Everest going solo in Wi-Fi equipment market

Everest Wi-Fi APs (lower left, middle right) mounted underneath an overhang at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. Credit: Panasonic (click on any photo for a larger image)

Once a very tightly coupled part of electronics giant Panasonic, Everest Networks is now going solo in its pursuit of market share in the competitive arena for sports stadium and large public venue Wi-Fi deployments.

Though Everest representatives claimed that business is normal and usual, the emergence of Everest as a standalone company is a recent thing, even according to news clips posted on the company website. There, reports of some recent customer wins and news accounts of a high-traffic showing at an Everest-powered network at the Philadelphia Eagles’ Lincoln Financial Field all refer to the equipment as being from Panasonic, or as “The Everest Network Solution by Panasonic,” as a Panasonic press release describes it.

Apparently a recent reorganization at Panasonic caused the change in the marketing structure around the Everest product line; the products themselves have drawn interest in the stadium Wi-Fi market for their advertised ability to provide wider and deeper coverage patterns than other existing products.

Though Everest COO Simon Wright said in a phone interview Friday that “nothing has changed from a product perspective” and that the relationship between Panasonic and the Everest product is “exactly the same,” according to several sources the internal reorganization has eliminated multiple jobs inside Panasonic related to Everest, and caused the formation of the standalone Everest entity, which according to Wright’s own LinkedIn profile happened just last month. According to Wright, the headquarters office is in Santa Clara, Calif., is “within sight” of the San Francisco 49ers’ Levi’s Stadium.

New models, new deals?

While the explanation about the change of business direction from the Panasonic side will have to wait — Panasonic has not yet replied to our inquiries — according to Wright the Everest business is looking good, with new models coming out as well as some new (yet unannounced) customer wins in the near-term pipeline. According to Wright one of the new products is a Wi-Fi AP that can send a signal 300 feet, an attractive option for stadiums and venues with high overhangs that need to reach distant seats. One of the advantages touted by Panasonic and now Everest is that its APs include multiple radios, reducing the amount of actual hardware that venues may need to deploy.

New Everest logo from the company website

However, no Everest stadium customers have as of yet agreed to allow any up-close testing or provided any detailed season-long performance metrics. While team officials at the Philadelphia Eagles have provided praise for the Everest gear in press releases, they have not yet answered requests for live interviews. John Spade, CTO for the NHL’s Florida Panthers and BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla., has tweeted favorably about a Panasonic/Everest deployment at the arena whose networks he oversees, and said in subsequent messages that he hopes the equipment line will continue.

According to Wright, the path ahead for Everest is a typical one for a startup, with hiring and funding tasks part of the mix. While he would not provide a total of funding that Everest has to operate, or how many members it has on its team, he did say that Panasonic remains a major investor and will continue to resell and promote the product line.

“They [Panasonic] just secured a major contract for us,” Wright claimed. “They will continue to be an important partner for us.”

Cranes, dust dominate Los Angeles venue sites

Three Los Angeles-areas venues are under construction for soccer, football and the 2028 Summer Olympics.

Workers install turf at the Banc of California Stadium (click on any photo for a larger image)

Between the cranes, earthmovers and swarms of fluorescent vests, you’d be forgiven for mistaking the Los Angeles basin for a construction zone. Sporting-wise, there are three construction zones, including a new stadium for a Major League Soccer latest expansion franchise, the venerable Coliseum gets a much needed renovation, and a bling-y NFL stadium starts to emerge from the silt of the Angeles alluvial plain.

Construction or renovation plans for all the venues were underway before the International Olympic Committee awarded the 2028 Summer Games to Los Angeles last fall; all three venues are expected to host Olympic events in a decade.

Banc of California Stadium opening this April

Editor’s note: This profile is an excerpt from our latest STADIUM TECH REPORT issue for Spring 2018, which includes a look at Wi-Fi performance during the Final Four, a recap of wireless performance at Super Bowl 52, a profile of the Vegas Golden Knights’ T-Mobile Arena and more! DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE COPY right now from our site!

