Light Reading
Carriers are losing interest in equipping sports stadiums with WiFi, but they need it now more than ever.

The No-Streaming Bowl

Sarah Reedy
1/31/2014
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One of the negative aspects for fair-weather fans attending this year's Super Bowl in New Jersey (besides the cold and high cost of tickets) is that you won't be able to watch the commercials during breaks on your phone.

That's because the NFL, concerned about the real potential to overload cellular networks, is blocking live streams of the game inside the stadium on both cellular and WiFi.

Like most stadia, the MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands, where the game will be played, has bolstered its WiFi infrastructure and all four tier-one US operators upgraded their DAS systems. But it's still likely not enough for the mecca of football games.

The NFL's decision is understandable for the biggest football game of the year, but the desire for connectivity in stadiums is still quite strong the rest of the year -- and it's of great interest to venue owners. The problem is that carriers are becoming less and less interested in the opportunity unless they are, in fact, also the venue owner.

In a new Prime Reading feature today, we explore why WiFi in stadiums isn't getting the attention it once did, taking a back seat to distributed antenna system (DAS) deployments. (See Carrier WiFi's Not Winning in Sports Arenas.)

Carriers' disinterest will most likely be a transient trend as fans' mobile usage grows and business models get worked out. We're already seeing some early examples, like Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK)'s deal with the San Francisco 49ers to install dual, fiber-based 10Gbit/s Ethernet lines to support advanced services at its new Levi's stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. (See Comcast Scores With 49ers.)

Where and when there is money to made, the carriers will always follow. But right now, WiFi isn't looking like the winning bet.

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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CraigPlunkett
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CraigPlunkett,
User Rank: Moderator
1/31/2014 | 10:57:54 PM
Re: Super Bowl bets
Sarah,

Comcast is also sponsoring the Wi-Fi service in the new Levi's stadium, so that kinda blows your premise out of the water.  Just talking a little Telco/MSO DAS/Wi-Fi smack here...

 
albreznick
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albreznick,
User Rank: Blogger
1/31/2014 | 8:30:17 PM
Re: Ruh?
Right. We should all have such problems. As for placing bets on the game, I'm going with Manning and the Broncos.  
SarahReedy
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SarahReedy,
User Rank: Blogger
1/31/2014 | 3:03:57 PM
Re: Ruh?
#richpeopleproblems
mendyk
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mendyk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
1/31/2014 | 3:02:43 PM
Re: Ruh?
There's an easy way to stream a radio broadcast. It involves using an actual radio, and people have been doing that since the Civil War. As far as being dragged to a sporting event unwillingly, you may have bigger issues to deal with than being able to watch the Puppy or Kitty Bowl while the game is going on.
SarahReedy
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SarahReedy,
User Rank: Blogger
1/31/2014 | 2:58:52 PM
Re: Ruh?
Some big fans (I've heard) also like to stream the radio broadcast of it simultaneously or watch a particular channel's coverage whlie at the game. Or maybe watch a different show if they got dragged there unwillingly.
mendyk
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mendyk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
1/31/2014 | 2:56:14 PM
Ruh?
Wait -- so people are supposed to be upset/feel deprived because they can't watch commercials while they are in the stands during a game?
SarahReedy
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SarahReedy,
User Rank: Blogger
1/31/2014 | 1:57:09 PM
Re: Stadiums
Agreed, they know their stuff. I'd expect to see them expand more into stadiums. In fact, more on that coming from Doug himself on Sunday...
RitchBlasi
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RitchBlasi,
User Rank: Light Sabre
1/31/2014 | 1:51:14 PM
Stadiums
Boingo is a former client and they are pretty sharp - if it makes sense, they'll do just that.
SarahReedy
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SarahReedy,
User Rank: Blogger
1/31/2014 | 1:44:33 PM
Re: Uber Bowl
Yeah, business model is a big reason why the carriers are pulling back so much. But, the venues still really want it. I thought it was interesting that Boingo's Lodder said they may have to start becoming the WiFi operator cutting the carriers out of the equation. That may be good news for aggregators like Boingo.
RitchBlasi
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RitchBlasi,
User Rank: Light Sabre
1/31/2014 | 1:34:30 PM
Uber Bowl
At some point in time you have to consider the cost/benefit analysis for adding infrastructure into stadiums - especially those that remain vacant for 90% of the year.  I wonder if this "pull back" strategy is for all venues or those that are used infrequently for sporting or music events.  There are ways to manage the network streaming other than turning off service -- like if the NFL is worried that too many people will watch the TV ads on their phones, why not show them on the jumbotron, or whatever you call it.  As long as someone can make a call, send a text, or do some non-bandwidth intensive data, all should be well at the Super Bowl.  At least I will be watching one Manning.
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