Light Reading
Venues interest in connectivity is at an all-time high, but carriers are finding little incentive to build out WiFi for sports fans.

Carrier WiFi's Not Winning in Sports Arenas

Sarah Reedy
1/31/2014
50%
50%

The need for connectivity in sports venues is growing as mobile device usage has become as common as the over-consumption of beer, but carriers' interest in being the connectivity providers is starting to wane.

Sports venues used to be a prime market for carrier WiFi deployments, until the business case started to get murky. Whereas carriers used to write off stadium deployments as the cost of doing business, now they are losing interest. And, if they are involved, most are opting for tried-and-true distributed antenna systems (DAS), rather than WiFi or small cell deployments.

Take AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), for example. It has been the biggest proponent of WiFi in the US, equipping the Wrigley Field baseball stadium in Chicago and other stadia with WiFi hotspots, but the desire to add to those deployments has cooled.

Paul Kapustka, editor of Mobile Sports Report, says AT&T's attitude now is that it won't invest in stadia unless it can put its name on them. Even then, it is leaning more heavily on DAS then WiFi. (See AT&T Adds Windy City WiFi.)

This is a sentiment that Doug Lodder, vice president of Wi-Fi and DAS development at Boingo Wireless Inc. , shares. That's because, he says, what the venue wants is not aligned with what carriers want. Venues want WiFi, cellular, and any connectivity they can get as they fight the couch-potato syndrome that's causing fans to stay at home and skip shelling out big bucks to attend a game.

These potatoes got off the couch -- was it the WiFi wot did it?
These potatoes got off the couch -- was it the WiFi wot did it?

Carriers, on the other hand, say it's too expensive, and, in addition, see Wi-Fi as a rival to their 4G LTE services that also comes burdened with an uncertain ROI.

Being wary of WiFi seems like old news, as carrier WiFi strategies have taken off -- but venues are a different story. For one thing, the bang for your buck is low. They are only used once a week or so for four to eight hours, compared with malls or airports where a steady stream of people are always passing through. Plus, venues expect carriers to foot the bill for a technology that's carrier neutral.

"If AT&T had their way, it'd be a single AT&T experience in venues, Starbucks, etc, but most venues want a different experience," Lodder says. "One wants ads supported, or to charge for access, or a logo on landing page, faster service, or more access points. The cost can be reduced significantly through synergies, but it doesn't eliminate the venues' involvement and what they want."

For its part, AT&T says both WiFi and DAS are still part of the equation. Chad Townes, vice president of AT&T's Antenna Solutions Group, says the carrier has installed DAS in many professional and college sports venues, coupled with WiFi in some situations, and will continue to do so. He also points out that AT&T recently installed DAS and WiFi in Sun Life Stadium (American football) in Miami, and made WiFi upgrades at Bank of America stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina.

DAS still trumps WiFi
When carriers do jump in, including AT&T in a lot of cases, they are likely opting to build out DAS rather than deploy WiFi or small cells, despite the push they are making on the latter two in other areas.

Kapustka, who has ben studying venue connectivity for the past few years, says that DAS -- a network of connected antennas that bring wireless connectivity to a given geography -- can be more expensive than equipping a space with WiFi access points, but it's easier to install, straightforward to monetize, and it's not carrier neutral, so its easier to control.

"One of the things I've seen is the feeling that with a good enough DAS you alleviate most of the problems and enable most of the things that people want to do," he says. "In the future, what everyone sees is that people are going to want to do more things like catch replays, watch live videos, and view different camera angles. That is happening in so very few places right now that having good enough is good enough for right now."

The anticipated uptick in usage has caused some cable providers to take another look though. Just last week Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) announced a deal with the San Francisco 49ers to install dual, fiber-based 10Gbit/s Ethernet lines to support advanced services in its new Levi stadium. The difference here lies in the services. (See Comcast Scores With 49ers.)

"They are putting WiFi into new Niners stadium because they get to run Xfinity sports [Comcast's online TV service] on all the displays," Kapustka explains. "It gives you a clear path to monetizing WiFi."