Let’s take them in the order they’re expected to open. In its inaugural season, Major League Soccer’s newest franchise, Los Angeles Football Club, is moving with speed and efficiency to make sure the Banc of California Stadium is ready for LAFC’s first home game April 29.

The 22,000-seat venue features steep stands (35-degree angles), with no seat more than 135 feet from the playing field. IBM was tapped to handle the stadium’s technology requirements in October 2016; Ruckus supplied the access points for the new stadium, according to Christian Lau, LAFC’s VP of information technology. About 500 APs will blanket the stadium with Wi-Fi; Lau told Mobile Sports Report that number could “possibly trend higher.”

Construction at the LA Coliseum

Right next door (literally) is the Los Angeles Coliseum, where demolition began in January after the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams playoff loss to Atlanta. Located on the campus of the University of Southern California, the Coliseum is home field for both the Rams (at least til 2020… more on that in a second), and the USC Trojan football team. The Coliseum has already hosted opening ceremonies for two Olympiads and is poised to do the honors again.

Coliseum upgrade means fewer seats, more Wi-Fi

In the meantime, construction crews are working 16 hours a day, six days a week, according to Derek Thatcher, IT manager at the Coliseum and an employee of USC, which oversees and administers the venue for Los Angeles County. This is the eighth renovation of the 97-year old venue; in addition to making the bowl ADA-compliant, this latest upgrade will add more aisles and larger seats, reducing capacity from 93,607 to 77,500.

New Wi-Fi is also part of the renovation plan; no word yet on which vendor will supply gear, though Mobilitie donated Aruba APs last year for use in the student section and elsewhere in the bowl.

About half the Coliseum’s $270 million renovation will be done during this year’s football offseason; a new field and refurbished seats will be ready for the Rams and Trojans by late summer. Remaining construction and upgrades will be completed in the 2019 offseason, according to Coliseum officials.

Meanwhile, 9 miles southwest of USC in the LA suburb of Inglewood, the arcs of a bowl for the Los Angeles Sports and Entertainment District at Hollywood Park
are taking shape. Construction crews broke ground in late 2016 to transform a 300-acre site into a gleaming new sporting destination. The $2.6 billion complex will be shared by the Rams and the Los Angeles Chargers starting in 2020; LA Stadium is scheduled host the Super Bowl in February 2022.

With a capacity of 70,000 (expandable to 100,000), the stadium’s indoor/outdoor design and a two-sided, 120-yard oculus video display are already generating buzz. Site managers haven’t mentioned any network technology or which vendors they’re considering for wireless and other IT requirements. LA’s Olympic planning committee also reserved the option to use the stadium and the Coliseum for dual-venue opening and closing ceremonies in 2028. Using the Coliseum satisfies the Olympic purists; mixing in LA Stadium would provide the glitzy spectacle global audiences have come to expect from Olympics hosts.

New Report: Wi-Fi scores at Final Four, Vegas Knights get more Wi-Fi, and more!

A live in-person report of the Wi-Fi network performance at this year’s Final Four is just the beginning of our latest STADIUM TECH REPORT, the ONLY in-depth publication created specifically for the stadium technology professional and the stadium technology marketplace.

Mobile Sports Report traveled this spring to San Antonio, Texas, to get a firsthand look at the new networks installed at the venerable Alamodome, including one new permanent Wi-Fi deployment and another specifically tailored for the temporary courtside seats the NCAA brings in for its crown jewel event of the men’s basketball season.

Download our free report to get the details on how this network was able to deliver a superb wireless experience to the almost 70,000 fans in attendance.

