More Wi-Fi consolidation as Riverbed acquires Xirrus

Network management company Riverbed announced a definitive agreement to acquire Wi-Fi provider Xirrus, for an undisclosed fee. The move is just the latest in a string of acquisitions of standalone Wi-Fi companies, following Hewlett Packard’s purchase of Aruba in 2015 and the journeys of Ruckus Wireless, which was first bought by Brocade and is now on its way to being a part of Arris.

While Riverbed said it would continue to offer Xirrus’ Wi-Fi products as a standalone business, its interest in Xirrus’ Wi-Fi technology is most likely in the enterprise office market. While nowhere near the size of players like Cisco or Aruba in the stadium wireless networking arena, Xirrus did have some wins in the space, including deals where its equipment was resold by Avaya. More as we hear more on the deal.

MSR Report: State of the Stadium Technology Survey

state_of_stadium_128What is the “state of the stadium” when it comes to technology deployment? That is what we here at Mobile Sports Report set out to discover when we launched our inaugural “State of the Stadium” Technology Survey, in conjunction with our partner the SEAT Consortium, hosts of the recent SEAT 2013 conference in Kansas City.

With more than 50 respondents representing arenas that host the top professional league teams, including the NFL, Major League Baseball, the NBA, the NHL, as well as top U.S. university facilities for basketball and football, European and U.S. professional soccer teams, professional golf and car-racing venues the State of the Stadium Technology Survey provides, we think, the first real statistical snapshot of how teams are deploying technology to both improve the fan experience while helping increase business opportunities. The survey covers deployment and planning decisions for several stadium technology categories, including Wi-Fi, DAS, Digital Signage, Sports Digital Marketing, Sports CRM, and Sports Social Media. You can download a copy of the survey for free, at this link.

What did we discover? Simply, all survey respondents and interviewees were in violent agreement that advanced technologies, especially those involving wireless communications, would be the key to an enhanced fan experience and a bigger roster of business opportunities for stadium owners and operators. Yet for most of the industry, it is still early in the game when it comes to actual stadium technology deployments, as rollout schedules are still paced by the reality of budgetary and situational constraints, a list that often spans from geographic and facility-construction concerns to complexities of partnerships and rights agreements. So the era of the connected stadium is well on its way, but not quite here just yet.

There is a general feeling of a need to move quickly to solve the most pressing problems, while taking time on longer-term and bigger-ticket deployments to ensure the correct choice of technology at the right price with the right return on investment. These findings were confirmed at this week’s SEAT Conference, which we were invited to attend, and we’ll be sharing more stories from SEAT speakers and thought leaders in the following weeks. The best place to start, though, is by downloading the report to get a level-set on what is happening at the biggest facilities out there today.

Free download of the report is made possible by our report sponsors, SOLiD Technologies and Xirrus. We would also like to thank Christine Stoffel and Chris Dill from SEAT, as well as the SEAT attendee organizations who participated in the survey.

Wi-Fi Whispers: Giants Double Wi-Fi Access Points, Add Charging Stations at AT&T Park

SFG_ATT_parkThe San Francisco Giants are making a case for keeping thier unofficial title of having the best wireless networked ballpark by doubling the number of wireless access points and adding mobile-device charging stations at AT&T Park for the 2013 season.

Already easily one of the best un-wired sporting arenas, the home field for the 2012 World Series champs isn’t resting on its tech laurels. According to an email from Giants CIO Bill Schlough, “the Giants and AT&T Wi-Fi Services are more than doubling the number of access points at the ballpark (760) to stay ahead of demand from our increasingly connected fan base.” Schlough said the Wi-Fi network at AT&T Park hosted 980,000 gameday connections during the 2012 season, up 90% from 2011. Total data usage, Schlouh said, increased by 140 percent over the previous year, with more than 16 million megabytes sent over the AT&T Wi-Fi network during the Giants’ regular and playoff seasons.

To better serve fans who probably burn out batteries sending tweets and Vine videos, the Giants and AT&T are helping make sure nobody has to crouch down by a concourse wall, looking for an outlet mid-game. According to Schlough, fans at AT&T Park will have access to more than 400 mobile device chargers throughout the stadium, with 10 mobile kiosks capable of charging 16 devices each. And perhaps most importantly, the Giants will keep their highest-paying customers well-charged, with four device chargers in each suite.

Schlough also gave us a Giants’ point of view on the announcement last week about Qualcomm and Major League Baseball “working together” to bring more Wi-Fi networks to MLB parks. While we cynically tweeted that such deals don’t mean much without monetary figures attached (I mean, the best way to bring Wi-Fi to the ballparks that don’t have them is to BUILD NETWORKS), Schlough said the Qualcomm deal would only help build better networks.

In an email reply to a question about how the Qualcomm-MLBAM deal might affect the Giants, Schlough responded: “We’ve actually been working with Qualcomm and MLB Advanced Media to benchmark the work that AT&T has done here with our Wi-Fi and 3G/LTE DAS networks, in hopes that this we can A) identify specific areas within the ballpark to be targeted for continued improvement and B) potentially serve as the model that other ballparks can follow.”

Charging stations sound like another good step in the fans’ direction. Now if only airports and convention centers would follow suit.

