ specific physical characteristics and the high-density crowd’s unique demands might make delivery of robust Wi-Fi solutions a tough job. However, stadiums are realizing that this is neither the ideal environment for fans ready to actively engage in social media nor is it best for venues who’re there to sell ‘experiences’. And the venues are now beginning to invest more heavily and readily in the tech infrastructure so they can augment the fans’ in-venue experience and engagement.
One example is Levi’s Stadium in San Francisco that was ‘built with 70 miles of Wi-Fi cabling and 1 Wi-Fi access point for every 100 seats, totalling 1,200 access points in the stadium’, approximately 1,200 Bluetooth beacons, and a backbone of 40 Gbps of available internet bandwidth. Efforts like these tremendously help the fans have better experience in accessing mobile connectivity at the stadiums, regardless of what carrier they’re with. Not only that - from rolling up en masse to the stadium with mobile antenna trucks to investing more in embedded infrastructure - carriers are also chiming in with their share of support in enhancing fan experiences in arenas.
The growing use of the most advanced form of gadgets has also contributed to the increased need for more data capacity. For example, instead of 8 Megapixel photos being taken in old days, fans are now all geared up with the latest iPhone X and Samsung Galaxy S9 that feature much higher megapixel cameras, thereby creating larger file sizes. That, and the constant social media upload, live-tweeting, Snapchat, Periscope video, and so many other platforms that folks use today also heightens the need for more in-venue capacity. Add to that the tolerance level of the millennials fans.
Michelle McKenna-Doyle, NFL CIO said, "When we first started talking about this, it was about the tolerance level for our younger fans… Now it's every person who attends a game”. The need is being felt more and more across the nation and the point is about the possibility of enhancing the fan experience in the stadiums. The amount of cable, access points, and beacons being installed is staggering. The tech vendors are being brought in to strategize and architect the stadium around the role that technology would play. The fan-first mentality is starting to fuse in and creating the stadium experience with the connectivity and application the fans expect continues to be a top priority for the sports team.