Lessons about Stadium and Arena Networks

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A few weeks ago I was invited by the Big 12 Commissioner to speak to the Athletic Directors from the Big 12 Conference.

After 10 years of experience with mobile apps and stadium networks, I have a unique prospective on the battles. Plus I’m pragmatic and let people know what they are in for. Smartphones aren’t going away, but actually increasing. Fans are on your network, and your network can’t handle the traffic. Now, or very soon, you will need to upgrade your stadium network; DAS and WiFi. Once you do there are ways you can monetize the network; unique content, sponsor assets, e-Commerce. After you upgrade your network, here are my suggestions:

  1. Don’t promote the content until you know the network works.
  2. Just because it works in an empty or half-empty stadium doesn’t mean it will work with a full house or at a marquee event.
  3. A Wi-Fi network isn’t like a car, where you just turn it on and it runs. It will take a lot of fine tuning to get it just right.
  4. Keep expectations realistic.  Every fan is NOT going to have an experience that rivals a wired (or even dedicated wireless) connection in their home.  It’s a nice aspirational goal, but difficult to achieve.
  5. A wireless network is like a vineyard—it needs to be cultivated to bear fruit.  Year round.  Every year.  This is not a one-time investment.
  6. Don’t fixate on aesthetics.  If you paint an antenna the same color as the area around it, nobody will notice.  Debates over aesthetics have doomed many a wireless network.

Once you have a network that can handle the traffic, you can begin to enhance the fan experience and potentially generate additional revenue. You just need to keep your expectations level.