Euro 2016: The Wi-Fi, 4G and networking hat-trick

This year marks the 14th UEFA European Championship, taking place in France. Millions of fans are expected to attend 51 matches across ten venues, presenting a huge opportunity for sports teams and stadium organisers to use technology to both improve the fan experience and increase their bottom line.

Connectivity at large public venues and events such as the Euros has become an integral part of the experience. Guests expect to be able to connect easily and quickly, and believe that reliable Wi-Fi should be part and parcel of attending the venue.

So how exactly can mega-event organisers keep on top of their networks to keep spectators happy? We have asked four industry experts for their advice on how to manage connectivity, as it continues to become an imperative part of the guest experience…

Michael Hack, SVP of EMEA Operations, Ipswitch:

“In regular office environments, IT pros work to reduce the strain on the network caused by employees watching YouTube videos and uploading files to social media sites, making sure business-critical applications to run smoothly. However, when running a huge public event like the Euros, the challenge becomes much more difficult: The business critical applications are the data-draining media apps. 2.5 million fans are expected to flood the stadiums across France over the next couple of months, and the IT teams responsible will be expected to manage all the images, video and audio files being uploaded via the network of the venue.”

“The first thing that needs to be tackled is network visibility. If all IT operations are shown under one interface, then it will be easier to be proactive during the event. With more visibility, it is easier for IT teams to monitor the status of the network, pinpoint, assess and fix a problem before it affects your system.”

“By using a flexible and unified monitoring solution, IT teams can quickly, easily and efficiently scan across all wired and wireless networks, and physical and virtual servers and applications. This will keep the social media match commentaries alive and kicking.”

Perry Correll, Principal Technologist, Xirrus:

“When the first European Nations’ Cup took place in the late 1950s, connectivity as we know it today was non-existent. In fact the integrated circuit – the building block of the electronic age – wasn’t invented until 1959! Fast forward to the Euros 2016. 2.5 million fans are expected to attend. Sharing what they’re up to with friends and family online is becoming an increasingly important part of the experience. Let’s be frank. We live in a Wi-Fi-first society. But if the Wi-Fi connection at your large venue is patchy, visitors will likely move to the 3G / 4G network. And when that gets saturated with requests (which it will, quickly) all those selfies, videos and pictures cannot be shared – tainting the spectator experience.

"With this in mind, Wi-Fi networks in large public venues must meet three key requirements: an always reliable experience, regardless of the number of devices on the network; simple onboarding for all users; all for a low total cost of ownership. The good news is that innovative Wi-Fi solutions can meet all of these requirements. Choose a solution with reliable performance in high-density areas, the option to assign priority to traffic based on application, self-service registration, and software defined radios. The glowing reviews from your happy visitors will quickly follow.”

Hubert de Costa, VP EMEA, Cradlepoint:

"For owners of large public venues such as football stadiums, match day revenue is serious business. In the 2014/15 season both Manchester United and Arsenal’s match day revenue at that their respective grounds was in excess of £100m. Match day revenue isn’t just ticket sales – it’s the whole experience, including food and drink, programme sales, club memorabilia and merchandise from the club shop, and more. And then consider if the match is scheduled to be live-streamed around the world via the web. There will likely be broadcast and sponsorship income associated with that too. Imagine the impact if your Internet connection goes down on match day…. That could mean money literally walking out the door."

"No wired connection can deliver 100 per cent uptime. The question isn’t whether your business will lose Internet connectivity, it’s when. So the question is how to protect your organisation from loss and disruption when it happens. When your wired Internet connectivity experiences a service disruption (in some areas this happens several times a month) your business is exposed to risks of lost revenue, productivity and customer experience issues.

"Upgrading to a more robust wired connection is one possible solution – but it’s expensive and is still susceptible to outages and service disruption. An alternative option is to bridge the inevitable gap with wireless WAN failover. This option is quick and easy to deploy. Ultimately when network connections fail, there will be a loss of productivity, brand credibility and revenue. In my experience, there are few businesses that can afford to take that risk.

"Let’s hope UEFA and each match venue have a robust failover plan in place to ensure consistent, secure and fast Internet connectivity at this year’s tournament and they don’t end up scoring the technology equivalent of an own goal.”