Arena WiFi: 5 Considerations When Designing a Wireless Network for Sports Venues
Bright lights, fried food- an accompaniment to the cacophony of feet pounding on metal bleachers, the base of a wild symphony; whoops, awwws and cheers the melody, a rhythmic clapping keeping time. Whether you’re in the middle of the action or cheering from the living room, there is nothing quite as electric, as unifying, as emotional, as live sports. Football, soccer, tennis, baseball, little league or pro team, when you’re team is up, you’re a part of the experience.
To make this experience happen, takes a lot of production, time and money, but all of that would be wasted without proper WiFi. The jumbo-trons, live video streaming, concession point-of-sell machines, ticketing booths, not to mention the fans live streaming, social media-sharing, they all rely on reliable, secure WiFi. Designing a wireless network that can support the capacity and coverage needs of an arena is a complicated and delicate process, but at SecurEdge, we’re seasoned pros. Here are some things that you should take into consideration if you are planning a WiFi design for a stadium or arena:
Optimizing your WiFi Performance is the best way to ensure end-user satisfaction. After all, the point of designing and deploying a large-scale wireless network for your arena or venue is just as much about supporting your important wireless devices that keep game day a go, as it is about delighting your fans and providing a seamless, high-quality experience. When designing for performance, there are a couple of factors specific to the sporting arena industry that we'll need to cover in your initial discovery call:
First and foremost, is it an indoor venue, outdoor venue, or a combination of both? Each scenario calls for a different set of hardware. Access Points come in a variety of flavors, each designed to provide coverage for a different, specific scenario. Indoor AP's will work great in basketball or ice hockey arena, while an Outdoor AP, designed to cover large open areas and sustain weather events, must be installed for outdoor venues like football and soccer stadiums. We will tailor your network design specifically to your needs, so if you have indoor ticketing and concessions with outdoor or partially covered seating, we'll plan accordingly.
Capacity / Density / Coverage
Next we'll need to assess your capacity needs. How many people, including staff, vendors, athletes and fans, occupy your space at capacity? With that information we can guesstimate the number of devices and applications that will be used at any given minute when your network is operating at max capacity.
We'll also do a walkthrough of your space with you and ask questions to map out your high-density areas. Concession lines, center field seats, the ticketing booth, these are all areas that will likely be densely populated throughout an event at your venue. We will mark these places on your floor plan and be sure to design a network that gives you the most support in these high-density areas,
A new interesting feature being utilized by sports venue around the world is VIP Concession in-seat service. Essentially, fans can download an app, order food from the vendors, and have it delivered right to their seat. No more missing the winning game shot while standing in line for beer and nachos! To implement this fan-favorite feature requires strong WiFi performance and a network of location sensors to triangulate fan positions. Working together, the sensors communicate with the device hosting the app and the other sensors to map out where the person is, similar to echolocation. SecurEdge can map out your sensor locations and configure your network to provide secure and reliable wireless access to power your VIP concession app.
Allowing thousands of screaming fans with all of their wireless devices onto our network is a risky business. To be sure you can accommodate that level of capacity while also providing a seamless guest experience, you need to incorporate a Guest WiFi Service. When configuring your wireless network for Guest Services, there are some options to consider.
Mobility is the continued connection of your wireless devices to the network as you move about a space. From the ticket booth, to the stands to the concessions line, your users will want and expect solid WiFi performance. As an option, you can have returning users connect automatically to the guest network when their devices are detected in the network coverage area. Season pass holders to pro games or students and faculty at a college game will benefit from this experience and have a higher level of overall satisfaction with their experience. It will also make it easier for your network to onboard new users connecting for the first time, creating a faster and more reliable connection for everyone.
Custom Splash Pages
As part of the SecurEdge Cloud platform and Guest Services features, you’ll have the capability to customize your Splash Pages (Captive Portal). This gives you endless opportunity for advertising, branding and sponsorship. Your splash page is the first thing a user sees when trying to connect to your network. Customize the look and feel of the page by uploading your logo, a background image, and any messaging you want to include. Choose where you want to redirect users once they’ve logged in. You can send them to website pages of your sponsors, show them short ads or sponsored video content, or simply display a branded message.
You can also choose how you want users to login. Offer social media sign-on for a quick and user-friendly option and benefit from the opportunity to direct guests to your social media sites where they can check-in and share game day updates with their network. Offer email sign-in and collect important user data to inform your future campaigns and create a mailing list to update guests on events, new features and deals.
Another important and useful aspect of Guest Services from the SecurEdge Cloud platform is the Dashboard, which can be customized to show a wide range of analytics. Presence Analytics can tell you where people are in your coverage area network and give you valuable statistical data. Are fans hitting the concession stands at half time or sticking around for some mid-game entertainment? Which vendor is getting the most traffic? How long is the average wait time for vendors and facilities? All of the questions can be informed by presence analytics and help you make important decisions about your facility.
One of the main concerns for our users is security. For this reason, every wireless network design from SecurEdge is built on a security-first foundation. There are a couple of ways that we ensure wireless network security, beginning with the hardware and design. We use industry-leading firewalls and will incorporate them into your overall network to ensure optimal performance from the device.
Additionally, we'll configure your network in our design lab and set you up with Role Based Access Control to provide levels of security. In doing so, we'll create a more complex tier-based network structure that will allow you to grant special permissions and protocols, to different network users. We'll also assign priority to different devices and users of your choosing, so that Craig live-sharing his tailgating shenanigans on Facebook doesn't take priority over the important headset equipment the coaches use to communicate.
Managed Network Services
Whether you have a dedicated IT team available to support your wireless network or not, providing support services for a complicated and high-density coverage area like a sports arena is a large task. Managed Network Services can help take off the stress.
On game day, we'll be monitoring your network, alerting you of any changes in your wireless network that could interrupt your service or pose a potential security threat. You'll be in the driver seat and we'll be at command central, providing the back-up you need.
WiFi as a Service
Now that you know all of the considerations to take when going into an arena wifi design, it’s time to get down to brass tax. All that hardware, software, design and support services, what is this going to cost? The reality is, designing and implementing a wireless network of this scale comes with a hefty price tag. The solution? WiFi as a Service. With the subscription model from SecurEdge, you’re going to get everything: the custom guest services, access to presence analytics on the cloud platform, security built in to every level of design, and ongoing support to protect your data and users, all for one monthly rate. No enormous upfront charges, just one quote that covers you for the length of your agreement. When it’s time to upgrade the equipment, we’ll come in and outfit you with all the latest gear, and you’ll just continue to pay the monthly rate. It’s that simple.
Ready to get started with your project? Contact us.
Brittany is the Marketing Coordinator for SecurEdge. If they had a company softball team she would make the T Shirts and play Shortstop.