The report from San Antonio, however, is just the beginning of our content-rich Spring 2018 issue, which also contains another in-person review, this one of the updated Wi-Fi network at T-Mobile Arena, the home-ice castle for the NHL’s newest sensation, the Vegas Golden Knights. Prompted by the team’s somewhat unexpected on-ice success, the quick network upgrade is a great lesson on how to respond to fan-experience demands. And it’s all explained in the STADIUM TECH REPORT.

More Wi-Fi for Vegas Knights, new construction in LA

There’s also a profile of the new network that was part of the refurbishment of Minneapolis’ Target Center, home of the NBA’s Timberwolves, as well as a look at some innovative marketing programs combining digital signage and Wi-Fi for greater fan engagement. Our Terry Sweeney also provides a look at new venue construction and old venue remodels in Los Angeles, and we also have a full recap of the record-breaking Wi-Fi and DAS traffic at this year’s Super Bowl at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis — all available for free download from our site!

We’d like to take a quick moment to thank our sponsors, which for this issue include Mobilitie, JMA Wireless, Corning, Huber+Suhner, Cox Business, Boingo, Oberon and Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company. Their generous sponsorship makes it possible for us to offer this content free of charge to our readers.

Wrigley Field gets new DAS in time for Cubs’ home opener

The Chicago Cubs’ Wrigley Field will have a new DAS working for opening day. Credit for these 2017 season pictures: Paul Kapustka, MSR (click on any photo for a larger image)

After some construction delays that no Chicago Cubs fans minded, the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field will have a new high-performance distributed antenna system (DAS) operational for Monday’s scheduled Cubs home opener for the 2018 season.

Designed and deployed by DAS Group Professionals, the new in-stadium cellular network was originally scheduled to be ready by last year; but when the Cubs took their historic march to the World Series title in 2016, many of the in-progress construction plans for Wrigley Field got delayed or rearranged, to the objection of nobody at all who cheers for the north siders.

And even though some of the most ambitious parts of the Wrigley renovation took place this winter — including removing most of the seats and concrete in the lower seating bowl to clear the way for some lower-level club spaces — the DGP crew along with the Cubs’ IT organization delivered the new cell network in time for the first pitches scheduled Monday afternoon.

Wi-Fi coming in as season goes on

“We definitely put scheduling and timing to the test, but we got it done,” said Andrew McIntyre, vice president of technology for the Chicago Cubs, in a phone interview. First announced back in 2015, the networking plan for the Wrigley renovations — which includes coverage for the plaza outside the stadium, the new team office building as well as the across-the-street Hotel Zachary that also just opened for business — also includes a new Wi-Fi network using gear from Extreme Networks. Since the Wi-Fi network is more construction-conflicted than the DAS deployment, it will be introduced gradually over the next few months, McIntyre said.

“By the All-Star break, we should have both systems online,” McIntyre said.

The DAS system deployed by DGP uses JMA equipment, just like DGP’s other big-stadium DAS deployments at the San Francisco 49ers’ Levi’s Stadium and the Sacramento Kings’ Golden 1 Center. Steve Dutto, president of DGP, acknowledged the challenge of the Wrigley buildout, including one instance where DGP technicians needed to set up scaffolding to mount antennas but couldn’t because instead of a concrete floor there was a 60-foot hole in the ground.

Hey hey!

“We worked around all that and got it done,” said Dutto. According to Dutto DGP has signed up all four major U.S. wireless carriers for the DAS, with all except Sprint operational for opening day. The head-end building for the DAS, he said, is located in what he thinks is a former hot-dog stand a half a block from the park. (If you’re looking for a snack in the head end room, just remember, in Chicago there’s no ketchup on hot dogs.)

Dutto said the DAS antennas are all overhead mounts, not a problem in Wrigley since the overhangs offer plenty of mounting spaces. However, given the historic look and feel of the park, Dutto did say that “we definitely had to tuck things away better and make sure we had good paint matches.” Not a Chicago native, Dutto said that the charm of the stadium hit him on first view.

“When we pulled up for the first time,” he said, “it was… wow. There’s nothing like it.”

