Networking solutions vendor Extreme Networks and solutions provider partner Carousel Industries see a major growth opportunity in implementing Wi-Fi technology at sports stadiums and the projects serve as high-profile examples of what's possible for wireless in the enterprise, the companies told CRN.
Executives from Extreme and Carousel, No. 61 on the 2017 CRN Solution Provider 500, spoke Tuesday during the 2017 Patriots Mobility Summit at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., home of the New England Patriots. Extreme and Carousel completed a major upgrade of Gillette's Wi-Fi system about a year ago, with the first-ever implementation of Wave 2 wireless technology in a stadium.
Carousel, which Extreme named its "Top Solution Selling Provider" of 2016, has also partnered with Extreme on implementations including New Era Field (home of the Buffalo Bills) and the KeyBank Center (home of the Buffalo Sabres).
Extreme has been a partner of the NFL since 2014 and has deployed its ExtremeWireless solution at 10 NFL stadiums, including the site of this past season's Super Bowl, NRG Stadium in Houston. San Jose, Calif.-based Extreme says its wireless solutions are specially designed for high-density environments such as stadiums.
Exeter, R.I.-based Carousel expects to continue working closely with Extreme to pursue the stadium Wi-Fi opportunity going forward, said Dan Tassone, vice president of sales for the Eastern Region at Carousel.
In terms of stadium projects, "quite a few others are in the bidding process now," Tassone told CRN. "For us it's really become a model. Division 1 schools, Division 2 schools – there's definitely an opportunity to also improve that experience."
For large stadiums such as Gillette, which seats nearly 67,000, "the solutions are typically bigger, larger in scale, a little bit more complex," said Mark Moretti, vice president of infrastructure and security at Carousel. "So there is definitely a market for it, and we're going after our fair share of opportunities in that market space."
Utilization by fans has been strong so far, said Jim Nolan, chief operating officer of the New England Patriots, during a keynote at the Patriots Mobility Summit. Along with using social media and replaying plays from the game, popular uses of the Wi-Fi include accessing the Patriots Gameday Live app, which offers useful real-time information such as nearby restrooms with the shortest wait times.
Nolan said that during the Patriots' AFC Championship Game with the Pittsburgh Steelers in January, the Wi-Fi system served 39,000 unique users, with peak usage of 30,000 fans at one time.
"We were servicing well over 50 percent of the fans in our building. Without the partnership with Extreme, we wouldn't be able to deliver that value," Nolan said.
The successful implementation at Gillette and other stadium bodes well for bringing the technology to other industries, said John Brams, director of sports, entertainment and hospitality at Extreme Networks.
For solutions such as high-density Wi-Fi and analytics, "if you can do it in this environment, we're very confident we can do it in a hospital or higher education environment, and spread it to other verticals," Brams said. "To us this is really a proving ground to showcase the technology."
As with the original Gillette Wi-Fi implementation in 2012, and then the update in 2016, the "best practices" from the implementations have made their way into the enterprise in the following years, Brams said.
"What we install in these environments is literally a preview of what we're going to be doing in enterprise environments," he said.