It’s pretty incredible (and a little overwhelming) when you think about the stadium technology that’s been unveiled in the last decade or two.

Ten years ago, were we talking about Internet of Things, big data, 5G and WiFi 6? It’s safe to say that most of us weren’t. Was your cell phone connected 24/7 to the Internet? Mine wasn’t – yours probably wasn’t, either.

 How quickly times change: Today, due in part to these emerging technologies, mobile and wireless coverage have become as vital as a utility – just as important in our daily lives as water, electricity and gas. Without connectivity, it’s hard to get anything done and many of our systems can’t work properly.

 As we look to the future, bandwidth demands will only increase. And as they do, new capabilities and infrastructure will be needed to support them. For this reason, more fiber cable is being deployed because of its unlimited bandwidth potential, built-in security, immunity to EMI/RFI noise and ability to handle vast amounts of traffic.

Infrastructure transformation is already taking place in three key areas:

  1. Stadiums and entertainment venues
  2. Broadcast environments
  3. Data centers

These environments are beginning to rely more heavily on fiber to ensure dependable, always-on wired and wireless connectivity.

In a series of blogs over the next few months, we’ll take a closer look at what’s happening inside these environments to drive the need for fiber. First up: We’re talking stadium technology.

The innovations being unveiled in these venues are game-changing, connecting users to brand new experiences – but they’re also placing huge demands on wired infrastructure. They require a robust fiber network that can accommodate a densely packed, data-hungry venue.

1. More People, More Devices

In stadiums, arenas and entertainment venues, wireless networks are connecting growing numbers of people and the devices they carry to unlimited data.

Fans now expect to stream media, download and upload content and interact with people inside and outside the venue. Bandwidth demands have gone through the roof. At last year’s Super Bowl (Super Bowl LIII), a record 24 TB of data were transferred within the stadium. Fans also heavily interacted with social media during the game (2.83 TB of social data were transferred, which is an increase of eight percent over Super Bowl LII.

Thanks to IoT, stadium technology also includes layers of devices that aren’t controlled or managed by people. Rows of connected video screens feature impressive views and stats. Other devices like POS systems and surveillance cameras connect directly to the network, too, and can operate without manual intervention. Embedded sensors within the devices capture and relay data over networks in real time; that data is used to make adjustments that improve processes and experiences.

This increase in network traffic calls for a fiber backbone that can manage steady increases in data without hiccups, delays, drops or slowdowns.

2. 5G Cellular Connectivity

In the past, entering a stadium often meant leaving connectivity at the door. Not that long ago, it sometimes could be extremely difficult to use mobile devices to interact with people inside and outside the stadium due to overload. Calls and texts often didn’t go through. Today, fans expect the same service they’re used to everywhere else.

 Traditional coverage solutions don’t always scale well to provide digital and mobile services in these large venues. 5G cellular is set to change that – and is another driving force behind the shift to fiber in stadium technology. This fall, Verizon launched 5G in 13 NFL stadiums to enhance game-day experiences (only in parts of seating areas– not across entire venues).

 Once it has legs, 5G capabilities are set to significantly improve data capacity and throughput, bringing faster speeds, better performance and more reliable mobile service. 5G offerings will enhance employee and customer experiences, improve safety and streamline building operations.

3. Fans Relying on Exclusive Content

We have an abundance of entertainment at our fingertips; our devices always compete for our time and attention. The most successful sports venues are using this to their advantage.

When fans attend, they now expect to be entertained beyond what’s happening on the field or court. Simply watching a game is no longer enough. Users’ mobile devices are considered second screens – fans look at them just as much as they watch the action in front of them (or maybe more often).

 The MLB is using augmented reality so fans can “follow” players around bases or across the field – from their seats – by holding personal devices toward the field. Device users can see the selected player’s picture, real-time data and even video of famous plays. This technology also gives fans the opportunity to interact with stats and data to learn more about the team and its roster.

 In-stadium mobile apps offer data-driven deals and messages to specific audiences inside the venue, whether it’s push notifications about restroom wait times or alerts about limited-time food/beverage deals.

 As stadiums interact with fans on their mobile devices, data transmission will increase even more. To ensure seamless communication, fiber will be needed to support constant device connectivity.

 In a future blog, we’ll discuss the technology driving increased fiber connections in broadcast environments and data centers – as well as the challenges of managing these fiber connections. Subscribe to our blog so you don’t miss it!

We’ve unveiled a new Belden solution – the DCX Optical Distribution Frame – to help you easily manage increasing numbers of fiber connections with scalability and ROI at the forefront. Learn more about it here!

Successfully integrate technology into the fan experience. Visit our Stadiums & Venues page to learn more.