I realize this is an internationally read publication so you may have to forgive what is a somewhat parochial item. It is about an U.S. professional football team (not soccer), the New England Patriots (aka “The Pats”) whose Gillette Stadium is in the Boston, MA suburbs and their selection of Boston-based Enterasys Networks (a Siemens Enterprise Communications company) to provide Wi-Fi infrastructure so fans throughout the stadium can have free broadband access.
In the name of full disclosure I happen to be an ardent New York Jets fan which for those not from this side of the pond is like saying you are from Barcelona but are in praise of that team from Madrid. My intensity over this heated rivalry is not red hot only because Pats coach Bill Belichick are alums of the same college, and he has stocked his team with many talented players from the University of Florida who were there in the “Tibow” years when my son attended that fine institutions. But, I digress.
The Pats corporate owners the Kraft Sports Group have revealed that when the Patriots kick off their home opener on Sunday, Sept. 16, fans throughout the stadium will have accessible Wi-Fi provided by Enterasys, “which has overcome previous issues around wireless density and support for mobile devices at NFL-sized venues,” and is the official network provider for the team.
The folks at Kraft Group say the new free Wi-Fi network is being complemented with Gillette Stadium and Patriots apps for iPhone, iPad and Android. All of this is designed to enhance the customer experience by providing guests with an unparalleled in-stadium experience via the use of such things as exclusive access to the NFL Red Zone and real-time stats, and the ability to augment the experience by sharing it with those not at the game via social media. “In-stadium, high-density Wi-Fi providing any guest with a rich internet experience is the next frontier for the NFL and it is something we have been researching for years,” said Jonathan Kraft, president of The Kraft Group and the Patriots and co-chair of the NFL Digital Media Committee. “We believe that well-constructed mobile applications – accessible through the Enterasys Wi-Fi network – will ultimately deliver content available nowhere else, truly differentiating the in-stadium experience from any other. After reviewing all of the available technologies, it became clear to us that Enterasys was the only viable technical solution for providing this service today.”The Enterasys solution includes:
· Enterasys S-Series switches at the core
· Enterasys Wi-Fi (both indoor and outdoor)
· Enterasys Mobile IAM (Identity & Access Management) for BYOD authentication services
· Enterasys OneFabric Control Center to centrally manage its network.
What is really impressive here is that the entire installation took just over a month.Fred Kirsch, Patriots VP of interactive media noted that: “The Enterasys solution gives us an end-to-end network solution including all the hardware, software, and wiring needed to provide ubiquitous and reliable Wi-Fi access. Enterasys management capabilities provide us with complete visibility and control, as well as a world-class support organization with professional services to help implement and manage the solution going forward.” The release correctly points out that, “The network will become increasingly important as the NFL rolls out future applications to provide fans at live events with exclusive content through smart phone and tablet apps.” It has become a real challenge for sports teams of all genres to justify their escalating ticket prices in an era where 90 inch HD TVs are starting to appear and where the interactivity of smart TVs or people sitting at home watching while on their smart device. It is an increasingly attractive alternative particularly in regards to football where sitting outside on a cold day in November and December, particularly if your team is not doing well, is not exactly what you would call a value-added pleasure even including the joy of sitting beside the fire of that tailgate barbeque before the game and the camaraderie of fellow sufferers.
As a fan who has experienced bad cellular experiences in almost every sporting venue I have been in, and there have been quite a few around the world in recent years, the addition of reliable Wi-Fi is almost enough to make me beg my oldest friend and Pats fanatic to sell me his tickets for a game. However, as much as I appreciate The Pats upping their game to make their fans happier, I suspect there is something more nefarious at work here. Given the team’s history of getting caught illegally filming opponents is it possible that all of this additional broadband is merely a cover for using a host of new camera angles and higher quality to as they say, “to get a jump on the competition?”
All kidding and rivalries aside. Providing real quality wireless connectivity in large sports venues has been a challenge and has become even more so given the fact that most fans now abide by a “must carry” rule when it comes to personal devices. In fact, I would be grateful if the Patriots would like me to come up for a game, preferably against the Jets, so I can test the network for them.
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Edited by Amanda Ciccatelli