Markus Kalt Issue: EMEA 2015
Article no.: 7
Topic: Improving the stadium experience with high speed mobile connectivity
Author: Markus Kalt
Title: VP, Business Operations – EMEA
Organisation: CommScope Inc.
PDF size: 164KB

About author

Markus Kalt is Vice President of Business Operations for CommScope’s Distributed Coverage and Capacity Solutions team, responsible for the Europe, Middle East and Africa regions. Markus has more than 25 years of experience in the telecommunications industry, having worked in research and development, education, system engineering, product line management and business operations. He started as a system engineer for Andrew Corporation in 1992, taking on roles of greater responsibility for the distributed communication systems team.
Other work experience includes stops at Brugg Telecom, Swisscontact (Indonesia), Contraves and Swissphone.
Markus has a bachelor of science degree from Technical College Brugg and post education in business administration.

Article abstract

Mobile traffic in 2014 was nearly 30 times the size of the entire global Internet in 2000, according to a report by Cisco, and is expected to increase almost tenfold by 2019 at which point nearly three quarters of it will be made up of video content (72%).
Look beyond the futuristic aesthetics and glass facades of the majority of modern stadiums, however, and you’ll see they present unique challenges in providing wireless connectivity and capacity. Many lack a wireless infrastructure or will need an upgrade to handle rising demand, and will contain a number of hidden features to which thought must be given when planning the installation of a wireless system.
 

