Atlanta’s New NFL Stadium Lights the Way Forward for Stadium Connectivity

September 14, 2016
Scott Sherwood, Director of Product Marketing

The increase in consumer WiFi speeds and the flexibility and variety of streaming entertainment options that continue to emerge mean people don't have to leave their house to be entertained the way they used to. Instead of going to the drive-in, or even the sit down movie theatre, people today are much more likely to 'binge' on episode after episode of the newest Netflix original series

The sports industry is experiencing a similar phenomenon. The allure of taking the family out to the stadium for a ball game for many just isn’t the same as it once was. Now, fans can enjoy multiple views of a game from the comfort of their own living room. Not to mention the HD, instant replay, and the ability to pause or rewind a live event. It's not so hard to see why many fans are now opting for the home viewing experience.

But the Atlanta Falcons’ new Mercedes-Benz stadium (currently under construction, set to open for the 2017 NFL season) looks set to change a lot of that. The franchise has teamed up with IBM Technologies to leverage their Smarter Stadium Network, which will feature a variety of technologies that will be brand new to the sports world, all of which with the ultimate goal of enhancing the fan experience.

The first thing fans will likely notice is a new approximately 63,800-square-foot, non-traditional LED video display. The 360 degree circular “halo board” will be the first of its kind and will be three times larger than the current largest single display video board in the league. That’s a viewing experience that no fan can hope to replicate at home, regardless of how advanced their home entertainment system is.

"Our goal at the outset was to reimagine the stadium experience," said Atlanta Falcons President and CEO Rich McKay. To that end, the stadium will feature more than 2,000 additional video boards throughout to enhance the game experience whilst fans are grabbing concessions or waiting in line for the restroom.

Less visible to the naked eye, but arguably equally important to the enhanced fan experience, will be the Passive Optical Network (PON), an advanced optical network that will require 1,800 wireless access points and over 4,000 miles of fibre to accommodate the 75,000 people the stadium will hold. This type of network will significantly reduce power and cooling costs, making the stadium more technologically advanced, but also more environmentally sustainable than current iterations.

The stadium also features a WiFi solution (1,800 access points, or APs, stashed away under the seats) that will keep people with high speed mobile connectivity, should they ever want or need it during the game. Other potential amenities that fans could find themselves enjoying once the Mercedes-Benz stadium opens its doors are wireless charging stations, and lower prices on concessions (because let’s face it, paying 5 star prices for 1 star eats is just another reason to stay home).

For enterprises looking to invest in the experience they offer their customers, there’s a lot to learn here, especially about how a high performance network is designed and deployed. In particular, the decision to create a trialling facility where game-time situations could be simulated with each little effect on performance tracked and documented.

IBM’s vision is to offer a customizable suite of tech products that, when deployed together, have the power to change our experiences in tangible, positive ways. At Digital Realty, we’ve become intimately familiar with IBM’s next-generation solutions and their results. Its Softlayer cloud network can be directly accessed from the leading Meet Me Room in the Southeast, located in our ATL1 facility in downtown Atlanta. And in March 2017, ATL2 will present additional colocation space for customers, enabling access to the same ecosystem that's available at ATL1.

So even if your network isn’t going to include a five story tall, 360 degree video wall, you can still learn a lot from the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ of Atlanta’s new NFL stadium. The ‘why’ is because in this day and age, your customers demand it. The ‘how’ is by choosing a partner that has the capacity to see your vision and the relationships and the real estate to make it come to life. So, does your data centre help future-proof your IT strategy? Find out how our new facility in Atlanta can help you do just that, by bringing all of the critical data centre and network services together into a single, secure environment.

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