Who is leading the battle in the stands for internet connectivity?

The way in which we use mobile phones is constantly evolving and clear evidence of this shift in usage can be highlighted at live events. Gone are the days when sports fans and gig-goers would call their friends to let them know where to meet and then turn their phone off for two hours until the show finished. Now the mobile phone is very much part of the live experience. Go to any sports stadium or gig venue across the globe and you’ll find seas of mobile phones held aloft as spectators try to capture a video or picture of a magic moment on their handsets. 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. 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. 

Keeping up with end-user demand

One of the major challenges in the telco industry today is keeping up with end-user demand. 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 per cent 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.

Overcoming indoor connectivity challenges

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. 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. 

A whole new world of features can be offered 

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. We’ve already seen Turkcell trial this technology at a basketball match in Turkey with success . 

We’ve also seen how LTE-B technology has 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.  

Making mobile phones part of the live experience

The demand for internet connection at live events is constantly rising. There is a shift in the mindset of gig-goers and sports fans. They no longer want to switch off from the world to be mesmerised by their favourite band or player – they want to share their experiences in real-time. 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 grasp in making 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, by having an EPC solution in place they can rely on.

Robin Kent, director of European operations at Adax
Image source: Shutterstock/Toria