LTE or Wi-Fi? Are either up to standard for stadium connectivity?

One of the major challenges in the telecoms industry today is keeping up with end-user demand. The mobile phone is allowing people to interact with friends and family in ways which could never have imagined possible when the first handset was launched back in 1973; and it’s consumer behaviour that’s dictating tomorrow’s future.

Clear evidence of this shift in usage can be seen at live events today. Seas of mobile phones held aloft are commonly seen at venues throughout the world as spectators try to capture their moment of magic via the video function on their handsets, whether it be a last minute goal or face-melting guitar solo. Spectators then turn to their favoured social media application to share the moment with family and friends, but it’s here when the frustrations kick in.

Internet connectivity problems are more often than not the barrier that stops the clip being posted. At this point, the end user is faced with a conundrum – do they log on to the venue’s free but overloaded Wi-Fi or do they persevere with the often not-fit-for-purpose 3G/4G connection? Either way, they shouldn’t be choosing between the best of a bad bunch.

>See also: Connectivity: the fuel for the future of the auto industry

In today’s digital world, the technology exists that enables service providers to give end-users a highly reliable network they can join that has the capacity to withstand the demand for sports fans and gig-goers alike to share their momentous occasion.

The trend in capturing the action via mobile devices at live events isn’t new but the desire and need to post and share via social media in real-time is. In a survey by ticket seller Ticketfly, 31% of respondents said they spent at least half of the time at live events using their phones, sharing experiences with friends and family.

Service providers must keep up with this expectation from consumers or risk losing customers and revenue. So how do they do this? While standalone Wi-Fi has been a tried and trusted resource, its isolated access points only allow a small number of attendees to gain internet connectivity. And even when the lucky few do connect, due to the high concentration of users in a small area, upload speeds are often very slow.

There are many challenges that service providers are faced with when looking to deploy indoor and stadium connectivity. Access rights, cost of deployment, maintenance, capacity and coverage are but just a few of the issues they’ll encounter. In a bid to tackle these challenges, service providers should adopt a neutral host solution.

By doing so they’ll reduce operation costs; reduce speed of deployment and time to market; offload responsibility of network maintenance; provide service for multiple operators and strong, consistent wireless coverage. Adopting an Evolved Packet Core (EPC) solution will further support this approach by providing a fully-integrated, cost effective LTE mobility platform.

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Service provider headaches regarding subscription levels will be eased by the scaling capabilities of such a solution, as it supports the varying numbers of end-users accessing the network at any given time. Throughout any event, there will be peaks and troughs in connectivity as the action ebbs and flows, and the network must be able to cope with this.

With good underlying infrastructure in place, venues can offer a host of features to the end-user, including the much-talked about LTE-Broadcast (LTE-B). Essentially, LTE-B is a multimedia broadcast multicast service, that supports a single stream of multimedia data that can be accessed by multiple devices, deployed in conjunction with an EPC.

Venues which offer this service will provide attendees with live HD video streams on their devices with different camera angles, as well as watching instant replays and accessing stats and figures. In turn, these offerings will help teams and stadiums monetise options through their own applications. Turkcell have already trialled this technology at a basketball match in Turkey with success.

>See also: EU to coordinate the connectivity of 5G

LTE-B technology has also been used for large scale push notifications like security information while also connecting digital signage and even becoming a platform for the Internet of Things (IoT) to enable sponsors and advertisers to interact with fans and send targeted offers and rewards to smartphones. With these early trailing successes, surely others will soon be following suit.

Internet connectivity is now a must at live events. Today’s sports fans and gig-goers are becoming far less tolerant of poor connectivity and demand the ability to share their experiences via their handsets in real-time.

Simply shutting down their phone and switching off for two hours is not an option. Service providers must implement the infrastructure needed to support this, and crucially, monetise this user demand and marketing opportunity.

However, without a reliable, underlying network infrastructure, Wi-Fi and 3G/4G networks will not be able to withstand the tens of thousands of subscribers accessing the network, and similarly, end-users may soon also come to expect the enhanced user experience that LTE-B can provide.

There is an exciting opportunity for service providers and venues to make mobile phones a core part of the live experience. But in order to make this work, they need to make sure that network connectivity, and download and upload speeds, are no longer a headache for attendees, and having an EPC solution in place they can rely on is essential.


Sourced by Robin Kent, director of European operations, Adax


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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

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