Case Study: VAR Gives Sports Fans, Concertgoers WLAN


San Jose Sharks fans catching the action from HP Pavilion suites have more than just leather sofas and spacious kitchenettes to brag about. Now they have wireless access too, so they can chat with other hockey fans, surf the Net, check team statistics and e-mail, and order merchandise,all without missing a hat trick.

Patrons can thank Wide Area Management Services, or WAMS, a Santa Clara, Calif.-based solution provider, for the Wi-Fi network, which uses hardware and software from WLAN infrastructure vendor Airespace.

There are currently up to 60 Airespace 1200 Access Points and four Airespace 4000 Wireless Switches installed at the 450,000-square-foot HP Pavilion, a San Jose, Calif.-based sports and entertainment center with 65 suites, said Gary Rose, co-founder and vice president of WAMS.

 
>> The wireless network deployed by WAMS at the HP Pavilion's luxurious suites lets users chat, check team stats and e-mail, surf the Net and shop.

 

"Where Airespace really shines is in its ability to make it fairly easy to custom-configure separate, multiple, secure WLANs and voice WLANs for different games or shows," Rose said. "A lot of vendors make a lot of claims, but we're really impressed with the fully baked look here."

It's important that all suites be treated as separate, secure entities, said Malcom Bordelon, executive vice president of business operations at Silicon Valley Sports and Entertainment (SVSE), property manager for the HP Pavilion. Information within a suite must be kept separate from information within other suites and from the internal HP Pavilion network, he said.

The Airespace offerings allowed WAMS to build a cost-effective, secure WLAN infrastructure that supports fans' Wi-Fi-enabled laptops, PDAs and other devices, Bordelon said. "Many of the products coming to our door required a [user] to do something we felt was burdensome or difficult, or something they wouldn't do because they just weren't going to pay for it," he said. "This solution allows fans to decide whether they want to use it."

 
 ANATOMY OF A SOLUTION

>> COMPANY: Wide Area Management Services (WAMS)
>> FOCUS: Infrastructure integration, security and management
>> ESTIMATED ANNUAL REVENUE: $18 million
>> PROBLEM & SOLUTION: The HP Pavilion wanted to provide its patrons with a WLAN without incurring a lot of additional costs. WAMS deployed a feature-rich wireless infrastructure based on products from Airespace.
>> PRODUCTS & SERVICES USED: Airespace 4000 Wireless Switches, Airespace 1200 802.11a/g Access Points, Airespace AireWave Director
>> LESSONS LEARNED:
• A WLAN should be cost-effective, easy to install and easy to use.
• Security is a top priority for customers considering WLAN deployments.
• There's a huge market for WLAN installations and layered services in the sports and entertainment arena.

 

While SVSE wanted to use wireless technology to enhance the experiences of technology-savvy fans, it didn't want to incur additional costs by having to hire more IT staffers to manage the wireless infrastructure or train existing staff on the management of RF (radio frequency) technology, Bordelon said.

Thanks to AireWave Director, a software package from Airespace that allows for self-configuration and self-healing of RF networks, SVSE didn't have to concern itself with beefing up its IT ranks, said Frank Frasula, systems administrator at SVSE, and WAMS' Rose. "The software immediately picks up rogue access points, an alarm is signaled and we've already blocked [them]," Rose said. "In some cases, it even tells us which vendors' access points are there."

The opportunity for deploying WLANs in the sports and entertainment market is huge, Rose said. At the HP Pavilion, the Airespace applications that let staffers customize Web pages to promote sports teams and events and allow patrons to buy merchandise online are easy to deploy. "As these applications develop and continue to be employed, there are opportunities at stadiums and other venues throughout the country," Rose said. "And new phones with dual GPRS [general packet radio service] and 802.11 will drive these applications even further."

Ease of deployment is a definite edge that Airespace brings to the table, said Rose, adding that the vendor's site survey kit allowed WAMS to import facility floor plans and select the best access-point placement at the HP Pavilion. "Like most arenas, [the pavilion] is unique in its shape, and there's a huge amount of concrete, metal and glass, so coverage varies a lot," Rose said. "Airespace's product is like an engineer-in-a-box for site surveys. It really does make it simple."

What's more, the pavilion's WLAN infrastructure paves the way now for new applications and scaled-up services, Rose said, noting that the next phase of deployment at the arena will involve the addition of up to 50 access points for wireless coverage in dressing rooms. After that, the focus will be on enhancing quality of service and integrating SpectraLink phones with the network.