Full Article

An incredible 7.4 billion mobile devices were in use around the world in 2014, so it’s hardly surprising that today’s sports fans are reliant on their smartphones and tablets for the most up-to-the-minute sporting news, results, and action replays.
It’s natural for fans to want to use their phone to interact with the team they support; to film and share the winning goal, perhaps, or to enjoy a multi-angle replay seconds after the event; even simply to call and message friends to stay on top of a rival team’s results.
To enable this, however, requires a flawless, high capacity wireless service throughout the stadium and throughout every moment of the match.
Berlin’s Olympia Stadium was recently upgraded by German mobile operators ahead of the European Champions League final so that fans could enjoy all possible means of communication at the game.
The newly installed system is considered to be the most modern in Germany, providing 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE with MIMO, a means of sending and receiving multiple data signals on the same radio channel, and supporting four frequency bands. The system was designed to enhance capacity to allow all 75,000 fans in attendance to upload high definition photos and videos, and access apps from their smartphones, at the same time.
The potential commercial opportunities represented by this level of connectivity have, of course, not gone unnoticed by club owners, stadium managers and network operators seeking new revenue streams. It’s no longer enough for stadium owners to simply provide their visitors with a basic mobile connection, knowing that only high speed wireless connectivity can deliver the multitude of services expected by today’s smartphone users.
To meet this level of demand for service and experience requires stadium owners to invest in a robust network, capable of managing the communication and digital technology in the venue.
A lack of adequate infrastructure
With sports fans recording and sharing a significant amount of high definition video at matches, the demand for bandwidth is already high and is only set to increase as new innovations, applications and services continue to be developed.
Mobile traffic in 2014 was nearly 30 times the size of the entire global Internet in 2000, according to a report by Cisco, and is expected to increase almost tenfold by 2019 at which point nearly three quarters of it will be made up of video content (72%).
Look beyond the futuristic aesthetics and glass facades of the majority of modern stadiums, however, and you’ll see they present unique challenges in providing wireless connectivity and capacity. Many lack a wireless infrastructure or will need an upgrade to handle rising demand, and will contain a number of hidden features to which thought must be given when planning the installation of a wireless system.
Mobile signals can often be blocked by aspects of a venue’s layout, unable to negotiate the building’s angles, or penetrate the thick concrete walls and the low emissivity window tinting used in modern green buildings to block heat and light. Additionally, interference from the outdoor macro network and from between internal adjacent sectors can have an adverse effect on mobile signals.
Challenges such as these are compounded further on match day, when tens of thousands of mobile users arrive at the venue, causing a surge in demand so huge that the available data rate per user could be reduced to such a point where social media is no longer fun to use, and potentially resulting in a complete failure at peak times.
A match day essentially requires the provision of a network capable of supporting the equivalent of a small city located within a single structure.
While it’s clear that next generation technology should be kept in mind when designing and building a stadium’s communications systems, it’s also clear that accommodating the phenomenal demand for data consumption represents a series of significant challenges for stadium designers.
Distributed antenna systems
Engineers and network designers know from experience how challenging it can be to manage interference while ensuring that mobile reception floods every part of a stadium with sufficient capacity to support the demands of bandwidth-hungry subscribers. In the past, for example, stadiums tended to require only a few sectors for wireless coverage. Today, it can take anywhere from 30, 40 or 50 sectors to ensure the provision of adequate capacity.
A distributed antenna system, or DAS, is the solution most commonly deployed to meet the challenges of providing coverage and capacity within stadiums. A network of small antennas is installed within a building, to act as repeaters by receiving digital signals from a dedicated base station and distributing them throughout the building via fibre or coaxial cable.
However, the number of antennas required, and the labour involved in installing them and the cables that connect them, means that the deployment of DAS can be an expensive initiative. To keep these costs down, a single DAS can be shared by a number of carriers, immediately making them more attractive from an economical as well as technical point of view.
DAS has traditionally been deployed by individual carriers looking to extend their service into buildings, open-air venues and campus environments. Typically, these systems would be owned by a single mobile network carrier who would have responsibility for negotiating with a building’s owner, working with local regulating authorities to secure any necessary permits and authorisation, funding the deployment of the DAS, and then managing the system once deployed. The carrier would then often lease portions of the DAS’s resources to other carriers in order to offset its operating costs, and monetise its investment over time.
Driven by commercial trends such as ‘Bring-Your-Own-Device’ (BYOD) and the public’s growing demand for ubiquitous connectivity, the number of DAS installations has steadily increased. DAS networks today support a wide variety of locations, including universities, sports arenas, hotels, airports and underground railways, and a 300 per cent growth in deployments is expected by 2017.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, rising bandwidth requirements and expectations of service quality are driving up the cost of deploying and maintaining today’s advanced DAS systems. To offset the capital and operating expenditure while ensuring reliable and profitable coverage and capacity, the wireless industry is currently pursuing a number of different service delivery models, one of which, the neutral host DAS, is currently receiving a lot of attention.
Benefiting from a neutral host model
A neutral host DAS sees the ownership of the system shifted from the carrier to either the owner of the building, the DAS integrator, or a third-party system provider who will then assume all financial, regulatory, legal and technical responsibility for deploying, installing and maintaining the system. In addition, they will also lease space or access to the system to one or more operators.
All parties involved stand to benefit from the neutral host model. Participation by multiple carriers, for example, will ensure more end-users are able to use their own carrier’s network rather than having to roam and, with the DAS owned and managed by a third-party, no carrier will have an unfair advantage.
Furthermore, the ability for venue owners, DAS integrators and DAS system providers to serve as neutral hosts will only increase the number of parties willing and able to satisfy the growing demand for connectivity.
It’s also worth considering that, with improving the experience of their visitors as a primary objective, no stadium owner would be interested in a solution that only worked for one particular mobile network.
Across the globe, sports venues and transportation applications are leading the demand, closely followed by shopping malls, healthcare, hotels and holiday resorts, and spending on DAS systems is rocketing. ABI Research projects US$9 billion growth in the overall in-building wireless marketplace by 2020, and expects demand in Europe and Asia-Pacific to start accelerating in 2016.
While multi-carrier DAS systems have been in the market for a number of years, the neutral host DAS model is still relatively new and still developing, and the model is likely to grow in popularity with carriers, facility owners and integrators looking to cut their deployment costs.
However, an increase in the deployment of neutral host DAS systems will increase demands on system performance. By selecting a DAS solution that provides advanced functionality, such as independent carrier sectorisation, automated power levelling, and system commissioning and optimisation routines, all parties will realise a better return on their DAS investment.
Every sports fan has a smartphone, which they expect to be able to use for a number of different purposes wherever they are at any time. Sharing videos and photos, watching HD footage, listening to commentary and checking results are all now considered to be part of the match day experience.
Supporting the growing number of applications and services running on wireless networks will enable stadium owners to capitalise on a wealth of new commercial opportunities as well as improving the match day experience for the fans.
A state-of-the-art wireless communication system is no longer a nice to have feature found in only the most tech-friendly venues – it is an essential component of any modern stadium experience.