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Eagles' fans can access free Wi-Fi net at home opener

Matt Hamblen | Sept. 11, 2013
Social networking by fans and concert-goers requires big Wi-Fi bandwidth at Philadelphia's Lincoln Financial Field

"I heard about the smartwatch the other day and I was thinking, who the hell would use this? I wear a watch, but young people don't. They get the time on their smartphones. But maybe my grandkids will use them," he said.

At Lincoln Financial Field, Enterasys had to make a number of custom adjustments to keep the Wi-Fi signals from each access point from bleeding into nearby access points. That meant installing custom-built antennas because no commercial product would work, Enterasys officials said.

While the two-month installation effort was generally smooth, crews had to remove old bird netting and install conduit to support the network of access points in the cavernous structure. Enterasys also set up a single management console that can be switched easily to handle a concert crowd's Wi-Fi demands, which are different from the needs of fans at a football game.

Smolenski explained that there is no need for Wi-Fi access from the field during games, since players don't need it. But the network had to be capable of providing Wi-Fi access to fans on the stadium floor during concerts and other events. "[Enterasys] made it work," he said.

Bandwidth can be increased or decreased in specific locations; the system can even be tweaked to offer better service to a specific smartphone with a specific IP address. For instance, a season ticket holder might get more bandwidth than a single-game ticket holder, said Norm Rice, executive vice president of business and corporate development for Enterasys.

Prior experience taught the company that the volume of outgoing wireless traffic generated by attendees sending videos, photos and other data to friends away from the stadium was two to three times greater than the volume of inbound traffic.

Smolenski said the NFL and the Eagles remain open-minded about the possibility of using emerging mobile payment technologies at some point in the future. For example, it might one day be possible for fans to pay for food and merchandise using phones equipped with QR scanners or NFC (near field communication) technology.

Also on the horizon is the possibility that fans might be able to use mobile devices to watch a video feed of the game from the point of view of the quarterback.

"Never say never," Smolenski said. "I imagine the NFL will look at all sorts of creative opportunities. At one time we didn't have cameras in the locker room, and now we have them. We now have a camera in the tunnel to the locker room to broadcast the feeling at the start of the game when the team comes out. We want to continue to evolve and change as the world changes."


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