Meeting the mobile demands of today’s sports fans

Ensuring connectivity at sporting events present unique challenges, writes Ehab Kanary, head of enterprise, MEA for CommScope

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Meeting the mobile demands of today’s sports fans Up to 70 miles of cabling, more than 950 Wi-Fi APs and a series of DAS remote units connections installed at Stade de France for Euro 2016, Kanary notes.
By  Ehab Kanary Published  July 5, 2016

Euro 2016, currently underway in Paris, is likely to be the most ‘connected’ football tournament in the sport’s history.

The current generation of sports fans is heavily reliant on their mobile smartphones and tablets for the latest up-to-the minute news, updates and replays. Supporters expect to be able to use their phones to interact with their teams; filming and sharing goals, viewing high-definition video instant replays, or just calling and messaging friends to discuss results. 

With almost 8 billion mobile devices recorded around the world last year and with mobile data traffic in 2014 being nearly 30 times the size of the internet, it’s critical for stadium infrastructure to be prepared for a deluge of mobile data flooding the network. In the Stade de France, for example, which can seat over 80,000 people – the equivalent of a small town’s population - the sheer magnitude of this data tsunami is clear. 

Stadiums present unique challenges in providing clear wireless connectivity. The extremely high density of active mobile phone users in the seating area requires very sophisticated radio design and system optimization to control the interference between the antennas inside the stadiums and with the unwanted signals from outside network.  Such high demand can reduce the rate of available data to such an extent where using social media is no longer viable, and can often result in a complete network failure at peak times.

Experienced engineers and network designers are well aware of how challenging it can be to ensure that every part of a stadium is flooded with sufficient mobile reception to satisfy the demands of the most bandwidth-hungry sports fan.

The most commonly deployed solution used to address this, and to providing the broadest mobile coverage and capacity in a stadium is a distributed antenna system, or DAS. This involves the installation of a network of antennas connected to remote units throughout the venue which will act as repeaters, receiving digital signals from a dedicated base station and distributing them throughout the building via fibre cables.

Along with 70 miles of cabling, and more than 950 Wi-Fi access points, a series of DAS remote units connections has been installed in the Stade de France, ensuring this year’s European Championship final will be truly connected. Across the Atlantic, a similar investment in the Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina, has recently enhanced the mobile experience of fans of conference champions the Caroline Panthers.

On par with the Western countries, the GCC region is also gearing up for a hyper-connected future.  The proliferation of mobile devices in the region has also increased significantly and hence there is a demand to have seamless, efficient, cost –effective connectivity too. Similar to the Euro Cup 2016, the region is preparing for the FIFA World Cup 2022. Like any other millennial, footballs fans at the stadium will be posting updates every second and it is crucial that the network supports this. For the FIFA World Cup 2022, Qatar has planned to construct 9 new stadiums and will renovate 3, with 12 venues divided among 7 host cities. Qatar also plans to have its stadiums with the most seating capacity and to make arrangements suited with its climatic conditions.  

For fans to truly enjoy full mobile connectivity during a game or event requires the provision of flawless, high capacity wireless service throughout. State-of-the-art wireless communication systems are no longer ‘nice to have features’ of only the most tech-friendly sporting venues – they’re now an essential part of any modern stadium experience.

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