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NFL Attempts to Tackle Wi-Fi at Stadiums

Wi-Fi has become a priority for the NFL, which has set a goal of having deployments at all of its stadiums.Bank of America Stadium, home to the NFL’s Carolina Panthers in Charlotte, N.C., is the latest and fifth NFL stadium to receive Wi-Fi, is equipped with more than 460 AT&T Wi-Fi access points.In addition to the Panthers’ stadium, the league is keeping an eye on Wi-Fi systems in MetLife Stadium used by the N.Y. Giants and N.Y. Jets, the New England Patriot’s Gillette Stadium, the Indianapolis Colts’ Lucas Oil Stadium, and the Superdome used by the New Orleans Saints and the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium

“The initiative is to get Wi-Fi in all of our stadiums,” Roger Goodell, NFL commissioner, told the press last Spring. “We want fans to have access to highlights, to Red Zone, engage in fantasy football and other social media. We want to make it a great experience. That is what it is all about. In all 31 stadiums, the same service is available to fans.”

AT&T, which already had a DAS deployed at the stadium, is very confident of the demand for Wi-Fi, according to Spokesman Josh Gelinas, who noted that in a recent quarter, consumers made more than 1.9 million connections to more than 180 AT&T Wi-Fi venues such as stadiums, hospitality locations, retail venues and restaurants in the Charlotte area.

“We are trying to provide our customers the best possible experience,” Gelinas told DAS Bulletin. “They have been very clear that they will be using data at sporting venues like this.”

Gelinas said the Wi-Fi system serves an important purpose supporting AT&T’s systems that charge for air time use, by maximizing the users’ mobile broadband experience. AT&T will directly manage the Wi-Fi network and provide customer support.

Up in Foxboro, Mass., Cellular Specialties, Inc. managed the deployment of an Enterasys Wi-Fi system, including its 3600 series access points as well as its S-Series modular switches, at Gillette. CSI had previously deployed a DAS system for AT&T at the stadium.

Last year, CSI project managed the design and implementation of Cisco’s Connected Stadium Wi-Fi network from Verizon Wireless that was used by more than 100,000 fans at last season’s Super Bowl, who generated 2.5 times more data in and around Lucas Oil Stadium than in the previous year’s game. It has been reported that the system had 600 Wi-Fi access points, capable of supporting a total of 28,000 simultaneous connections. Smart City Networks manages the day-to-day operations of the upgraded Wi-Fi network, overseeing the overall performance of the system and managing customer service.

“The NFL is a leading indicator of change. It is at the forefront of delivering the best in entertainment experiences for fans, most specifically at the Super Bowl, one of the biggest sporting events in the world,” David Holland, wrote in the Cisco blog. “Most importantly it shows that this is headed mainstream, and a tipping point has been reached. Just as people walk into an airport today and expect to be connected to a Wi-Fi network, so fans in stadiums around the world are beginning to look for and demand the same thing.”

It was a Cisco Connected Stadium Wi-Fi system that was deployed for AT&T Dallas Cowboys’ stadium.
Also on CSI’s professional stadium resume is the Arizona Cardinal Stadium, which hired it to install a facility-wide DAS outfitted with 110 antennas.