The Increasing Power of Wi-Fi at Sporting Events
While it may be getting colder outside, the NFL and college football seasons are heating up. Football fans are gearing up for playoff season, anxiously awaiting which team will end up going all the way to the championship. To the fans, game day is an opportunity to spend the afternoon or evening with approximately 80,000 or more of their “closest” friends. So, in recent years, why are more and more fans willing to pass up the in-person game experience in return for spending game days in sports bars or even their own living rooms? – connectivity.
Since the birth of the smartphone, fans no longer use their phones strictly for calls or even texts. Now, smartphones, as well as portable tablets, provide an opportunity for fans to interact on social media – posting photos and status updates – to stay connected with what’s going on across multiple games, check in on their fantasy sports teams, engage with other fans during the game and more. This is causing sports teams to take a look at the fixed wireless Internet offered in their stadiums. In fact, a Cisco report revealed that the Internet is as important as air, water, food and shelter to one in three college students and young professionals!
Senior vice president and CIO of the NFL, Michelle McKenna-Doyle even stated that as a generational shift happens, “the expectation level goes more from a ‘this would be nice to have’ to a ‘what, you don’t have it’ kind of feature.” For this reason, many sports teams and organizations are stepping up their bandwidth and equipping their stadiums with high-speed wireless Internet service to provide for a more interactive fan experience. Surprisingly, only about 20 out of 31 full-time NFL stadiums currently have high speed Wi-Fi available to fans in attendance, but the NFL has stepped in and asked that all stadiums provide free Wi-Fi access to fans by 2016.
Right here in Georgia some of the state’s top programs are leading the charge. At the start of the 2014 college football season Sanford Stadium at the University of Georgia received a $10 million upgrade to its telecom service and the Atlanta Falcons are planning for a new “Tech Savvy” stadium. One feature that social media enthusiasts are sure to love – a 360-degree high definition LED Twitter feed that is said to go around the stadium. In Texas, Cowboy’s fans also experienced an upgrade to their Wi-Fi, which now features 1,500 Wi-Fi access points.
So what exactly are teams providing fans once these stadiums receive wireless upgrades? Levi’s Stadium, for example, made quite a few wireless upgrades to provide San Francisco 49ers’ fans (as well as the competitor of the week) to a luxurious football experience. With the stadium’s new mobile app, fans no longer have to worry about leaving their seats for anything. With just a few clicks on a smartphone fans can even have food delivered to their exact seat! Or what happens if they miss a play? Fans can either catch the replay on one of the two 200-foot-wide HD scoreboards or watch it in the palm of their hand on Gamecenter. Levi Stadium even catered to the needs of their fantasy sports fans by opening up The Yahoo Fantasy Football Lounge. The lounge, equipped with flat screen TVs, touch screen technology and charging stations, allows up to 1,600 fantasy football general managers stay up to date on their fantasy leagues, while also watching their favorite team play live. As you can see – the possibilities are endless once you have wireless and enough bandwidth to support interaction with tens of thousands of fans.
While both professional leagues and college sports teams are taking the lead on providing their fans with connectivity, fans’ desires for wireless Internet access do not stop there. From local school sporting events to competitive tournaments, fans want to be able to engage and share their experiences with others through their mobile devices.
In need of a flexible provider to provide Internet service for your sporting venue or event? One Ring Networks is a preferred fast installation carrier that powers today’s business connections in the Atlanta and Dallas-Fort Worth markets. In fact, see how we already support the Atlanta Falcons in this case study. For more information, be sure to follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn or contact us today!
By Kris Maher, Vice President