AT&T beefs up ski resort reception with stealthy DAS

AT&T DAS antenna stand (right) near the American Eagle lift at Copper Mountain. Credit all photos: Paul Kapustka, MSR (click on any photo for a larger image)

In order to improve cellular reception at the Copper Mountain ski area, AT&T this winter installed a stealthy seven-antenna DAS in several base-area locations, including inside ski-lodge buildings and inside a rooftop cupola.

According to Quin Gelfand, a senior real estate and construction manager for AT&T’s Antenna Solutions Group, the mountain had previously been served only by a single macro tower located up near the slopes of the popular Colorado resort, which is located just off the I-70 Interstate between Frisco and Vail.

On heavy skier-visit days, Gelfand said, the macro tower recently caused some “capacity concerns,” leading AT&T to design a DAS solution for the several base areas at Copper Mountain. In addition to just being saturated by demand, Gelfand said the single macro antennas often didn’t provide strong signals inside buildings at the base areas.

“In a lot of areas around the resort, there were low bars for LTE,” Gelfand said.

AT&T’s Quin Gelfand shows off the main head end DAS gear rack.

But on Feb. 23 this year, that situation changed for AT&T cellular customers, as the DAS went live and immediately started moving lots of cellular traffic. By the time of our visit in early April, Gelfand said the DAS installation (which has the capacity equivalent of a single large macro tower) had already seen more than 7 terabytes of data moved, averaging about 175 GB per day. Like at many Colorado ski areas, March is a busy month at Copper with lots of spring break skiers and locals driving up on weekends from Denver.

Hiding antennas in a cupola

Brad Grohusky, senior IT manager for Copper Mountain, said AT&T approached the resort a couple of years ago to discuss the idea of a DAS. “When we had a dense population of guests, it was pretty easy to saturate a signal,” Grohusky said.

On weekends, Grohusky said Copper could often see as many as 10,000 guests, and might even see as many as 14,000 visitors on popular days or holidays. Wireless communications, he said, could get even more stress if the weather turned nasty or cold, driving more people inside buildings.

DAS antenna (upper top left) in Copper Station lodge

Starting from an existing telecom service room located in an underground garage, AT&T ran fiber this past offseason to three different antenna locations. The closest and most obvious is a three-antenna stand near the “Burning Stones” gathering area and the American Eagle chairlift base. As one of the resort’s main first chairs the American Eagle often has crowds at its base, and the Burning Stones area is a small clearing between the slopes and the base area buildings that is used often for concerts and other public gatherings.

“There was lots of digging last summer,” said Grohusky of the fiber-trenching effort, which gained some extra time thanks to a warmer-than-usual fall that kept the snow at bay. “We took advantage of that extra week,” Grohusky said.

If the American Eagle-area antennas are in plain sight, the two antennas at the Union Creek Schoolhouse base area to the west would be impossible to find if you didn’t know where they were; on the roof of a building AT&T built custom-designed baffling for a rooftop cupola that completely hides the antennas while allowing cellular signals to pass through.

“You would never know the antennas were up there,” Grohusky said. “AT&T really accomodated our architecture there.”

Closer look at DAS tower near American Eagle lift

Back farther to the east, two more antennas were located at the top windows of the Copper Station lodge building, pointed outward to cover the lift base areas and the condos and other buildings in that area. According to Gelfand AT&T used Nokia RAN gear as well as Corning fiber equipment, CommScope cabling components and antennas from JMA Wireless in the deployment. The DAS is powered by a 100 Mbps fiber link from CenturyLink, and supports three cellular bands — 700 MHz, AWS and PCS, according to Gelfand.

Even though ski season is all but over, the network will still get use in the non-snowy months as Copper Mountain, like many Colorado resorts, has an active summer schedule of on-mountain activities. The resort also has a limited free public Wi-Fi network in certain base area buildings, including in and around the Starbucks location right next to the Burning Stones area. Gohusky said there are no current plans to expand the Wi-Fi, and also said that none of the other major cellular carriers are planning to add any of their own DAS deployments.

But for AT&T customers, Grohusky said connectivity is vastly improved. “The feedback has been great,” he said. “Connectivity used to be poor inside buildings, but now it’s great.”

