Cisco Expands Wi-Fi Coverage for Stadiums

By Sean Michael Kerner

July 06, 2011

New large venue focused solutions includes enhanced access point and new antenna technology that aims to deliver wireless access for stadiums.

Cisco is expanding its push to enable stadiums and other large venues to effectively deliver wireless services.

Cisco today announced its Connected Stadium Wi-Fi initiative which includes an enhanced access point, improved antennas and services to help stadiums Wi-Fi enable their venues.

"Once this is generally available in stadiums, arenas and other congested environments, it will enable a new generation of innovation around mobile devices," David Holland, general manager and senior vice president of Sports and Entertainment Solutions Group at Cisco told InternetNews.com. "Fans are demanding a new set of services and with this access to Wi-Fi you'll be able to see app providers and physical service providers deliver a new experience in live venues."

The Cisco Connected Stadium Wi-Fi initiative includes two key hardware components. The Aironet 3500p is an evolution of the Aironet 3500 that was announced last year. The Aironet 3500 includes Cisco's CleanAir technology which analyzes the spectrum for interference in an effort to provide optimized wireless connectivity.

The 3500p is a 2x3 MIMO access point that is purpose built for the requirements of large venues. It is not clear however how much bandwidth each 3500p access point provides. A Cisco spokesperson toldInternetNews.com that Cisco doesn't publish the specific speeds of their individual AP components. That said the spokesperson noted that things like CleanAir, which are embedded in the chipset, keep the system from slowing down when spectrum management is done.

Each 3500p provides connectivity for up to 6 antennas which is where another key point of differentiation comes in. As part of the overall solution Cisco is debuting new high-density directional antennas.

"If you think about all the users in a stadium trying to connect to an access point, they could quickly use up all the available bandwidth," Sylvia Hooks senior manager, wireless marketing at Cisco told InternetNews.com. "If you just put in more access points, they'll be placed too close together creating interference that reduces the performance."

The solution to the problem is the new antenna technology. Hooks explained that the directional antennas deliver a tighter coverage area.

"Rather than using a floodlight to get Wi-Fi out, we're using a flashlight," Hooks said. "So you're blanketing fewer seats with the same throughput, so each person is sharing less and everyone gets a bigger piece of the pie."

The new antennas are 36 degree dual-polarized antennas, which provide more targeted wireless than omnidirectional antennas.

"Dual-polarized refers to the fact that if you're holding your iPhone in a vertical position and you turn in sideways it will work equally well in either position," Hooks said. "Typically if you don't have a dual-polarized antennas you'd loose some connectivity."

The new Connected Stadium initiative is not the first foray for Cisco into Stadium connectivity. Back in 2008, Cisco made a big splash with its connectivity solutions built into the new Yankee Stadium.

Holland noted that the previous deployments were more of the floodlight approach to enabling Wi-Fi.

"Yankee Stadium was in fact the first venue we ever deployed our first offering in this space, called StadiumVision," Holland said. "All the video that runs in Yankee Stadium is driven off that platform."

Holland explained that Connected Stadium is about extending the content capability and making it available to even more mobile device and screens.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

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