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Analysis: Sports arenas that realize connectivity’s true value

Reliable in-building wireless connectivity has quickly become one of the biggest “must haves” for tenants — building location is perhaps the only bigger factor when deciding on a property these days. Despite tenants deeming connectivity such a high priority, commercial real estate owners can still struggle with providing the best wireless network possible — especially in larger buildings.

Sports and entertainment arenas are no exception — all wireless networks are not created equal despite attendees’ desire to use their cell phones will enjoying a game or event. Forbes contributor Will Townsend recently visited three venues that “understand the value of connectivity” after having a less-than-stellar wireless experience at some other arenas.

Keep reading to see what Townsend found to be the keys to these arenas’ success when it came to providing high-quality wireless connectivity.

Aruba at Chase Center, San Francisco

Home of the National Basketball Association’s Golden State Warriors, Aruba at Chase Center deployed Aruba (the networking arm of Hewlett Packard Enterprise) Wi-Fi 6E access points throughout the arena. This was the first such deployment at a live entertainment venue in North America, Townsend reports.

Additionally, more than 250 under-seat APs were deployed in the arena’s bowl seating section. Townsend put the arena’s network to the test on a game night when the Warriors hosted about 18,000 attendees. He reported that the social media apps on his smart phone worked without issue and attendees could order food and drinks to be delivered to their seats with traditional food delivery apps.

“From my perspective, the venue has smartly over-engineered capacity that will provide plenty of headroom for future fan activations spanning high-definition video and mixed-reality experiences,” Townsend wrote.

Aruba has also deployed its ultra tri-band filtering, which adjusts available channels to discard signal interference and improve performance in what is often a crowded environment.

Cisco at Allegiant Stadium, Las Vegas

The home of the National Football League’s Las Vegas Raiders had a different challenge than Aruba at Chase Center when it came to wireless network deployment. Allegiant seats 65,000 people vs. 18,000, so under-seat AP placement would be much more expensive. The arena instead went to Cisco for help, and the communications tech company provided an overhead solution — it leveraged its Catalyst 9104 AP “to deliver Wi-Fi 6 for faster throughput, lower latency and support for a greater number of fan devices.”

While the Catalyst 9104 AP has a larger footprint than the usual AP, it integrates high-gain antennas, making deployment easier, according to Townsend. Cisco also has integrated a software-configurable antenna that can facilitate beam switching and steering, which are both crucial in big arenas like Allegiant and outdoor environments.

T-Mobile at Q2 Stadium, Austin

Q2 Stadium, home of Major League Soccer’s Austin FC, partnered with T-Mobile to deploy one of the first 5G Standalone venue networks in the U.S., Townsend reports. Standalone combines 5G core and radio access network (RAN) elements, allowing 5G to reach its full potential in terms of latency and throughput.

Eventually, T-Mobile is expected to deploy its Ultra Capacity 5G with its 2.5 GHz spectrum assets at Q2 Stadium. Townsend noted his network speed test confirmed the notion that mid-band offers the best balance between coverage and performance as he left the arena.

“In my humble opinion, that’s a game changer (pun intended) as it allows fans to share their game-day experiences on social media as well as allowing tablets enabled with concession apps to order food and beverages,” Townsend wrote. “I am looking forward to attending future games knowing that I will enjoy the benefits associated with a world-class 5G deployment.”

Townsend also gave honorable mentions to two venues he did not visit in person — Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia and Minute Maid Park in Houston. Both arenas leverage Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) spectrum, which is making it much easier to acquire the spectrum needed to deploy LTE and 5G private networks.

“I am excited to see more sports and entertainment venues invest in next-generation wireless connectivity to enhance the attendee experience and improve concessions and overall operational efficiency,” Townsend said. “Chase Center, Allegiant Stadium and Q2 Stadium all stand out for forward-looking connectivity planning and deployment, which should pay dividends in the form of more efficient operations, improved profitability and a world-class fan experience.”

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