Look back toward the Burning Stones gathering area, near American Eagle lift

Union Creek Schoolhouse building — cupola with AT&T antennas is the one closest to ski hill

JMA Wireless antenna mounted high up inside Copper Station lodge

CommScope gear inside the Copper Station node equipment room

Corning optical gear inside the Copper Station node equipment room

Copper Station lodge building (with DAS antennas) on far right, showing proximity to eastern base area

A building for the future: Tech shines through at Sacramento’s new Golden 1 Center

Golden 1 Center, the new home of the Sacramento Kings. Credit: Sacramento Kings

If you’re building for the future, it’s best to start with a building for the future.

That’s what has happened in downtown Sacramento, where the Sacramento Kings have built a technology-laden future-proof arena, a venue designed not just to host basketball games but to be the centerpiece of a metro revival for years to come.

Now open for business, the Golden 1 Center is a living blueprint for the arena of the future, especially from a technology perspective. And while some technology inside the venue is impossible to ignore — starting with the massive 4K scoreboard that overhangs the court — there’s also a wealth of less-apparent technology woven throughout the building’s core and pervasive in its operating functions.

Led by Kings majority owner and former software company founder Vivek Ranadive, the technology-focused direction of the new arena is a blend of the latest thinking in venue experiences and operations. Among the many got-to-have staples: High-quality wireless connectivity and multiple mobile device-based services, including food ordering and delivery, map-based parking, wayfinding help, and digital ticketing. While its already-available options easily place Golden 1 Center among the top tier of connected stadiums today, what may be more impressive is the internal planning for future technologies and services, a sign that its owners and operators clearly understand the ever-changing nature of digital systems.

The purple lights are on in the Golden 1 Center data room. Credit all following photos: Paul Kapustka, MSR (click on any photo for a larger image)

While the arena is open today, it’s still somewhat of a diamond in the rough, as planned surrounding structures, including adjacent hotel and retail outlets, are still in the concrete-and-cranes phase, with “coming soon” signs on the area’s many construction fences. As they wait for their team to show signs of on-court improvement, Sacramento citizens must also be patient for the full plan of the downtown arena to emerge, along with its promise to revive an area once stuck in the past.

The good news? With Golden 1 Center Sacramento fans already have a winner, in a venue that will provide fans with some of the best digital-based services and amenities found anywhere, for now and for the foreseeable future. What follows are our first impressions from an early December 2016 visit to a Kings home game, hosted by representatives of the Kings’ technical staff along with representatives from Wi-Fi gear provider Ruckus and cellular DAS deployment firm DAS Group Professionals.

Showing off the data center

Editor’s note: This profile is from our latest STADIUM TECH REPORT, the ONLY in-depth publication created specifically for the stadium technology professional and the stadium technology marketplace. Read about new networks at the Indiana Pacers’ Bankers Life Fieldhouse and the new Wi-Fi network used for the Super Bowl in our report, which is available now for FREE DOWNLOAD from our site!

Data center guards. Small, but well armed.

If you had any doubts about how proud the Kings are of their stadium technology, those are erased the moment you enter the stadium via the VIP doorway; after the metal detectors but before you hit the new-wave ticket scanners, you see a set of floor-to-ceiling glass walls and doors to your left, showing off the impressive racks of the venue’s main data equipment room.

How can gear racks be impressive? How about if they are impeccably encased in their own white metal and glass enclosures, a technique that allows the Kings to refrigerate each rack separately, leaving the rest of the room at a temperature more suitable to human bodies. You don’t have to be a network equipment operator to recognize an over-the-top attention to detail here; even the exposed fiber cabling that stretches out up and across the ceiling is color-coded in the Kings’ main team purple; another level of coolness appears when the main lights in the room are turned off, and more LEDs come on to bathe the room in a completely purple hue.

This room is also where you see the first hints of how the team is preparing for the future, with two 100 Gbps incoming bandwidth pipes (from Comcast), as well as two full rows of racks left empty, waiting for whatever innovation needs arise next. While the backbone bandwidth will eventually also support the nearby hotel and retail locations, twin 100-Gbps connections should provide adequate throughput for now and the foreseeable future.

Walk a few steps past the mini-sized Imperial Stormtroopers who guard the facility and you are in a hallway that separates a “mission control” room with monitors for a huge number of operational services, and the video control room. The innovation here starts simply with the side-by-side proximity of network, operations and video administration rooms, a rarity especially in older stadiums where coordination between people working in such rooms often meant walkie-talkies and lots of running around.

