The Role of WiFi in Social Media Engagement
With the proliferation of smartphones and tablets, users in stadiums demand high data rates to engage with other fans across multiple social networks be it Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat. The expectation is of pervasive connectivity. Fans come to the stadium not only to view their favorite football/tennis/rugby/cricket match live but also to share their experiences with their friends and family instantly. During the 2014 Football world cup final in Rio, over 32 million tweets and 280 million interactions on Facebook were recorded from within the Maracana stadium through the period of the game. Now, imagine the number of social media interactions from stadiums in 2017. Providing free WiFi in stadiums has become a game changer for sports clubs, leagues, and entertainment operators to engage with their fans and to build their brands. Loss of connectivity now has a tangible commercial cost that goes far beyond mildly disgruntled fans. Venues have to validate their network’s robustness to ensure a superior multimedia experience for their fans.
How Deploying WiFi Can Benefit Venue Owners and Customers
Large crowds and significant multimedia usage demand a high-density wireless deployment. Connected stadiums are crucial to provide compelling fan experience and a profitable & sustainable digital future for clubs. The WiFi service benefits different user groups with multiple applications:
- To enhance Fan experience and fill as many seats as possible
- Streamed instant replays
- Real-time scores
- Live travel and parking data
- Connect with family and friends on social networks without losing connectivity
2. To generate revenue through apps
- In-seat food and beverage ordering
- Selling merchandise
- Selling tickets for future games
3. To promote the brand
- Real-time promotions
- Digital signage
- Engage with people outside the stadium
4. To carry out operations effectively
- Reliable high-speed press box Internet access
- Ticketing and point-of-sale transaction processing
Challenges in providing Stadium WiFi with acceptable QoS
There may be tens of thousands of people in the stadium watching their favorite team playing a match and sharing their experiences on social media creating massive bandwidth requirements for video and data applications. There are also other critical applications where WiFi is mandatory today like ticketing, digital signage and stadium security. With these scenarios and conflicting demands, providing high QoS to all users is tricky. Below are the technical challenges to provide In-stadium WiFi with secure access and acceptable user experience:
- Security – Having a single network used by thousands of fans, employees, leagues and contractors requires a high level of security for monetary transactions and other confidential data transfers. Is the network secure enough for all the activities?
- High bandwidth applications – High speed access is mandatory for a good user experience when streaming replays, sharing high quality images on social media etc. Are these possible on the network at stadium scale?
- Scalability – Thousands of users may access the network concurrently within the stadium. Is the infrastructure scalable to withstand the traffic?
- Interference – Accessing a network that contains 10s to 100s of access points in and around the stadium used by 1000s of users with varied traffic applications is an RF nightmare. How is it possible to model the kind of traffic that is normal in a stadium environment and account for such interference?
- Roaming – People move from one place to another within stadiums and expect uninterrupted connectivity. Is the infrastructure is validated for such scenarios?
- Multiple Captive Portal logins – Fans on entering the stadium login to the captive portal to access free WiFi in the stadium. Is the infrastructure capable of handling 100’s of secured captive portal logins simultaneously?
Solution to address the challenges
Alethea offers test and measurement solutions in connectivity space. Our flagship product WiCheck model the sort of environment that a fan will encounter in a stadium. Each WiCheck box can emulate up to 256 real users and allows you to validate end user experience on your network using real applications & real life scenarios
What can be validated with WiCheck?
- Security – supports all standard security options from WEP, WPA2 Enterprise, 802.1x to SIM based authentication and captive portal authentication
- Applications – run multiple real applications – Facebook, Streaming, Twitter, Youtube, Google, Skype & more
- Scalability – supports upto 256 real users per box. Increasing the number of emulated users is as easy as adding more boxes
- Interference – WiCheck loads up channels with whatever traffic you require. That makes it the ideal tool to set up interference and test devices & APs under difficult network conditions
- Roaming – Tests the network’s roaming capabilities
- Captive Portal – Objectively measure scalability & usability of captive portal solution