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

(21)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Page 1 / 3   >   >>
ZA-guy
50%
50%
ZA-guy,
User Rank: Light Beer
3/17/2014 | 6:46:12 AM
Re: Waning Carrier Wi-Fi
LTE & WiFi makes more sense for the OTT that are trying to push content to end users. The likely scenario is guys like google and FB, which are today more valuable than operators, might start thinking about acquiring some of the operators.
mendyk
50%
50%
mendyk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/13/2014 | 10:15:24 AM
Re: Location Based "Gaming"
Sports fans in general don't need social media to enhance their experience. That's what fist fights are for.
cwgservices
50%
50%
cwgservices,
User Rank: Light Beer
2/13/2014 | 8:23:32 AM
Re: Location Based "Gaming"
I think there's a lot of potential for the use of social media on site at sporting events, and nearly all of it would enhance the experience. I'm not clear on the monetization aspect; if the attendees would have to pay for wifi on top of the outrageous ticket, food, and drink prices, then I'd be pretty disgusted with the whole idea. If, on the other hand, ads were sold to subsidize the cost of wifi, that would not be objectionable as long as there weren't enough to significantly impact the use of the service.

How many ads would be too many? Here's an example from another arena: the free on-demand-video from FX networks that I can get on Comcast has too many ads, I prefer to wait till I can see it in its entirety. One ad at the beginning would be fine, but interrupting the story is not. My wife would put up with more ads, because she watches regular television fairly often and is used to it.
komatineni
50%
50%
komatineni,
User Rank: Light Beer
2/11/2014 | 5:54:51 AM
Re: Waning Carrier Wi-Fi
End of the day Voice is still important for the end user. One may say the teens stopped using it but that's still kind of mandatory for many not-so-teen folks. At the same time I believe DAS alone can't help the data needs. Probably small cells or Wi-Fi with VoWi-Fi (with IMS in I see why can't we do that now) will bridge the gap. End of the carriers love to see more revenue or less costs or both of it :)
SarahReedy
100%
0%
SarahReedy,
User Rank: Blogger
2/10/2014 | 10:15:59 PM
Re: Location Based "Gaming"
Those are some interesting monetization suggestions, jabailo. I think making the game more social online is one thing stadiums are interested in (although trash talking is easier online, so meeting up during half time could be dangerous!). Texting campaigns have already proven popular at sporting events, so, in some respects, it's a natural evolution. It'd have to add to the game, not detract, though.
jabailo
100%
0%
jabailo,
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/10/2014 | 10:05:52 PM
Location Based "Gaming"
I've always had trouble with outbound services in my local stadiums (Seattle area).  I can see why the businesses might not want their customers able to do things like broadcast scores directly from there.

That aside, I can still see an avenue for the local use of devices.  For example how about being able to hook up to locally hosted server that broadcasts the scoreboard?  For those of us who get the cheapseats, it would be great to see the replays on our tablets, or to see close up the detailed data.

Then how about real world social media?   We could all be commenting and chatthing about the game with people inside the stadium.  Then at breaks, use GPS and find each other and hook up.  Maybe some "love connections" could be formed, or just a bunch of people having lunch at halftime.

Each major league game is a combination Flash Mob and media mashup.  Why not make more out of it?
SarahReedy
50%
50%
SarahReedy,
User Rank: Blogger
2/10/2014 | 4:45:53 PM
Re: Waning Carrier Wi-Fi
That's true, it is still a niche play (with MVNOs too) and maybe not as big of a deal in a hetnet environment if it has seamless handoff.
TaraSeals
50%
50%
TaraSeals,
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/10/2014 | 4:42:08 PM
Re: Waning Carrier Wi-Fi
Well, they're using it as a private network to support businesses in campus environments. WiMAX is still kicking around in that market. They just want to tie it all together with the mobile WAN and offer a UC client for smartphones and tablets that can switch off seamlessly between the networks. I thought it was interesting.
SarahReedy
100%
0%
SarahReedy,
User Rank: Blogger
2/10/2014 | 4:37:26 PM
Re: Waning Carrier Wi-Fi
I'm glad they see carrier WiFi as offering a lot of potential, because I'm not sure that WiMax does!
TaraSeals
50%
50%
TaraSeals,
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/10/2014 | 4:12:49 PM
Re: Waning Carrier Wi-Fi
It's kind of cool too--this morning I was talking to a smaller provider, PNG Global, and they're building their own WiMAX-based network and are talking to Sprint and others about LTE and 3G handoffs. They're also deploying carrier Wi-Fi. Going forward, they're wanting to offer an FMC, multi-access offering for businesses and see that as having a lot of potential.
Page 1 / 3   >   >>
Flash Poll
LRTV Custom TV
Distributed NFV-Based Business Services by RAD

7|18|14   |   5:38   |   (0) comments


With the ETSI-approved Distributed NFV PoC running in the background, RAD's CEO, Dror Bin, talks about why D-NFV makes compelling sense for service providers, and about the dollars and cents RAD is putting behind D-NFV.
LRTV Custom TV
MRV Accelerating Packet Optical Convergence