Multiple live video inputs in the “control room” at G1C.

While the video control room and its need to supply coordinated content to more than 800 monitors in the building (as well as to the app) is impressive, what’s really interesting is the “mission control” room, where Kings employees, network types and public safety personnel can track multiple inputs on a wall of monitors. In addition to security and public service video monitoring (Kings reps talk about seeing fans spill a drink and hustling to deploy clean-up services before anyone can ask for them), there are also displays for real-time social media mentions and live traffic information, which the Kings can monitor and respond to as needed.

Another “unseen” technology innovation is an operational app that provides real-time access to a huge list of game-day business statistics, like live ticket-scan numbers and real-time updates to concession purchases. This app is also available to Kings execs on their mobile devices, and it’s addicting to watch the numbers update in real time, especially the fast-moving alcoholic beverage purchase totals; according to the Kings, during a Jimmy Buffett concert at the arena, adult-beverage purchases were pushing the $1,000-per-minute mark.

When it comes to the fan experience, such “hidden” technologies may be the services that provide the best examples for how high-quality networks can bring real ROI to stadiums and large public venues. Fans may never know the guts of the system, but when a stand doesn’t run out of hot dogs or a clean-up squad arrives quickly to mop up a spilled beer, it’s a good bet that customer satisfaction will keep increasing. With massively connected systems and attached real-time analytics, such services become easier to deploy and manage; at Golden 1 Center, it’s easy to see how multiple stakeholders in the venue benefit from the decision to make networked technology a primary core of the building’s operations.

The huge scoreboard dominates the view at Golden 1 Center.

A scoreboard that stretches from hoop to hoop

Taking an elevator up to the main concourse floor, the initial impression of Golden 1 Center is its openness — it is built so that the main or ground level entrance is at the top of the bottom bowl of seats, with court level below. Open all the way around, the ability to see across the venue gives it an airy feeling, more like a bigger enclosed football stadium than a basketball arena. On the night we toured the venue its unique glass entryway windows were closed, but they can be opened to let in the breeze during milder days — adding another degree of difficulty for wireless network administration, since LTE signals can both enter and leave the building when the windows are open.

The next thing to catch your eye is the main scoreboard, which the Kings bill as the biggest 4K screen for a permanent indoor arena, with 35 million pixels. If it were lowered during a game, the Kings folks claim the screen would touch both baskets, so without any other numbers you get the idea: This thing is huge.

New entry kiosks from SkiData move more fans inside more quickly, the Kings claim.

It’s also incredibly clear, thanks in part to the 4K resolution but also in part to the fact that it is tilted at just the correct angles so that it’s easy to glance up from live action for a look at either the main screens or the bordering screens on both sides. Just citing clarity or size for scoreboards, I think, is missing a critical factor for video boards — what really matters is whether or not the screen is a positive or negative factor for during-game viewing, a subjective measurement that may take time to sink in. First impressions, however, during the live action between the Kings and Knicks during our visit, were incredibly positive, with the screen not interfering with live action views but incredibly clear for replays and live statistics.

The next part of our tour was to see if we could spot any of the 931 Ruckus Wi-Fi APs that are installed inside the venue. With the clear emphasis on clean aesthetics it was hard to spot any of the wall- or ceiling-mounted units, but we were able to locate several of the many under-seat AP enclosures, including some on retractable seats. According to the Ruckus folks on hand the retractable-seat APs took a little extra engineering, to allow the devices to be disconnected during seat movements.

The JMA Wireless DAS equipment was a little easier to spot, since like at Levi’s Stadium there are a number of antenna placements around the main concourse, pointing down into the lower bowl seating. The DAS Group Professional representatives on hand also pointed out more antennas up in the rafters, as well as some specially designed “antenna rocks” that hide cellular equipment outside the stadium in the open-air plaza. According to DGP and the Kings there are 136 DAS remote placements housing 213 antennas; right now only AT&T and Verizon Wireless are active on the DAS, with T-Mobile scheduled to join before the end of the NBA season. Negotiations with Sprint are still under discussion.

Blazing Wi-Fi in the basement of the building… and the rafters

When we dropped back down to the court-level to see the locker room entrances and one of the premium-seat club areas, we took our first Wi-Fi speed test at Golden 1 Center, and almost couldn’t believe the result: We got 132 Mbps for the download speed and 98 Mbps for upload. Greeted a few minutes later by owner Ranadive himself, we congratulated him on getting what he wanted in terms of connectivity, a theme he relentlessly promoted during the arena’s construction phases.

