Cisco Intros New WiFi Networking Technology for Stadiums

Cisco is rolling out the Aironet 3500p access point and new antennas for improved WiFi capabilities in stadiums as part of its new Connected Stadium Wi-Fi initiative.

Cisco Systems is continuing to roll out networking technology aimed at sports stadiums and arenas, with the latest being a new WiFi access point and antennas designed to give employees, businesses and fans improved Internet access.

Cisco officials on July 6 rolled out the Cisco Connected Stadium Wi-Fi initiative, which includes the Aironet 3500p Access Point with CleanAir technology and new directional antennas for improved coverage throughout the venue. The products come at a time when fans at sporting and other events at arenas are using their smartphones and other connected devices, according to Cisco officials.

At the same time, stadium and team owners are looking for ways to make money and enhance the fans' experiences, company officials said. An improved WiFi environment will do both, they said.

"The Connected Stadium Wi-FI solution aims to meet the unique needs of today's passionate fans at live events by providing a reliable and consistent mobility experience," David Holland, general manager and senior vice president of Cisco's Sports and Entertainment Solutions Group, said in a statement. "We believe this solution will truly transform the fan experience and help fuel significant growth opportunities."

Cisco executives for several years have been integrating their networking and video technology at sports stadiums. Cisco networking technology runs throughout the new Yankees Stadium, and in 2009, Cisco CEO John Chambers showed off the company's Connected Sports technology that was integrated into the new Cowboys Stadium, a massive 100,000-seat, $1.15 billion facility that houses the Dallas Cowboys.

The Cowboys Stadium technology included StadiumVision, which brings high-definition video, digital content and interactive fan services via a single network infrastructure and 3,000 customizable video screens. The technology is designed to enhance the fan experience and open new sources of revenue for the stadium owners.

Similar technology was unveiled last year at the New Meadowlands Stadium, which houses the NFL's New York Giants and New York Jets.

The new WiFi technology is being used at the Livestrong Sporting Park stadium in Kansas City, where the Major League Soccer team Sporting Kansas City plays. The stadium opened June 9. According to team officials, the Cisco technology enabled them to eliminate congestion on the 3G and 4G wireless networks, offer new services and improve the overall fan experience.

The Aironet 3500p builds on the Aironet 3500 access point, which was introduced last year. It's the first to be specifically designed for high-density environments, like stadiums. The access point is customizable, and the CleanAir technology is designed to cut down on interference by finding and avoiding other wireless traffic in the area, Cisco officials said. That helps improve the reliability and performance of the WiFi networks.

The access points also leverage new high-density directional antennas that enable a more precise focus of the wireless airwaves into a concentrated area, they said. Each Aironet 3500p reportedly offers connectivity to up to six of the new antennas. The result is higher-capacity, blanketed WiFi coverage, not only for fans, but also employees, back-office workers and the press, according to Cisco officials.