Connecting Fans, Anytime Anywhere

Connecting Fans, Anytime Anywhere

March 4, 2020

Connectivity is driving fan experience at stadiums, theaters, and other large public venues.  Fans want a rich mobile experience.  They are passionate and want to stay connected at the most exciting moments. The ability to provide this connection is paramount to the success of a facility.  This presents a real challenge for wireless engineers and solutions architects.  Is the networked poised to handle fan data consumption?  If we look at the challenge a little deeper, as with most large public venues, the lower bowl is the most difficult area to ensure high-performance, scalable Wi-Fi. High-density Wi-Fi networks are created by deploying access points connected to narrow beamwidth (think field of vision) antennas to segment users into smaller cells that minimize channel-to-channel (co-channel) interference. With fewer users per AP, the amount of bandwidth per user can be increased and capacity is maximized. However, the front lower sections of users close to the field are difficult to segment from access points (APs) and antennas mounted on the back walls or overhangs. To increase capacity in the lower bowl, network engineers must bring the access points and antennas closer to the fans. Additionally, lower bowl areas have limited mounting options for both APs and antennas.  But how does this impact the aesthetics of a stadium or a theater?  Venue owners do not want the aesthetics of their stadium impacted by big bulky networks.

So…what is the answer?

Many venues are answering this question.  Specifically, both Ford and Soldier Fields.  Individually, they approached Ventev to help answer this question and take advantage of Ventev’s portfolio of stadium Wi-Fi solutions that address the challenges of ensuring capacity to high densities of fans.  Each Field respectively was looking how to mount various models of access points and antennas.  The design requirement focused on building smaller cell sizes enabling devices and APs to operate at higher data rates.  In order to achieve this, they utilized high gain directional antennas reducing co-channel interference.  Ventev’s unique Handrail Wi-Fi Enclosure helped maintain aesthetics while offering a new mounting option with the limited mounting options in the lower bowl area.

The Handrail Enclosure houses and mounts two access points (flat against the center) and two antennas (back to back) to allow Wi-Fi connectivity to users in the sections on both sides of the aisle. Constructed of rugged, UV-resistant polycarbonate, it has a slim form factor that is aesthetically pleasing and ADA compliant.   The two antennas focus the signal into the section from the aisle, effectively covering the whole section and ensuring a rich mobile experience for fans.

It doesn’t stop there, Ventev’s portfolio includes a wide variety of antennas and enclosures to meet the very unique demands of large public venue network deployments.

The University of Nebraska wanted to provide strong network connectivity in its 85,000-seat stadium. They were launching a new Huskers app to allow a completely new game experience in the stadium but needed a way to get rid of cellular congestion to allow better connectivity. Due to the structural overhangs, placing antennas was another challenge they were facing. They enlisted Ventev’s help in coming up with a solution. Our engineers designed two antennas to fit within handrails and guardrails.

The guardrail antenna has a dual band 3dBi antenna contained within an impact-resistant polycarbonate enclosure. The antenna allows an adjustable +/- 20-degree tilt for the most accurate coverage. It is easily installable to guardrails and protects indoor access points protecting it from weather, tampering, and theft. The handrail antenna is a 6dBi dual band directional antenna secured into a 7” by 5” NEMA 4X enclosure with a narrow 60/90 degree beamwidth. The antenna attaches to a handrail with a pipe mount and stainless steel fasteners. The leads run down the handrail to the access points installed in a waterproof 12x10x4 NEMA rated enclosure to protect from harsh weather. These two solutions allowed University of Nebraska fans to have the full fan experience by always being connected.