Stadium for next U.S. World Cup game will have Ruckus-powered Wi-Fi available

Talk about luck of the draw: Fans of the U.S. men’s soccer team who are on hand for the squad’s next game on Tuesday, July 1, should be able to use a Ruckus Wireless-powered Wi-Fi network at the 51,900-seat Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador, Brazil.

As MSR reported last year, Ruckus Wireless won contracts to supply the Wi-Fi gear for at least two of the stadiums being used in the World Cup tournament. One of those was Arena Fonte Nova, which will now host the USA-Belgium tilt in the elimination round. And with U.S. fans leading the way in on-scene participation in the World Cup, it’s a good bet that the Arena Fonte Nova network will get a workout on Wi-Fi since it’s probably a good guess that cellular roaming fees might be prohibitive. (We say this having no idea what the roaming charges might be for U.S. carriers in Brazil; but if the Wi-Fi is free, we can say without a doubt that’s the cheaper option.)

According to Ruckus the Wi-Fi network at the arena (which is also called the Estadio Octavio Mangabeira) will have about 150 access points, which to us sounds a bit low for full stadium coverage for a 51,000-seat arena, but again, we’ve not seen any stats for a Ruckus solution in real-world situations so maybe it’s enough.

With more news about players biting players and Brazilians protesting the World Cup, it’s not surprising that we haven’t heard much in the way of news about performance or non-performance of wireless networks at the numerous stadiums. Unlike an Olympics or a Super Bowl, where you are in one place for a long time, the World Cup seems to be more about sporadic visits to different stadiums, and a lot of travel, and probably a lot more time spent just enjoying the scene rather than worrying about tweeting it or posting to Facebook. And since there is no reliable news source for overall network operations for the World Cup, we don’t have any statistics or performance metrics to report. But so far so good, eh? If anyone knows of any specific problems or reports of poor performance send them our way. And if anyone is in Salvador next week, take a Speedtest of the Wi-Fi and send it along.

Ruckus Scores Wi-Fi Deal for Soccer Stadiums in Brazil — But Will Wi-Fi be Missing in Action at Brazil’s 2014 World Cup?

The curious wording of a press release out today is making us wonder: Will in-stadium Wi-Fi be missing in action during the soccer World Cup next year in Brazil?

The thing that got us asking this question is the release today of news from Wi-Fi gear vendor Ruckus Wireless, which trumpets a deal for more than 360 Ruckus wireless access points, to be deployed in two of Brazil’s biggest soccer stadiums. But the release doesn’t mention the World Cup at all, and there is no date given for when the equipment may be installed.

While our guess (we are waiting for word back from Ruckus) is that there is some World Cup wireless rights deal that precludes supplying vendors like Ruckus from using the term “World Cup” in any announcements, the press release got us looking to see if any of the other stadiums that will be used in the month-long tourney already have or have plans to get Wi-Fi before the soccer starts. So far, we haven’t been able to find anything concrete that spells out whether or not Wi-Fi will be available at any of the 12 venues across Brazil. Our short history in covering this market tells us that if there isn’t a press release saying that Wi-Fi will be available, you can bet that it probably won’t be.

For the sake of the thousands of futbol fans who will no doubt be traveling to Brazil for the matches, we hope we’re wrong. But the best info we have found in a limited bit of Internet searching are a few articles from ZDNet’s Brazil Contributing Editor Angelica Mari. For the most part, the information seems to come from hopeful press releases, like this one about a plan for Sao Paulo to invest $22 million in a free Wi-Fi project, something Mari notes has been promised and not delivered many times before. In July Mari reported that the World Cup said it would have free Wi-Fi at all matches, but again, there were no specifics about deployments and her cautionary line, “But the actual ability of mobile providers to deliver is questionable,” should probably be taken as a pretty good warning that not all is well when it comes to Wi-Fi at the games.

For Ruckus, the deal to put wireless access points into two of Brazil’s biggest stadiums — the 71,000-seat National Stadium, also known as Estádio Nacional de Brasília, and Arena Octávio Mangabeira (also known as Arena Fonte Nova, depending on who you ask), a 50,433-seat facility in the city of Salvador — is another international win, and proof that Ruckus gear is passing the test when it comes to dense public facilities. But whether the gear be active in time for World Cup action is still unknown. UPDATE: Ruckus has confirmed that the gear is scheduled to be working by next June. Apparently we were also correct in assuming there is a rights deal that precludes the use of the term “World Cup” in any such announcements.

Unlike the London Olympics, which were amazingly the most un-wired games in history, the 2014 World Cup is looking like it might be a bit of a communications nightmare, given that local citizens like Mari routinely note that the country’s cellular infrastructure and services leave much to be desired.

Another possible scenario is that the Ruckus deal is just part of a bigger deal, where Ruckus would be one of several providers to the consortium of Latin America telecom providers (Claro, Oi, Telefónica, and TIM) who are in charge of World Cup communications. That might explain why a Ruckus release didn’t say World Cup, or mention other stadiums. Word on the street is that press announcements for World Cup infrastructure are being kept tight to the vest, so maybe we’ll hear more soon.