Cisco inks deal for Wi-Fi 6 network, Cisco Vision system at SoFi Stadium

SoFi Stadium

Aerial view of ongoing construction at SoFi Stadium, future home of the NFL’s Rams and Chargers. Credit: LA Rams/Mark Holtzman, West Coast Aerial Photography, Inc.

Cisco announced today that it will supply gear for a Wi-Fi 6 network at SoFi Stadium, the future home of the Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers, along with a deployment of its Cisco Vision IPTV display management system.

In an announcement that identifies Cisco as the “official IT network services partner of SoFi Stadium and Hollywood Park,” the networking company said it is slated to install “more than 2,500 Wi-Fi 6 access points” inside the still under-construction stadium, which is scheduled to open ahead of the 2020 NFL season. Hollywood Park, which is being built by Los Angeles Rams owner and chairman Stan Kroenke, is billed as a “298-acre global sports and entertainment destination,” being built on the site of the old Hollywood Park racetrack in Inglewood, to the south and west of downtown L.A. (and on the flight path in to LAX airport).

While Cisco claims that the all-Wi-Fi 6 network will eventually deliver “four times greater capacity than the previous Wi-Fi standard,” it’s worthwhile to note that the benefits of Wi-Fi 6 won’t be realized until the phones in fans’ hands support the new system as well (most phones a year old or older do not have Wi-Fi 6 support). The good news is, many of the newer phones on the market, including the new Apple iPhone 11 line, do support Wi-Fi 6, so fans with newer phones should be able to see the better performance supported by Wi-Fi 6.

If the stadium itself does eventually use 2,500 or more APs it would be among the top if not at the top of the list of venues with the most APs. (We’d like to get a current count from AT&T Stadium before making any definitive calls on this issue.) According to the release, SoFi Stadium will seat approximately 70,000 fans, with capacity expandable up to around 100,000. In addition to Rams and Chargers home games, the stadium is already slated to host Super Bowl LVI in 2022, followed by the College Football National Championship Game in 2023, and the opening and closing ceremonies for the 2028 Summer Olympics.

On the Cisco Vision side, Cisco said the system will be the first all-4K version of Cisco Vision, and it will support “approximately 2,500 screens throughout SoFi Stadium’s concourses, suites, concessions, as well as across Hollywood Park.” The Cisco Vision IPTV display management system allows for centralized control of graphics and video content across all the connected screens.

‘Right opportunity’ led Rushton from IBM to LA Chargers job

Jim Rushton

Jim Rushton, who held one of the most high-profile jobs in the sports network business market as leader of the stadium-technology group at IBM, said it was a “once in a lifetime chance” at the “right opportunity” that led him to leave Big Blue to become the new chief revenue officer for the Los Angeles Chargers.

Rushton, who started his new job this week, spoke with Mobile Sports Report last week on the phone after what he described was a “whirlwind” of activity, which ended up with him at one of the top-level business spots for the former San Diego Chargers, who are in the midst of a move up the coast.

“The chance to help rebuild and evolve an NFL franchise in a market like Los Angeles doesn’t come up very often,” said Rushton. “It really was a once in a lifetime career opportunity.”

Part of that opportunity will be to help figure out how to remake the Chargers franchise as part of a joint tenant agreement at the yet-to-be-built new Los Angeles NFL stadium, a venue being built by LA Rams owner Stan Kroenke. Rushton said that fan data and anayltics will me a “massive part” of his new purview, and that as a partner in the stadium operations the Chargers will be part of “joint decisions” on technology matters inside the new venue.

Rushton, who held a similar position with the NFL’s Miami Dolphins before moving to IBM, said his post with the Chargers will have more responsibilities.

On his short but productive IBM tenure — during which IBM came from pretty much nowhere to becoming one of the leaders in the stadium-networking integration space — Rushton said he felt he was leaving the operation improved from its initial inception.

With IBM-led deployments at Texas A&M, Atlanta’s new Mercedes-Benz Stadium and the forthcoming LA Football Club venue leading the way, Rushton said IBM’s tech-integration business now has a “signficiant [deal] pipeline across the world.”

One of the more interesting features of Rushton’s new job is the fact that the Chargers will play home games the next two seasons at the StubHub Center, a 27,000-seat soccer stadium in Carson, Calif., that will become the NFL’s smallest venue starting this fall. Though it’s not clear whether or not the stadium will improve its technology offerings before the Chargers play, Rushton was excited by the prospect of a scaled-down experience.

“It’s going to be terrific — it’s like having only premium seats, because everything will be lower bowl,” Rushton said.