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Unfinished Business: Stadium Wireless in Brazil

Rupert Baines

In the run-up to the World Cup, mobile union SindiTeleBrasil announced that the promised WiFi offload infrastructure, designed to help alleviate the strain on mobile networks caused by 12.6 terabytes of data being generated in a single match, would not be ready in time.

The impact of this is already apparent, and a great case study for the importance of proper wireless infrastructure in a venue in 2014.

Only six stadiums were ready in time for the public WiFi offload infrastructure to be installed before the competition. Published figures indicate that attendees at these venues have been able to send and receive double the amount of data traffic than fans at the other stadia.

In a country with notoriously poor mobile coverage and capacity -- famously, three network providers were banned from selling new subscriptions until their network performance was improved -- this is of course a great sign that things are moving in the right direction.

However, serious questions remain over the effectiveness of the chosen solution. I've said on many occasions in the past that WiFi offload is a great tool for reducing network load, but it is not the quick fix some have heralded it to be.

Therefore it was not a huge surprise that fans present at the "improved" stadiums reported that all was not rosy, with widespread complaints of patchy coverage, dropped voice calls, and sluggish data connections.

Similarly -- whilst the original plan was for 3,724 cellphone antennas to be installed across the 12 venues to provide 2G, 3G, and LTE connections -- Agence France-Press attendees reported that any cellphone communications that could not be offloaded on to WiFi were almost impossible. Clearly, the same attention had not been paid to the 3G networks as it was for the WiFi.

I recently attended the Stadium Business Conference in London and what was clear was that wireless is finally being seen as something more than just letting people get onto Facebook. There were plenty of discussions there on the different applications and business benefits, something missed by the stadiums in Brazil.

The Superbowl was a great case study in what can be achieved with a properly planned wireless solution, contrasting sharply with the example of Brazil. The MetLife stadium plan brought together not just WiFi and cellular, but also the specialist needs of the teams, broadcasters, security and emergency services.

The result? A network that coped with the strain placed upon it by 3TB of cellular data, including 1.8 million photo-based social media posts.

Despite the best efforts of the organizers, the World Cup sadly stands to demonstrate that even if an owner believes that they have a working wireless solution in place, there are many nuances that they need to get right if they are to meet visitor demand. With visitors quick to point out when things don't work properly, it's something that stadium owners cannot afford to ignore.

-- Rupert Baines, Chief Marketing Officer, Real Wireless

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User Rank: Light Sabre
7/9/2014 | 2:38:17 AM
Re: Another blow to this WC
Agreed. They are failing on all sides.I hope this WC taches a lesson for Brazilian's officials. I expect anti WC riots again, especially in the demanding city of SAO Paulo.
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/8/2014 | 4:50:59 PM
Re: Another blow to this WC
I'm guessing with the home team's complete thrashing today, not many people care about the WiFi stuff anymore.
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/8/2014 | 9:43:51 AM
Another blow to this WC
Yet another negative point to add to Brazil's worldcup organisers. It seems the official's have admitted that the coverage was poor in some stadiums. Focusing too much on WIFI connections while disregarding voice created a poor overall experience.
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