NFS wins $8 M judgement against SignalShare, and $5.7 M judgement against former SignalShare exec

Screen shot of nGage Fan Feed. Credit: SignalShare

UPDATE: Information added to original draft, since MSR now has copies of the actual court documents.

The drama surrounding the fraud charges leveled early last year against former Wi-Fi provider firm SignalShare seems to be reaching a conclusion, with court documents showing that NFS Leasing has been awarded $8 million in damages from SignalShare, and $5.7 million in damages from an ex-SignalShare exec.

To quickly recall the case, SignalShare, a company involved in bringing Wi-Fi networks and associated fan-experience apps to stadiums, was sued by NFS, an equipment leasing company, over a dispute involving allegedly fraudulent leases by SignalShare, and SignalShare’s default on an agreement to pay back money obtained through those leases. Originally NFS sought $7.8 million in damages.

According court documents that are also quoted in a Law 360 report, a judge in Massachussetts federal court granted summary judgement in NFS’ favor Wednesday, with an $8 million judgement against Signal Point Holdings Corp., a SignalShare subsidiary, and a $5.7 million judgement against former SignalShare exec Christopher Barnes. According to court documents, the judge also voided an attempt by SignalShare to move assets between other companies owned by the same owners as SignalShare.

To recap the original story — SignalShare had originally partnered with Wi-Fi gear vendor Extreme Networks on deployments for the Jacksonville Jaguars, the University of Maryland and the Detroit Red Wings, all apparently legitimate deals. SignalShare later touted its Live-Fi nGage suite, a system that was meant to combine content, analytics and advertising links to give venue owners and operators a turnkey method to improve fan engagement and perhaps increase revenue opportunities for large-venue Wi-Fi networks.

According to a previous Law360 story, the lawsuit from NFS Leasing claimed that SignalShare “began requesting financing from NFS for purchasing equipment for fictitious contracts,” using forged, altered and falsified documents for deals that didn’t exist. From that Law360 report, which quotes from the legal complaint:

“[SignalShare] would represent to NFS that it had entered into an agreement with a sports arena or team and would induce NFS to provide funding for the acquisition of the allegedly-needed equipment,” the complaint said.

SignalShare would provide fake or forged invoices for the equipment it allegedly ordered, or provide fictitious serial numbers for items allegedly purchased and installed in the fraudulent contracts, the complaint said.

Between May 20, 2014 and May 21, 2015, SignalShare conned NFS into advancing funds on 10 fraudulent lease transactions to the tune of $4.9 million, the complaint said.

Costanzo charged, then cleared

The case had several twists and turns along the way, including the charging and then exoneration of former SignalShare chief technical officer Joe Costanzo, who was one of the SignalShare execs personally named in the first lawsuit. Costanzo, who ran the technical operations of SignalShare, claimed he was misled by his own company and had filed counter-claims against NFS.

This past August court documents said that NFS Leasing had dismissed all of its claims against Costanzo “without costs to either party.” Costanzo, who had filed a counter-claim against NFS, also dismissed his action.

In the summer of 2016, NFS had announced an auction of SignalShare assets, including such entities as the network lease for providing Wi-Fi to the Golden State Warriors. However, that planned auction was cancelled when SignalShare filed for bankruptcy. Along the way, executives from Extreme Networks have continually refused to comment on any details of their partnership with SignalShare.

Stadium Tech Report: NBA, NHL teams deploying more Wi-Fi without league-wide help

Hoops and hockeySo who needs a league-wide stadium networking strategy, anyway? Neither the NBA nor the NHL has such a beast, but it doesn’t seem to be stopping the deployment of fan-facing Wi-Fi services that now reach almost every NBA arena and almost two-thirds of NHL venues.

That’s one of the main themes explored by our latest STADIUM TECH REPORT, the HOOPS AND HOCKEY ISSUE, now available for free download from our site. If you’re new to our site, our quarterly long-form reports are designed to give stadium and large public venue owners and operators a way to dig deep into the topic of stadium technology, via exclusive research and some profiles of successful stadium technology deployments.

We’d like to take a quick moment to thank our sponsors, which for this issue include Mobilitie, Crown Castle, SOLiD, CommScope, TE Connectivity, Extreme Networks, Aruba Networks, and JMA Wireless. Their generous sponsorship makes it possible for us to offer this content free of charge to our readers.

In this issue we take a look at NBA and NHL arenas, with profiles on how some of the leading teams and stadium owner/operators are using technology to improve the fan experience, even without a stated, public direction on stadium technology from their respective leagues. What did we discover? First, that the lack of such strategies may not be such a bad thing, with 24 out of 29 NBA venues and 19 out of 30 NHL venues all offering some comprehensive form of free fan-facing Wi-Fi.

