Photo: Flickr/Matt Stratton
Venues are struggling to keep up with demand as sports fans increasingly use tablets and smartphones at games, according to SportsBusiness Journal.“If you give fans bandwidth, people are going to use it, and they’re going to use it for intensive applications,” [San Francisco Giants senior vice president and chief information officer Bill] Schlough said. “There’s just this absolutely explosive demand happening, and no matter how much capacity you have, the demand continues to rise up to meet that.”
Officials at AT&T Park in San Francisco, which became the first major sports venue with a Wi-Fi network in 2004, have seen traffic double almost every year. They expect a 10% increase this year– meaning that a quarter of the crowd (capacity: 41,503) will be on the network at any given time during the 2012 season.
AT&T’s largest traffic load ever came at this year’s Superbowl in Indianapolis.
That’s great for business, but someone has to pay for facilitating thousands of people simultaneously connecting to the same network while surrounded by steel and concrete. It costs more than a million dollars to build a current-generation mobile network at a sports venue and a similar amount each for upkeep and expansion.
Leagues, teams, building owners, wireless carriers and hardware manufacturers have not decided how to split the bill, but they all agree that venues need to build and support networks that can accommodate the steady stream of scores, states, uploaded video and social media that has become an indispensable part of the fan experience.
The bottom line: fans expect to be able to connect. That’s why Major League Baseball is teaming up with major cellular carriers and manufacturers to survey each of its 30 ballparks and develop connectivity solutions.
“It’s still not one size fits all, and there are going to be varying degrees of implementation,” said Bob Bowman, MLB Advanced Media chief executive and president. “But there’s a real need. Connectivity is like air, particularly for people under 25. It’s that vital. And what we’re after is a thoughtful level-setting to benefit the entire sport that has the backing of the carriers.”
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