As stadiums across the world begin to welcome back crowds, clubs are looking to improve the overall experience for fans in a post COVID-19 world.
Mobile connectivity continues to be an increasingly important utility in stadiums, with fans now somewhat expecting the service at the football grounds they visit.
UK company Wireless Infrastructure Group (WIG) own and operate the nation’s largest selection of indoor mobile networks, serving over 1.25 billion visitors each year.
Working with all UK mobile network operators, WIG have direct experience in designing, installing and operating mobile infrastructure and lead the market in network deployment and management in stadiums and sports venues.
2020 saw the biggest ever growth in the UK for mobile devise usage, with users trying to stay connected whilst offices, businesses and venues were closed due to the pandemic.
These figures are expected to increase again in 2021, with mobile device usage now exceeding time spent watching live TV.
Vijay Sodiwala, Commercial Director at WIG, believes that these increases during the COVID period will impact supporters’ expectations of the matchday experience in stadiums.
“It is inevitable that fan behaviour will have changed significantly in terms of how much they interact with their mobile devices and the quality of connectivity and service they expect as part of their overall stadium experience,” he told fcbusiness.
“Fans will expect dedicated coverage and a high-speed data capability allowing them to access the internet, stream videos, interact on social media, text and make calls to friends and family before, during and after matches.
“They will be less tolerant of a poorer mobile experience, especially in venues that are charging them to attend events.”
Sodiwala explains the best possible way to address poor mobile connectivity in stadiums.
“Outdoor networks (such as masts, towers and rooftop installations) are just not designed to deliver the capacity that is needed when you have stadiums operating at full capacity and it is no longer appropriate to look to the mobile network operators to solve these problems for us,” he said.
“The most efficient solution for enabling properly dimensioned mobile services within a stadium is a distributed digital network approach.
“This is a single network deployed around the stadium that can support all of the mobile network operators and all of their technologies (2G, 3G, 4G and 5G) at the same time. It can also support private network capabilities that stadiums operators and clubs have started to use as a secure, high capacity, flexible and lower-cost alternative to WiFi and traditional wired networks.”
Leading stadium owners and clubs across the UK, including Premier League clubs, have teamed up with WIG to create their own dedicated infrastructure solution.
“Stadium owners and clubs have started to look at investing in their own network infrastructure and partnering with Wireless Infrastructure Group to design, deploy, operate and maintain their stadium networks and provide the interface to the mobile network operators to enable service.”
Sodiwala outlined that because of the rapidly changing behavioural habits of fans, it is an appropriate time for clubs to invest in technology to improve their digital strategic footprint.
“The pandemic has resulted in a seismic shift in consumer behaviour with an increased reliance on mobile devices and adoption of digital technologies,” he said.
“Think of how much our daily interaction has gone digital – from attending meetings to ordering groceries – and stadiums are not exempt. Fans will understandably be relived to return to live events, but their expectations on stadium experience will be markedly different.
“Some of our stadium partners (clubs) have seen the restrictions imposed on us by the pandemic as an opportunity to address this.
“Firstly, to use digital as a more effective way of engaging and connecting with fans through a more immersive and content rich experience. Secondly, clubs are looking at capturing operational efficiencies which have the potential to improve the bottom line – mobile ticketing, in- seat ordering, and mobile payments are the sort of things that come to mind here.
“Underpinning all of this of course is the realisation that high quality mobile service is key to a successful digital strategy.
“A desire to drive fan engagement, improve stadium experience and reduce operational costs certainly feels like a strong response from clubs in a post-pandemic environment. Investing in the right infrastructure approach with the right partner is the first step on that journey.”
More information on the Wireless Infrastructure Group can be found here: https://www.wirelessinfrastructure.co.uk/