That’s good Wi-Fi. Taken in the Lexus Club on court level at Golden 1 Center.

The Wi-Fi connectivity was superb throughout the venue, with readings of 51.35/22.21 on press row (located at the top of the main lower bowl, just in front of the main concourse) and 42.14/38.83 in the crowded Sierra Nevada brewpub club at the top level of the arena. In section 220 in the upper deck we got Wi-Fi readings of 53.39 Mbps for download and 36.27 for upload. Throughout the stadium the Verizon LTE signal was in low teens to 20 Mbps range on the download side and usually between 20-30 Mbps on the upload side.

One of the decisions the Kings made on the Wi-Fi side was to drop 2.4 GHz coverage for fan devices in the main bowl area. According to both Ruckus and the Kings, fan devices now are almost 90 percent 5 GHz capable, meaning that it makes administrative sense to take 2.4 GHz out of the main fan Wi-Fi equation (while still keeping it for back-of-house operations like POS and wireless wristbands and cameras, which all still use 2.4 GHz technology). Other teams in the NBA, including the Indiana Pacers (who also recently installed a Ruckus Wi-Fi network) have also said that they are getting rid of 2.4 GHz coverage for fans since most devices used today have 5 GHz connectivity.

While we didn’t have time during this visit to explore all the numerous services available through the team’s app — including a game that lets fans bet loyalty points on predictions about which players will score the most points — it was clear that many fans were taking advantage of the connectivity, especially in the brewpub area where handy lean-up railings with small shelves made it easier to operate a mobile device while still being somewhat engaged with the court action below.

Team execs can get live feeds of fan-related stats on their internal app.

According to the Kings, during the first regular-season home game on Oct. 27, 2016, there were 8,307 unique users of the Wi-Fi network, out of 17,608 fans in attendance. The connected fans used a total of 1.4 terabytes of data on the Wi-Fi network that night, with a top peak concurrent connection number of 7,761 users. The highest sustained traffic to the Internet that night was a mark of 1.01 Gbps for a 15-minute period between 7:45 to 8:00 p.m., according to the Kings.

Another technology twist we saw in the brewpub was the use of Appetize’s flip-screen POS terminals, which allows for faster order taking simply by letting fans sign on screens with their fingers. Back at the front gates, the new ticket-scanning kiosks from SkiData may take some time for fans to get used to, but even obvious first-timers seemed to quickly understand the kiosk’s operation without much help needed, thanks to the helpful instructions on the wide screen that greets fans as they encounter the device. According to the Kings, tests of the new kiosks at other venues have shown that they can be as much as three times faster than previous technologies, good news to anyone who’s ever had to wait in line just to have their ticket checked.

A building for the future, whenever it comes

While we here at MSR clearly focus on venue technology, it was clear even during our brief stay at Golden 1 Center that while Sacramento fans may be immediately enjoying the amenities, they are still first and foremost concerned about the product on the court. In the upper deck two men spent several minutes questioning why Kings star DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins (who has since been traded to the New Orleans Pelicans) didn’t seem to get the kind of refereeing treatment alloted to other NBA leaders; on an escalator another fan interrupted one of my speedtests by loudly requesting a fan-to-fan fistbump while he simply said, “Kings basketball, right baby?”

A view outside the stadium’s main entrance, with one of the two large vertical video boards visible.

Even in the face of mulitple years without playoff teams, Sacramento fans still turn out for the Kings; the point here in regards to technology is that it may take time for fans to notice and embrace the finer points of all the technological attributes of their new arena, which should become more than just an NBA venue as more concerts and civic events are held in and around its environs.

Our quick take is that fans may turn faster to services like the traffic, parking and seat-wayfinding features in the app, simply due to the newness of the building to everyone, as well as its tightly sandwiched downtown location. Like in other new arenas, the jury is still out on other app-based services like the loyalty-points voting game, and in-seat concessions ordering and delivery; the Kings declined to provide any statistics for in-seat ordering and delivery, a service which became available to the entire stadium on the night of our visit. The Kings, like many other teams, also offer instant replays via the app, but with the numerous high-quality big-screen displays (including two arena-sized screens outside the main entryway) it will be interesting to see if fans ever see an overwhelming need to check their devices for live action while attending a game.