Under seat for Wi-Fi will take time to deploy

The Cubs’ McIntyre, who admits to guzzling coffee by the quart these days, said the field-level renovations — which included removing all lower seats and the foundational concrete to clear out room for field-level club spaces — made finishing the Wi-Fi deployment something that couldn’t be pushed. With no overhangs covering the premium box seat areas, Wi-Fi APs there will need to be mounted under seats, something that just couldn’t get finished by Monday.

“It’s less of a technical challenge and more of a structural engineering challenge,” said McIntyre of the under-seat deployment method, which usually involves a lot of work with drilling through concrete and mounting APs in weather-sealed enclosures. McIntyre said the Cubs and Extreme also plan to use under-seat deployments in Wrigley’s famous outfield bleachers, which also lack any overhead infrastructure. In what he termed a “slow roll,” McIntyre said parts of the Wi-Fi network will come online gradually as the season progresses, starting first with the spaces outside the stadium.

Bringing backbone power to the new network is partner Comcast Business, which just announced a sponsorship deal with the Cubs that will see a “XfinityWiFi@Wrigley” label on the Wrigley Wi-Fi SSID. According to McIntyre Comcast will bring in twin 10-Gbps pipes to power the Wrigley Wi-Fi network.

This panoramic view shows why the lower level seats will need under-seat APs for Wi-fi

Wi-Fi scores like Villanova during Final Four at Alamodome

Confetti rains down from the scoreboard after Villanova beat Michigan in this year’s Final Four championship game at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. Credit all photos: Paul Kapustka, MSR (Click on any photo for a larger image)

SAN ANTONIO, Texas — The new and temporary Wi-Fi networks inside the Alamodome were as hot as national champion Villanova Monday night, with many speedtest marks in the 50-60 Mbps range for both download and upload throughout many points in the stadium.

We’ll have more details and perhaps some final tonnage numbers coming soon, but before we crash late night here in the Alamo city, where Mobile Sports Report was live in attendance at Monday night’s championship game of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, we wanted to share some impressive stats we saw while logging numerous steps up and down the sections of the venerable Alamodome before and during Villanova’s 79-62 victory over Michigan.

It was a pretty packed house with 67,831 in attendance Monday night, and for Wi-Fi it really was a tale of two networks: One, for the fixed or permanent seating in the football-sized facility, and another for the temproary network that serviced the wide expanse of floor seating brought in by the NCAA for its crown jewel event of men’s hoops. With about 200-plus Wi-Fi APs serving the closest seating sections, we still saw some super-healthy speedtest readings, like one of 55.9 Mbps download and 58.7 Mbps upload in the north stands in row DD, just past the band section and media sections behind the north hoop.

A good look at the court from the north end on the 300 level concourse

At center court on the side where the network broadcast teams sit, we got a speedtest of 34.3 Mbps down and 34.3 Mbps up in row JJ of section 112. Since we thought we heard Jim Nantz calling our name during pregame activities we scrambled down to row J, but Jim was called away before we could confirm his question. Instead we took a speed test there in the celeb seats and got an official mark of 1.65 Mbps / 7.61 Mbps, but did see a 10 Mbps download mark appear on a second test before the speedtest app encountered an error.

As far as we could tell, whatever designer and deployer AmpThink did for the on-floor seats it seemed to work pretty well. But as we are writing this that network is being dismantled, perhaps not to be used again until next year’s men’s Final Four, scheduled to take place at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

Handrail enclosures and Gillaroos

Up in the permanent seats, the network AmpThink installed during a permanent renovation of the Alamodome earlier also performed well, even in some of the hardest places to reach. At the top of the lower-bowl seating section, where MSR took a peanut break in the first half (since our media seat was, ironicially, the only place in the stadium where we couldn’t get any kind of a Wi-Fi connection) we got a mark of 65.6 Mbps / 62.5 Mbps.

A handrail Wi-Fi AP enclosure in one of the higher seating sections.

