HPE Aruba Networking Blogs

Assuring that Crowds are Pleased with In-Stadium Wi-Fi

By Fouad Zreik, Director of Product Management, UXI at Aruba and Cofounder of Cape Networks

It’s a challenge to provide Wi-Fi service in stadiums.

Designing and implementing a high performance Wi-Fi network is always challenging. Implementing a high density Wi-Fi network in a stadium that facilitates tens of thousands of concurrent connections that support responsive interactions and HD video streams is a different ball game (pun intended). The implementation needs to work in a stadium that’s full of people. Performance testing is also a challenge, especially when a network is installed or upgraded, because these activities are done when the stadium is empty. Wi-Fi will perform differently when a stadium is full of people and network traffic. Weather is also a factor for open-air stadiums.

Digitally enabled guest services are integral and important to event experiences at stadiums. Wi-Fi-facilitated in-seat ordering, mobile ticketing, fan apps and wayfinding are among the wireless use cases in stadiums and other large public venues. Wi-Fi also facilitates IoT use cases so that the facilities personnel can efficiently monitor and intelligently automate how lighting, heating, ventilation and air conditioning are controlled.

Assuring amazing experiences in stadiums presents new challenges for CTOs and IT/network operations personnel. To assure end-user experiences they must first understand them (after all – to manage something you need to be able to measure it). Traditional network monitoring tools from vendors are great for understanding the status of specific network infrastructure component; however, these tools do not truly measure experiences from the user perspective. Just like other organizations and businesses, what’s needed to understand and assure experiences is beyond traditional monitoring tools. New tools are needed that provide the ability to consistently and objectively monitor and measure the entire edge-to-cloud experience from as many points along the edge’s perimeter to a myriad of cloud-hosted apps.

Consistently and objectively measuring user experiences
In the absence of a simple yet thorough solution, there’s often the brute-force method to understand user experiences. In large venues such as stadiums that often done by tasking staff members to roam throughout the venue testing the network with Laptops, tablets and/or smartphones. That approach is often costly, inconsistent and hence inadequate. Issues from this methodology include:

  • How many people to deploy
  • Where to you test
  • How long should someone test at a specific location
  • Which SSIDs and apps and services are tested
  • How to troubleshoot, fix and document problems that are found
  • Is the data collected in such a way that it is easy to compare the same test at the same location when the venue is in use versus not in use

 Independent assurance testing is the answer
What is needed for stadiums (and other environments too) is automated real-time user-perspective testing that identifies and isolates problems. The best way to ensure consistent and objective testing is to use stationary testers – something that we call User Experience Insight Sensors. Our sensors are compact and purpose-built. They’ll test all day, every day, when the stadium is in use and not. Test data is continuously transmitted to a companion cloud-hosted service for storage, analysis, visualization and alerts.

Sensors can be deployed throughout the venue to give IT/network operations personnel visibility to the true user’s perspective of how the network is performing. The sensors appear to the network and behave exactly as attendees (using their Wi-Fi enables smartphones). The solution can easily test commercial services (such as, fan apps or both. Performance can now be quantified for webpage load times, photo and video upload and download, and much more.

User Experience Insight
The name of this solution reflects what it does: Aruba User Experience Insight provides the user-perspective insights necessary that enable effective and efficient management of a network. The entire solution is based on simplicity that includes zero-touch deployment, zero special skills required and zero time to value. In other words, once the sensors are connected to power (via the provided AC adapter or power-over-Ethernet) the entire solution starts to work. It’s just that simple. Learning and using the status dashboard is super simple too. Overall status is instantly visible at-a-glance.

A game-changer
Digital experiences are everywhere and integral to numerous activities, including attending concerts and sporting events at stadiums. Assure that attendees have amazing and memorable experiences and you will also assure that they will keep coming back.

Learn more about Aruba User Experience Insight.

Learn more about how Aruba’s portfolio of products and solutions are used in stadiums and other large public venues.