The good news for the Kings is that they based their stadium and team app on a new flexible platform from a company called Built.io, which the Kings say allows for easier addition (or deletion) of services through an API layer. Like the future-proof parts of the building itself, the app also shows the Kings’ dedication to building something now that will almost certainly change going forward. As we look to the future it will be interesting to see which parts of the technology base contribute most to the fan experience and business operations at Golden 1 Center — and to see how many other existing or new arenas follow the lead.

More photos from our visit below!

Under seat Wi-Fi AP on a moveable section of stands.

The view from upper-deck seats.

A Wi-Fi speed test from those same seats.

One of the “rocks” hiding DAS antennas on the outside walkway.

5 Bars, JMA Wireless, Cisco part of Wi-Fi and DAS at new Colorado State stadium

Panoramic view of the west and south outsides of the new CSU football stadium. Credit all photos: Paul Kapustka, MSR

Panoramic view of the west and south outsides of the new CSU football stadium. Credit all photos: Paul Kapustka, MSR

Network components haven’t yet been installed at the new under-construction football stadium at Colorado State University — but when they do, integrator 5 Bars and wireless suppliers JMA Wireless and Cisco will all be part of the fan-facing Wi-Fi and DAS networks, according to the companies.

Scheduled to open in time for next year’s football season, the yet-unnamed new stadium is a busy construction scene, as you can tell from the photos we took during a sneak peek at the venue last week (thanks to CSU, Mortenson, 5 Bars and JMA Wireless for the access).

Though specifics on numbers of APs aren’t set yet, 5 Bars said it will be using Cisco equipment in a mixed design of overhead and under-seat AP deployments, depending upon the area of the stadium. JMA Wireless will handle the DAS.

Nice roomy head-end room for all that DAS gear!

Nice roomy head-end room for all that DAS gear!

As you can see from the photos, parts of the stadium have good overhang coverage for mounting, while other parts of the planned 40,000-seat venue are open-bowl construction, which will need under-seat APs for optimal coverage. 5 Bars and JMA reps on hand also said that the distinctive light towers (especially on the east side of the stadium) will also provide antenna mounting sites for top-down coverage.

Unlike Hughes Field, the three miles west-of-campus football facility that just hosted its last game this weekend, the new stadium sits right in the middle of the campus in Fort Collins, Colo. According to our first glances, it looks like there will be sevearl open-terrace type areas inside the stadium as well as a beer garden (or so we heard rumored) outside one of the main entrances. According to CSU, Hughes has been used for football since 1968.

What will be interesting to see is how CSU handles parking for the new venue, which won’t have any large lots surrounding it. We’ll have more updates between now and next football season, so stay tuned!

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A look at the west side stands with press box and suites above

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A look underneath the west side overhang — lots of antenna room

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This shot of the north end of the east stands shows the proximity to campus

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Before long, this tray will be filled with cable and fiber

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Panoramic view of the east and south stands

Stadium Tech Professionals: LAST DAY to take our 2016 stadium tech survey!

2015_SoS_thumbIf you are a stadium technology professional working for a school, team or stadium ownership group, it’s that time of year again — we need your participation in our 2016 State of the Stadium Technology Survey. Now in its fourth year of existence, the “State of the Stadium” survey is the only independent, large-public-venue research that charts deployments of stadium technology like Wi-Fi, DAS, Digital Signage and Beaconing, and the use of digital sports marketing tools like Wi-Fi analytics, CRM and social media. If you are part of a stadium operations group and know what goes on inside your venue, take the 2016 survey right now!

Because this is an ANONYMOUS, AGGREGATED INFORMATION ONLY survey, that means that answers aren’t tied to any school, team or individual. Just look at last year’s survey to see how the answers are reported. That also means that all answers are completely confidential, and will not be sold, marketed or otherwise communicated in any way, shape or form outside of the ANONYMOUS TOTALS used in the survey report.

So since we’re trying to find out aggregate numbers — not individual details — it’s just as important for all of us to know who doesn’t have Wi-Fi as well as who does. So even if your school or team or stadium doesn’t have Wi-Fi — and may never have Wi-Fi — you should still TAKE THE SURVEY and add your organization’s information to the total. The more answers we get, the better the data are for everyone.

