& cplSiteName &

Carrier WiFi's Not Winning in Sports Arenas

Sarah Thomas
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        ADD A COMMENT
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: Lightning
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 :)
Sarah Thomas
100%
0%
Sarah Thomas,
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?
Sarah Thomas
50%
50%
Sarah Thomas,
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.
Sarah Thomas
100%
0%
Sarah Thomas,
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   >   >>
Educational Resources
sponsor supplied content
Educational Resources Archive
From The Founder
NFV's promises of automation and virtualization are intriguing, but what really excites service providers is the massive amount of money they could save.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
Charting the CSP's Future
Six different communications service providers join to debate their visions of the future CSP, following a landmark presentation from AT&T on its massive virtualization efforts and a look back on where the telecom industry has been and where it's going from two industry veterans.
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
VMWare VP Brings Women Up With Her

8|16|17   |   6:49   |   (1) comment


It's an art and a science to make mentorship, inclusive leadership, diversity and promotion of high-potential women work, says Honore' LaBourdette, vice president of Global Market Development at VMWare.
LRTV Documentaries
5G Spectrum Wars – The Recap

8|15|17   |   2:22   |   (0) comments


Service provider 3 has filed a lawsuit against Ofcom over 5G spectrum auction in the UK.
LRTV Custom TV
Say What? Facebook Unleashes AI Anarchy – The Recap

8|7|17   |     |   (0) comments


A recap of the week's talking points on Light Reading's sister site, telecoms.com. Facebook AI programmers had a bit of a brain-fade as they allowed one of its AI applications to invent its ...
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
Fujitsu's Women Band Together to Help Girls Do STEM

8|2|17   |   9:35   |   (1) comment


Supporting women both inside and outside of Fujitsu is a top priority of the telecom vendor. Yanbing Li, Fujitsu Network Communication's director of System Software Development & Delivery, shares why it's important, but why there's still a long road ahead.
LRTV Custom TV
If You're Not First, You're Last – The Recap

7|31|17   |   08:18   |   (1) comment


In case you missed it, Amazon's 1% stock increase helped Jeff Bezos dethrone Bill Gates as the richest man in the world. Also, Taiwanese electronics manufacturer
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
AT&T's Tech President Preps Workforce for the Future

7|26|17   |   5:47   |   (10) comments


AT&T is focused on the software-defined network of the future and is reskilling its workforce to get ready too, according to AT&T's President of Technology Development Melissa Arnoldi.
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
Cisco: Mentoring Critical to Attract & Retain Women

7|19|17   |   6:40   |   (1) comment


Liz Centoni, senior vice president and general manager of Cisco's Computing System Product Group, shares why mentoring in all its forms is important for women and what Cisco is doing that's made a difference for women in tech.
LRTV Custom TV
Gigabit LTE With Snapdragon 835

7|12|17   |     |   (1) comment


At an event in Wembley stadium, EE used its live network to demonstrate gigabit LTE using a Sony Xperia XZ Premium smartphone with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chip.
LRTV Custom TV
Implementing Machine Intelligence With Guavus

7|12|17   |     |   (0) comments


Guavus unites big data and machine intelligence, enabling many of the the largest service providers in the world to save money and drive measureable revenue. Learn how applying Machine Intelligence substantially reduces operational costs and in many cases can eliminate subscriber impact, meaning a better subscriber experience and higher NPS.
LRTV Custom TV
Unlocking Customer Experience Insights With Machine Intelligence

7|12|17   |     |   (0) comments


When used to analyze operational data and to drive operational decisions, machine intelligence reduces the number of tasks which require human intervention. Guavus invested in Machine Intelligence early. Learn about the difference between Machine Learning and Machine Intelligence.
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
Verizon VP Talks Network, Career Planning

7|12|17   |   4:49   |   (0) comments


Heidi Hemmer, vice president of Technology, Strategy & Planning at Verizon, shares how bold bets and the future of tech define her career.
Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
Masergy's NFV Journey

7|11|17   |     |   (0) comments


Ray Watson, vice president of global technology at Masergy, discusses the advantages and challenges in entering the still-maturing NFV market for the past three years.
Upcoming Live Events
September 28, 2017, Denver, CO
October 18, 2017, Colorado Convention Center - Denver, CO
November 1, 2017, The Royal Garden Hotel
November 1, 2017, The Montcalm Marble Arch
November 2, 2017, 8 Northumberland Avenue, London, UK
November 30, 2017, The Westin Times Square
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
With the mobile ecosystem becoming increasingly vulnerable to security threats, AdaptiveMobile has laid out some of the key considerations for the wireless community.
Hot Topics
Intel CEO Leaves Trump Biz Advisory Board
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 8/15/2017
Are Cord-Cutting's Days Numbered?
Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading, 8/14/2017
Analyst Nolle: Fundamental Errors Plague NFV
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 8/11/2017
Snapchat Misses Estimates, Eyes Reality Shows
Aditya Kishore, Practice Leader, Video Transformation, Telco Transformation, 8/11/2017
Orchestration Startup UBiqube Pivots Away From NFV
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 8/15/2017
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Animals with Phones
We Know a Tough Day When We See One Click Here
Live Digital Audio

Understanding the full experience of women in technology requires starting at the collegiate level (or sooner) and studying the technologies women are involved with, company cultures they're part of and personal experiences of individuals.

During this WiC radio show, we will talk with Nicole Engelbert, the director of Research & Analysis for Ovum Technology and a 23-year telecom industry veteran, about her experiences and perspectives on women in tech. Engelbert covers infrastructure, applications and industries for Ovum, but she is also involved in the research firm's higher education team and has helped colleges and universities globally leverage technology as a strategy for improving recruitment, retention and graduation performance.

She will share her unique insight into the collegiate level, where women pursuing engineering and STEM-related degrees is dwindling. Engelbert will also reveal new, original Ovum research on the topics of artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, security and augmented reality, as well as discuss what each of those technologies might mean for women in our field. As always, we'll also leave plenty of time to answer all your questions live on the air and chat board.