And while the lack of a single strategic direction also means there’s a bit of chaos when it comes to picking technology or building a team app strategy, we also think that scramble could also be a bonus right now, providing more choice and competitive pricing as the industry starts to grow as a whole. Inside our 40-page-plus issue you’ll find four in-depth profiles of Wi-Fi and DAS networking deployments, and the kinds of things those deployments make possible, like greater granularity when it comes to knowing who the fans are. There’s also analysis on the situation from yours truly and some key thinking on DAS deployment strategies from industry thought leader Seth Buechley. Again, all this is yours for the free reading, just download your copy today!

Extreme, SignalShare team up to bring Wi-Fi to Detroit Red Wings’ Joe Louis Arena

Joe Louis Arena, Detroit. Credit all photos: Dave Reginek / Detroit Red Wings (click on any photo for larger image)

Joe Louis Arena, Detroit. Credit all photos: Dave Reginek / Detroit Red Wings (click on any photo for larger image)

Extreme Networks and SignalShare, which earlier this year collaborated to bring Wi-Fi networks to an NFL stadium and a college football stadium and basketball arena, have scored a new goal, teaming up to bring fan-facing Wi-Fi services to the Detroit Red Wings’ Joe Louis Arena.

Announced today, the deal trails the actual Wi-Fi network, which has been active at the 20.066-seat arena since at least earlier this month. According to Extreme Red Wings fans have already been consuming wireless data from the about 290 Wi-Fi access points currently installed in the venue, with a few more on the way as final network tuning takes place.

Tod Caflisch, director of information technology for the Red Wings, said there had been some previous attempts to bring Wi-Fi into the “Joe,” as it is known locally since opening in 1979, but those efforts didn’t pan out. The latest push, however, found what Caflisch called “an easy choice” in picking the Extreme/SignalShare team to bring Wi-Fi to the stadium, following similar tag-team deals this past year for networks at the Jacksonville Jaguars’ EverBank Field and the University of Maryland’s football and basketball facilities.

“Everybody who we talked to had nothing but great things to say” about the Extreme IdentiFi Wi-Fi technology platform, and its combination with SignalShare’s network optimization skills and its LiveFi audience engagement application. Though there is no mention in the press release about plans to use Extreme’s Purview analytics software or SignalShare’s new LiveFi nGage product suite, some of that may have to do with the fact that the current network at Joe Louis Arena is a bit of a stopgap solution, since the Red Wings are scheduled to move to a brand new home in time for the 2017 season.

Wi-Fi antennas at the "Joe" displaying the cleverly named SSID

Wi-Fi antennas at the “Joe” displaying the cleverly named SSID

From the sounds of happy collaboration that echoed through a joint phone call with representatives from the Red Wings, Extreme and SignalShare, it seems like this is a networking partnership that’s just getting started, with lots of promise for the future. Even though it is a bit of a stopgap network, the Wings are still looking to add features like instant replays and in-game contests via the YinzCam-developed app platform that the Red Wings currently have in use.

“We wanted to put in [a network] that would be economical and flexible, since we knew it was going to be short term,” Caflisch said. But in a few years, he joked, “we’re going to go from the Flintstones to the Jetsons” with the new arena. Extreme and SignalShare, he said, “are a very good group of people, who are interested in our specific solution. They made it easy to move forward with this.”

Norman Rice, senior vice president of corporate development for Extreme Networks, said bringing Wi-Fi to a closed-roof hockey arena was a little bit different project for Extreme, which has made its mark in big, open-air NFL stadium deployments that include Gillette Stadium in New England, Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field, and Seattle’s CenturyLink Field, among others.

Getting Wi-Fi seems a good reason to celebrate and toss an octopus or two

Getting Wi-Fi seems a good reason to celebrate and toss an octopus or two

“But we were able to work very closely with Tod and his team, and we are very pleased to be working with the Red Wings as our first NHL venue,” said Rice. He compared the Red Wings’ owners, the Ilitch family, to the Kraft family in New England, as holding an influential position among league owners, giving Extreme another “strategic reason” to pursue the Wi-Fi deal.

SignalShare founder Joe Costanzo said that he expects hockey crowds to behave in similar fashion to other crowds using mobile devices at large public venues, mainly spending time connecting with friends via social media. “I think it [the fan activity] will be true to what we see across other venues, mainly skewed toward social media,” Costanzo said. “We’ll learn more as we do the official launch.”

The Red Wings’ Caflisch has already started to learn about wireless fan activity at hockey games, which perhaps not surprisingly has shown peaks when the Zamboni is out clearing the ice. “There are also some noticeable [traffic] spikes right after the Wings score,” Caflisch said. “It’s kind of cool to see that.”