Survey time is time well spent

And that “everyone” thing leads me to my next point: If you’re a regular reader here you can and should consider the few minutes it takes to complete the survey as a small way of “paying back” to the rest of the members of this fine industry, many of whom make time for the interviews, visits and emails that form the core of all the excellent free content available here on the MSR site and through our long-form reports (and now our podcasts as well). We know you are busy, and that spending time answering a list of technology questions may not seem like the highest priority on your to-do list. But a little bit of your time can really help us all.

That’s because we also know, from our website statistics and from our report download numbers and just from conversations with many of you, that our audience of stadium technology professionals appreciates the honest, objective stories and analysis we provide. (We humbly thank you for continuing to make us a regular reading choice.) And now, by taking the survey, you can help make the site and our work even better, just by adding your team, school or stadium’s technology deployment information into the 2016 State of the Stadium Technology Survey. The more results we get, the better and more informative the survey becomes — and that’s something that’s truly a win-win situation for all involved.

Once again the State of the Stadium Technology Survey will be exclusively delivered first to the attendees of the SEAT Conference, being held this year in Las Vegas, July 17-20. Production of this year’s survey is made possible by the sponsorship of JMA Wireless, and through our partnership with the SEAT Consortium, owners and operators of the excellent SEAT event. All those who participate in the survey will receive a full digital copy of the final report, whether you attend the SEAT Conference or not. As a bonus, all SEAT attendees will get a print version of the survey results. If you haven’t already, you can sign up to attend SEAT.

Final reminder: This survey is meant to be taken ONLY by stadium technology professionals, executives, and team or school representatives who can accurately describe the deployments in place at their organization. It is NOT a survey to be taken by everyone, only by those who have a deployment to describe. If you have any questions about whether you should take the survey or not, send an email to me at kaps at mobilesportsreport.com. Thanks in advance for your time and participation!

Stadium Tech Report: Los Angeles Angels and 5 Bars build ‘wireless halo’ of Wi-Fi & DAS for Angels Stadium

The iconic sign outside the "Big A," aka Angels Stadium of Anaheim. Credit all photos, even tilted ones: Terry Sweeney, MSR (click on any photo for a larger image)

The iconic sign outside the “Big A,” aka Angels Stadium of Anaheim. Credit all photos, even tilted ones: Terry Sweeney, MSR (click on any photo for a larger image)

Every baseball team wants to notch a win on opening day, and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are no exception. So while the number of runs scored was important to Al Castro, the franchise’s IT director, his eye was also on wireless performance in Angels Stadium, since 2015 will be the first full season with both Wi-Fi and DAS technology in place. The Angels may have lost their opener against the Kansas City Royals, but their wireless networks scored big by handling more than 1.3 TB of data that afternoon.

“Fans expect connectivity these days,” Castro told Mobile Sports Report during a tour of Angels Stadium, aka the Big A, which was built in 1966. Once the home of the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams, the stadium went through and extensive renovation in 1997-98 and now seats about 44,000 for baseball and serves 3 million visitors annually. “If they’re going to come to a ballgame for four hours,” said Castro of today’s fans, “they won’t tolerate not being connected.”

Adding wireless to the ‘Big A’

To get the wireless ball rolling last year, teams of engineers on scaffolding started on the uppermost tier of the Big A (the “View Level”) to mount DAS and Wi-Fi antennas to the stadium canopy. Working from outermost edges of the C-shaped stadium, two sets at of scaffolding at each end leapfrogged each til they met in the middle – a five-week process, according to Castro.

Angels IT director Al Castro, in front of his wireless deployment map

Angels IT director Al Castro, in front of his wireless deployment map

The 15-zone DAS network went live in June 2014 with Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile on board; Sprint is expected to add some antennas in the next several weeks. Currently, there are 122 DAS remotes in 33 locations. Angel Stadium Wi-Fi went live in September 2014 and now counts more than 400 access points around the stadium, according to team figures. Ruckus Wireless is the Wi-Fi vendor; the DAS gear is from Teko Telecom, now part of JMA Wireless.

The Angels worked closely with technology partner 5 Bars, a builder of turnkey wireless networks for sports venues’ wireless needs. Castro would not disclose the budget for the wireless upgrades at Angels Stadium.

