Right now some of the biggest football clubs and sports stadiums in the country are not just looking at pitch drainage, safe seating or match schedules. They’re trying to bring their wireless offering up to date. It’s an obvious opportunity for an expert-led, technology and vendor-agnostic wireless advisory firm like Real Wireless and it’s one that we are already pursuing through a number of major projects.
But what actually happens when stadium connectivity is under review? The process is quite simple to outline, if not to actually carry out. As with any other connectivity project, you start by speaking to the client, getting the requirement, then suggesting technologies that will help the client to meet that requirement.
For sports stadiums, however, this is where it starts to get complicated. Before taking about technology, the required quality and quantity of connectivity must to be assessed. This includes PMR for operational uses – like facility management, catering, stewarding and security – TETRA (soon to be replaced by ESN) for emergency services, satellite for outside broadcast purposes, and, inevitably cellular connectivity and Wi-Fi.
PMR and TETRA will be non-negotiable; you can’t cut corners on operations and emergency services. Satellite connectivity is an essential for some broadcasters, although high capacity fibre (80 Gbps is not unusual and an estimated 240Gbps for the Euro 2020 finals at Wembley is certainly possible) rapidly becomes an important option. Cellular needs to include all operators. Do you go the neutral host route? Who pays? Will DAS help?
Wi-Fi is usually required at least for the media and VIPs. But Wi-Fi is often used to support ticketing, electronic point of sale and helps catering services to process orders and payments in the concession areas. After that the client has to decide whether to extend Wi-Fi to the fans – which could be a major investment.
Which is what we explain to the client. We help the client to understand the costs and technical benefits of the different solutions. We translate their needs into technical requirements, come up with options, high level designs and help creating their Request for Quotations (RfQs). But our work doesn’t end there. We also help the client assess the responses and to answer the question: What is the best solution at this specific time for our current and future requirements? For example, if the hardware of one DAS manufacturer has the same output power as a more expensive one, you go for cheaper one, don’t you? But the DAS product of the cheaper manufacturer might have some hidden deficiencies (e.g. a higher noise figure) that requires more remote units to achieve the same performance. That is why we are there, to assess these details and ensure you get the best solution from a performance and cost perspective.
The next step for us could be overseeing the installation and helping with performance optimisation. Typically, a system won be approved till it was optimised and performed well on at least three different match days.
In theory the client should be able to go without our support from here. But in reality, that’s often not the case. Many clubs and stadiums have surprisingly limited internal IT expertise to draw on.
It may surprise you that, although so many modern clubs and stadiums want to use wireless to enhance efficiency, many don’t yet have the expertise to manage it. But that will change over time. It will certainly speed up decision-making when we can work alongside staff who can understand concepts like interference management and neutral host.
Either way, as a leading source of wireless-specific expertise we still expect to be part of a technology strategy that we are sure is going to be adopted by most professional sports clubs in the coming years.
For now, however, our role is often to be a club or stadium’s trusted partner well as its wireless advisory service. We help the client to ensure that what they asked for in the beginning is actually delivered and that system manufacturers and integrators don’t encourage them to buy beyond their needs or budget.
Which means that clearly demonstrating our reputation for being totally client-focused – that is, technology and vendor-agnostic – is more important than ever. It’s not just on the pitch that results matter.