But even when we climbed into serious nosebleed country — and we do mean climb since the Alamodome has no escalators anywhere for fans — we still got good Wi-Fi connectivity, thanks in part to some handrail AP enclosures we saw above the VOMs leading to the top-section seats, and some Gillaroo antennas on the upper back walls pointing down. Above the VOM leading to section 343 in the stadium’s northwest corner we got a mark of 30.5 Mbps / 20.8 Mbps, and up near the roof in row 22 of section 342 we still got a mark of 17.5 Mbps / 9.84.

Other places where coverage really shined was in the stairwells and on the concourses; along the top-level 300 section concourse we got a pregame mark of 57.1 Mbps / 58.2 Mbps even as crowds chanting “Go Blue!” and “Nova Nation!” made traffic an elbow-to-elbow affair. In another stairwell, we stopped to catch our breath and got a speed test of 64.9 Mbps / 68.2 Mbps.

Overall, the permanent and temporary networks seemed to have performed well under the pressure of a bucket-list event, the kind where fans roam the concourses during pregame with phones overhead, taking videos to be shared later. According to Nicholas Langella, general manager for the Alamodome, there were 12,500 unique connections to the Wi-Fi during Saturday’s semifinal games and another 12,300 connections during Monday’s championship game. On the DAS side of things, AT&T reported 2 terabytes of data used on their network during Saturday’s semifinals, and another 1.1 TB used during Monday’s game. We are still waiting for other carriers to report DAS numbers, as well as for final total Wi-FI usage numbers. For now enjoy some more photos from our visit.


Approaching the Alamodome from the freeway

A good look at how the NCAA floor seats extend out in the end zone area

Another look at the floor seating sections, this time along courtside

Courtside is selfie city

Gillaroos on overhangs in the permanent seating section

Zoomed in for a good look at the court

The human eye view from the same spot

Picture taking is the primary activity pregame

In case you forgot which event you came to see

SEAT founder launches venue business-strategy firm

Christine Stoffel

Christine Stoffel, founder of the popular SEAT conference, has banded together with some top sports & entertainment industry executives to form The Executive Advocates (TEA), a venue business-strategy consulting firm with a wide menu of potential services.

Joining Stoffel in the founding of TEA are partners Katee Panter and Douglas Moss; Denise Taylor, CIO for Westfield Inc., will serve as an advisory board member to TEA.

The 20-year technology veteran Panter, who was most recently senior vice president of enterprise technology for New York icon venue Madison Square Garden, said in a prepared statement that “TEA’s mission will enable businesses to derive value from their people and technology investments.” According to the press release announcing the firm, TEA’s service offerings include: executive recruitment and placement, strategic technology roadmap consulting, tech solution and design, real estate-technology project management and financial oversight, all based on “insights & research from years of technical and executive leadership.”

“TEA are the voices of industry leaders brought together to support organizations with transparency, integrity and candor,” said Stoffel, in a prepared statement. “We are championing the drive for excellence from the top down, in every organization starting with executive recruitment through providing consultancy expertise on experiential technology solutions and design. It’s exciting to bring these offerings to our industry peers, colleagues and friends across the globe with this talented group.”

Venue consulting firms on the rise

Moss, a 30-year veteran of the sports and entertainment industry, has a resume that includes serving as president of the Buffalo Sabres, Phoenix Coyotes and International Hockey League, senior vice president of business operations for the Anaheim Ducks and president of Madison Square Garden Network.

“I look forward to be working with [the TEAM team] and our colleagues around the globe as we continue of journey of connecting technology, business and people,” Moss said.

The launch of TEA follows another recent high-profile gathering of minds in the venue consulting arena. A firm called 27/17 Innovations was formed by former Corning and IBM executive Todd Christner, calling itself in part “a firm focused on the end-user experience as the sustainable source of competitive differentiation, regardless of industry.” May the battles for RFPs begin!