In addition to using Major League Baseball’s Ballpark app, Angels fans can post to social media, surf the Web and check email from the stadium’s wireless networks. On the stadium’s club level, spectators can wirelessly order food and beverage from their seats; Legends, which operates the stadium’s concessions, uses an unpublished SSID for 150 wireless-enabled moveable cash registers and more than two dozen handheld point-of-sale devices. Similarly, TicketMaster has its own invisible SSID for wireless scanning of tickets at the stadium’s entry gates; the SSID for the press box is also masked, according to Castro.

Hiding in plain (or painted) sight

The DAS antennas and APs have been strategically installed and well concealed; they’re as discrete as chameleons. Working with Ruckus gear, 5 Bars installed narrow-beam, sectorized-beam and high-capacity APs, all centrally managed by Ruckus’s SmartCell Gateway 200.

A nice view of the field -- with antennas in silhouette

A nice view of the field — with antennas in silhouette

The Angels also use SmartCell Insight, a reporting and analytics package that helps the team track number of unique connections to the Wi-Fi during the course of a game, device types, total and average data uploaded and downloaded, and their speeds, Castro said.

Angel Stadium Wi-Fi has been engineered for 20,000 simultaneous users; there’s no throttling of user bandwidth and no filtering for streaming media like Spotify — “yet,” Castro was quick to add with a laugh. Download speeds vary depending on crowd size, according to Tommy Taylor, senior manager, engineering services for 5 Bars. For a game with 36,000 in attendance, for example, average download speed for devices using 2.4 GHz bandwidth is 8-12 Mbps, while 5 GHz connections can run as fast as 18-24 Mbps. On the traffic side, currently the network is seeing upload volume of about 20 percent of the download average volume, Taylor said, in an email to Mobile Sports Report.

The Angels will continue to fine-tune the network and add or re-point APs as necessary. “We are in the process of adding additional APs to cover some areas that, when the stadium is full, do not receive the high level of coverage we are targeting to provide,” Castro said. Those additions should be done by mid-June. Management has an eye on monetizing the network through sponsorships, and extending the in-seat ordering system beyond the club level of the ballpark, according to Castro.

He also wants to add streaming video to the network so that fans can watch replay from multiple angles, which Castro described as “a good incentive — something you can’t get at home.” He also intends to expand his use of analytics and report generation on a game-by-game basis. It’s the sort of thing that the owners and managers of the team are increasingly interested in, Castro added.

5 Bars helps Angel Stadium get Wi-Fi and DAS to full strength for playoffs

Angel StadiumIn addition to a packed house and a top-performing team, the Angel Stadium of Anaheim will have a fully functional Wi-Fi network and a full-strength DAS on hand when the American League divisional playoffs begin there Thursday.

Just as the Los Angeles Angels oF Anaheim built their American League West division-winning record all summer, networking infrastructure provider 5 Bars brought the connectivity in the team’s stadium to the top this season as well, completing the neutral-host DAS in June and finishing the Wi-Fi network in time for the last regular-season homestand, according to the company. As the Angels get set to host the Kansas City Royals on Oct. 2, the 400-plus antenna DAS and the 300-plus Wi-Fi access point network should be able to handle the expected crush of selfies, Vines and other fan-based wireless communications that will course the airwaves during game time at the 45,050-seat facility.

While we hope there’s still time this season to get down to Anaheim for a live visit and test, for now we’ll let some quotes from the prepared press release let you know how the team feels about having better-than-average connectivity for its fans:

“We want to bring the best possible Major League Baseball experience to fans attending our games, and we’re confident this new, high-performance Wi-Fi network will fully meet those expectations when our fans come to Angel Stadium,” said John Carpino, President of the Angels, in a prepared statement.

Though the 5 Bars name is a new one in the stadium technology deployment marketplace (earlier this year the company was calling itself “5 Bars Inside,” but the inside is now dropped from the name), its leadership team claims “more than two decades of practical experience in developing and managing DAS networks for wireless service providers,” according to the press release announcing the Angel Stadium networks. For its neutral-host DAS 5 Bars is using the Teko DAS platform of products from JMA Wireless; according to 5 Bars both AT&T and Verizon will be active on the DAS on Oct. 2. On the Wi-Fi side, 5 Bars used gear from Wi-Fi supplier Ruckus Wireless. The Wi-Fi network will be free to all fans at the stadium.

UPDATE: The folks at Ruckus have an well detailed press release about the Angel Stadium deployment that is worth reading through.