7|15|14   |   6:06   |   (0) comments


Giving you network insight to make your network smarter.
LRTV Custom TV
NFV-Enabled Ethernet for Generating New Revenues

7|15|14   |   5:49   |   (0) comments


Cyan's Planet Orchestrate allows service providers and their end-customers to activate software-based capabilities such as firewalls and encryption on top of existing Ethernet services in just minutes.
LRTV Custom TV
Symkloud NVF-Ready Video Transcoding, Big Data

7|9|14   |   3:41   |   (0) comments


Kontron and ISV partner Vantrix demonstrate high-performance video transcoding and data analytic solutions on same 2U standard platform that is ready for SDN and NFV deployments made by mobile, cable and cloud operators.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
The Evolving Role of Hybrid Video for Competitive Success

7|4|14   |   4:09   |   (0) comments


At Huawei's Global Analysts Summit in Shenzhen, China, Steven C. Hawley from TV Strategies speaks to us about the evolving role of hybrid video for competitive success.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
How CSPs Leverage Big Data in the Digital Economy

7|4|14   |   4:48   |   (2) comments


Justin van der Lande from Analysys Mason shares with us his views on how telecom operators can leverage customer asset monetization with big data. His discusses the current status of big data applications and the challenges and opportunities for telecom operators in the digital economy era.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Accelerator for Digital Business Future Oriented BSS

7|4|14   |   3:08   |   (0) comments


Mobile and internet are becoming intertwined; IT and CT are integrating; and leading CSPs have begun to transform to information service and entertainment providers. How should the BSS system evolve to enable this transformation? Karl Whitelock, an analyst at Frost & Sullivan, shares his views.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Orange Tunisia Discusses Multi-Band Antenna With EasyRET Solution

7|4|14   |   2:45   |   (0) comments


As new site acquisition becomes more difficult, Orange Tunisia has requested multi-band antenna to support UMTS and LTE innovation. Some things considered include reducing the cost of antenna maintenance and having high reliability antenna and EasyRET solution.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
How Telefonica Spain Considers Antenna Selection for LTE Network Deployment

7|4|14   |   2:19   |   (0) comments


Tony Conlan, Global CTO of RAN, Telefonica, shares his opinion on antennas in LTE network deployment: Tower space is the premier requirement on antennas; reliability is important to reduce OPEX; and EasyRET solution will be helpful for antenna maintenance.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
dtac Thailand: Multi-band Antenna & Capacity Solution for a Better MBB Experience

7|3|14   |   3:45   |   (0) comments


With the development of LTE, tower space and load are limited for new antenna, but users' capacity requirements are growing fast. To provide a better MBB experience, Panya Vechbanyongratana from dtac Thailand shared his experiences and antenna requirements.
LRTV Documentaries
BTE Panel: Network of the Future

7|2|14   |   1:00:57   |   (0) comments


Full-length video of the ATIS Panel Discussion: 'How Far Away Is the Network of the Future & What Does It Look Like?' from the Big Telecom Event (BTE) in Chicago.
LRTV Custom TV
Redknee Supports BH Telecom With Redknee Unified

7|2|14   |   6.14   |   (0) comments


Lucas Skoczkowski, CEO of Redknee, and Amir Orucevic, Director BH Mobile, discuss how the benefits of the Redknee Unified suite of products provide BH Telecom with innovation and leadership in the market, with the flexibility to launch services faster to the market, provide new and compelling promotions and pricing models, and combine services in order to drive ...
Upcoming Live Events!!
September 16, 2014, Santa Clara, CA
September 16, 2014, Santa Clara, CA
October 29, 2014, New York City
November 11, 2014, Atlanta, GA
December 9-10, 2014, Reykjavik, Iceland
Infographics
Allot's latest MobileTrends Charging Report shows that value-based pricing plans are up from 35% in 2011 to 85% in 2014.
Today's Cartoon
Vacation Special Caption Competition Click Here
Hot Topics
Microsoft to Axe 12,500 Ex-Nokia Employees
Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, 7/17/2014
GM: 10 Car Models on Road With AT&T's LTE
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 7/18/2014
Have IBM & Apple Partnered Their Way to Cloud Leadership?
Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 7/18/2014
The Municipal Menace?
Jason Meyers, Senior Editor, Utility Communications/IoT, 7/22/2014
FiOS: Slower Sub Growth, Faster Upload Speeds
Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, 7/22/2014
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed