July 10, 2014 — With 30,000 or 40,000, maybe 100,000 people all trying to use their devices in one place at the same time during a game, stadiums are scrambling to deploy technologies for offloading this traffic. Wi-Fi systems are getting more sophisticated at filling the coverage and capacity gaps.
Eight Major League Baseball stadiums added Wi-Fi in the last year bringing the total to 20 of the 30 venues, according to the Mobile Sports Report.
On the opening day of the 2014 season, AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants, became the first professional sports venue to provide continuous universal wireless access to fans in all concourses and seating areas. Working in conjunction with AT&T, the Giants installed more than 1,200 Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n) access points. Fans get free access to the Internet along with Major League Baseball’s official app.
The National Football League is in the same boat. It has Wi-Fi in two-thirds of its 31 stadiums. The league hired Extreme Networks to provide Wi-Fi analytics for Super Bowl XLVIII and future league games to help them analyze and solve the connectivity problems, as well as allowing the stadiums to use big data to improve the fans’ experience.
One of the key challenges to deploying Wi-Fi in stadiums is finding somewhere to mount the antennas close enough to the fans.
“In stadiums where you don’t have a back wall or ceiling to deploy the Wi-Fi antenna, you need another solution to get the Wi-Fi signal to the digital devices,” said Jeff Lime, vice president of Ventev Wireless Infrastructure.
Ventev sought to meet this need by developing a smaller antenna and an access point in a package that can be mounted below the stadium seats.
Ventev’s TerraWave Under-the-Seat Wi-Fi Solution comprises six 2-inch-tall Bantam omnidirectional antennas that are connected to an access point and housed inside a compact, watertight and tamper-proof enclosure, which can be installed onto a concrete or metal surface.
“The challenge we had to solve was mounting the access point under the seat with an antenna that gives the proper RF coverage in a small space and allows the stadium owners to power wash the stadium, clear the trash under the seats and keep it far enough away from the users that it passes all RF regulations,” Lime said.
The Wi-Fi solution has been deployed in several large public venues including a Major League Baseball stadium and a high-profile U.S. airport. It is compatible with Cisco 2600/2700/3500/3600/3700 APs.