Xirrus Brings Wi-Fi to Liverpool FC

Our friends at Xirrus scored another big stadium deal for their new-era Wi-Fi networking gear, bringing wireless services to Anfield Stadium, the home of the club since its formation in 1892. Here’s a good writeup on the deal from TechWorld. We are guessing the ability for Xirrus’s antennas to cover more space and provide more capacity per access point was a selling plus for the ancient Anfield Stadium; here’s the official press release about the win.

ExteNet Bags Four Major Carriers for Barclays Center DAS

On the DAS (distributed antenna system) front the folks at ExteNet Systems scored a major win for their network at the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn. ExteNet, which builds DAS networks to improve in-building cellular connections, signed agreements with the big 4 U.S. wireless carriers — AT&T Wireless, Verizon Wireless, Sprint and MetroPCS — for the Barclays DAS, meaning that all the carriers will pay ExteNet to help bring better signals to their customers inside the arena.

Signing all four is a huge win for ExteNet, whose strategy of building “neutral DAS” networks and then acting as the middleman seems to be paying off not just for ExteNet, but also for cellular customers. By picking ExteNet, Barclays is putting the fan experience above the potential income of a single-carrier “exclusive” deal. Let’s hope more stadiums think of ExteNet and other neutral DAS players first, instead of deals that leave two thirds of the cellular users without better connections.

MSR Launches First ‘e-Report,’ an In-Depth Look at ‘The Connected Event Dilemma’

It’s no secret to any cell phone user that finding a good signal at a big sporting event is sometimes a challenge. But what exactly are the reasons behind why it’s hard to bring wireless access to crowded places? And what are the business opportunities for stadium and event operators, application developers and sports marketers once high-quality wireless is installed?

The answers to those questions and more can be found in The Connected Event Dilemma, the first in-depth “e-report” from Mobile Sports Report. Available as a free download thanks to a sponsorship from Wi-Fi gear vendor Xirrus Inc., our completely objective report (meaning, the sponsor did not control our research or reporting) looks at the dilemma faced by many operators of big events that draw lots of connected attendees — how do you best bring Internet access to the crowd, and what are the benefits of doing so?

In a nutshell, the report explains why traditional cellular infrastructures can’t handle the current and expected future demands of the connected fan, and why high quality Wi-Fi is needed to keep up with the rapid advancements in personal digital device technology, and fans’ desires to stay connected and to share experiences while at large public events. But there’s lots more in the 11 pages of editorial goodness, including explanations about:

– How fan behavior has recently shifted to include heavy use of wireless devices while at big events or games
– Why the current regular cellular infrastructure can’t keep up with big-event demands
– What leading teams and stadium organizations are doing to address their wireless Internet access needs, now
– How you and your organization can start crafting a plan to ensure your stadium, event or other large public space isn’t left behind

This report is designed for readers who may be part of a stadium or event ownership group, or developers, investors and entrepreneurs looking to break into the rapidly growing space of stadium- and event-focused apps. It is also a great primer for sports marketers who need to get quickly up to speed on the “connected event” trend. And the great thing is — it’s free to you for just filling out a quick contact form.

We should have a version available for Kindles fairly soon, but you can download the PDF today. Please do so and let us know what you find interesting or missing from the first of what we hope is many long-form reports.

Xirrus Gets Yellow Jersey for Successful Tour de France Mobile Wi-Fi Network

That white circular thing at upper right is a Xirrus wireless array, doing its duty in a Tour de France press room. Credit: Xirrus.

Just like Britain’s Bradley Wiggins, Wi-Fi gear vendor Xirrus had a pretty good Tour de France, as its wireless arrays finished off a successful string of supporting the demanding needs of the world’s media during the 21-stage event.

According to a Xirrus press release, the company supplied its gear to French wireless supplier Orange, which delivered Internet access to the race’s start and finish areas, a challenging task that involved quick setup and teardown in the host cities. The Xirrus release said that its network for Orange supported “125 TV broadcasters, 2,300 journalists, 70 radio stations, and 450 newspapers transferring enormous amounts of media-rich files from the Tour’s Start Village, Timing Locations, Sprint Locations, Media Centers, and Finish Lines.”

If you’re not familiar with the demands of sport media, the still cameras alone at a big event like the Tour de France can account for millions of megapixels. Typically the photographers, who spend most of race days on motorcycles, decamp at the finish line press tents and start immediately downloading huge files of photos to their main offices, where the images are posted on web sites or readied for print publications. And they are just a subset of the throng of local broadcasters, national and international print writers and radio commentators who all need big broadband pipes to get their information from race site to website.

That’s where Xirrus and Orange came in, designing a highly mobile network infrastructure that featured Xirrus’ modular access points, which can be configured with more radios as are needed to handle bandwidth demands. That Xirrus was as up to the task as Wiggins and all the other riders who traversed the race’s thousands of kilometers was proven in part by the money quote from the apparently satisfied client, Henri Terreaux, Events Projects Manager at the French Operation Division of Orange:

“Orange is focused on providing the Tour de France, NBC Sports, government dignitaries, and thousands of media professionals during the race with reliable, high-performance wireless connectivity. Xirrus makes it easy to support the thousands of devices, simultaneously transferring large amounts of video and photo files through a robust network that, due to the race, must be redeployed on a daily basis, across 21 cities, in extreme environments. The array-based platform is the most powerful and trusted solution we’ve tested, and very quick to set-up.”

Here are some more details on the Xirrus blog.