Cisco ships special Wi-Fi gear for arenas

A special stadium antenna and Wi-Fi access point improve wireless connections for large crowds

Cisco has announced a new Wi-Fi access point and stadium antenna that covers a smaller area for use in arenas and large venues to help improve user access and wireless speeds.

About 180 of both types of devices have been deployed at the Livestrong Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kans., which opened June 9 for Sporting KC, a Major League Soccer team, Cisco said. The stadium seats 18,467 soccer fans and 25,000 guests for concerts and other events.

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Cisco officials said the gear has already been rolled out at several other large arenas in the U.S. and abroad, but none are ready to benamed.

The Wi-Fi connection at Livestrong Sporting Park supports visitors in parking and seating areas, but also ticket gate and food areas. Each of those areas creates a different wireless profile that the new AP addresses by boosting power whenneeded and identifying interference using Cisco's previous CleanAir technology, said Robert Friday, the company's CTO of wireless networking.

The new high-gain, ruggedized stadium antennna can be "very surgical" in pointing the right direction for the best connections, Friday said. It has been designed to be aesthetically pleasing for stadium locations and connects to the new AP, which operates in two bands, 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz using 802.11n. The stadium antenna sells for $945.

The new Aironet 3500p AP sells for $1,495 and covers a smaller area than previous models. The new smaller cell size provides a Wi-Fi connection for as many as 300 users, compared with prior APs that served as many as 2,000 users. That design improves connections, Cisco said.

Cisco has been equipping large stadiums for two years with Wi-Fi gear, and has found a strong interest by sporting fans in keeping wireless connections with friends both inside and outside the stadium while watching a game, said Friday and David Holland, general manager of sports and entertainment solutions for Cisco.

The fans usually generate more data traffic to the world outside the stadium via smartphones and tablets than the data they pull from the outside, which shows the social nature of the fans with friends who cannot attend. "About 20 percent of fans are trying to connect [wirelessly] now and that number is going up," Holland said.

Sporting Club, the organization that built the stadium, said in a statement that it will continue to expand technology offerings at Livestrong Sporting Park. Today, it offers a social networking app to help fans interact with one another at events.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

Read more about wireless networking in Computerworld's Wireless Networking Topic Center.

This story, "Cisco ships special Wi-Fi gear for arenas" was originally published by Computerworld .

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