Stadium networks basics - What challenges should you expect

Consumer behaviors are changing as people expect near-constant connectivity wherever they are. Stadiums and similar venues need network infrastructure that meet these demands to create an optimal fan experience.

By Max Burkhalter
September 28, 2016

Football season just started, and with it came reports of major network upgrades in some existing stadiums and the sheer scale of connectivity equipment being deployed in new stadiums. The amount of network traffic at major sporting events can be shocking. If you're considering a new stadium project, be it a major facility for a professional sports team or a smaller effort at a high school or institution of higher education, you must consider how changing digital behaviors are altering the gameday experience.

A recent CRN report explored what goes on behind the scenes at stadiums hosting professional football games, revealing a few key lessons that can pay off for just about any stadium project. Three of the most important issues to consider include:

1. Plenty of people will connect, and it will vary based on event type
Industry expert Norman Rice told the news source that during an NFL game, approximately half of the audience will be actively connected to the network at any given moment. An event like a concert aimed at a younger audience, that figure will rise to approximately 70 percent.

Audiences expect to be able to connect to look up information, share photos with friends and otherwise engage on social media channels. Industry expert Brian York told CRN that there will typically need to be at least one access point per 100 users.

"Network advances are becoming more important than ever in today's venues."

2. Technology is segregated
You've probably seen coaches stalking the sidelines with headsets, talking directly with other coaches in the booth. Players often have tablets to get access to key information on the sidelines. These tools are governed by a separate network from the stadium network, Rice told CRN.

At a large college or a school with a major football program, you probably need a similar degree of connectivity. However, even basic communications from the sideline can require their own network partition - you don't want a coach dealing with a slow connection because a bunch of fans are watching a replay.

3. Social media dominates
Instagram recently leapt over Twitter as the primary destination of web users at professional football events, a possible sign that people are taking plenty of pictures to share with friends and family, Rice told the news source.

Sharing memories doesn't just happen at the professional level. Fans at high school and college games are likely to have similar interests, and any stadium needs a network that can handle that traffic.

Building a network that can handle a stadium
If you've been in a loud stadium with people yelling, clapping, stamping their feet, etc., you know the vibrations can get intense. Boisterous crowds have become such a problem that InformeDesign published a study pointing out that serious structural design planning must be performed to protect against future problems. Those vibrations can also impact your network.

Industrial Ethernet switches are specifically designed to withstand hazards, including vibration, that can prevent data from getting to its destination. Network advances are becoming more important than ever in today's venues, and multi-use stadiums that host concerts, sports games and other public events must carefully plan their networks to ensure equipment can handle the rigors vibrations introduce. Connectivity needs are rising while crowds are getting louder and more boisterous, is your stadium ready?

Perle has over 516 models of Managed Industrial Ethernet Switches with the vast array of options including 10/100/1000 Ethernet, PoE, fiber and combo ports. Perle IDS Industrial-grade Ethernet Switches are ideal for the harsh environments found in industrial factory systems and outdoor applications.

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