Campuses expanding stadium Wi-Fi access

Many campuses are extending wireless networks to athletic facilities.

College students arrive on campus with two or three internet-ready mobile devices—and they all expect trouble-free internet access, not only in dorms and classrooms, but also increasingly in campus athletic stadiums.

To meet the demands of students and other game-day attendees, while providing a more interactive experience for fans of college sports, many colleges and universities are upgrading their wireless access so that fans can text, upload photos and videos, and get real-time information without waiting for bogged-down campus networks to respond.

Extending wireless service to campus stadiums also benefits coaches who have wireless access in locker rooms and vendors conducting point-of-sale transactions at the venue.

Many schools are opting for what is known as a distributed antenna system (DAS), which is a network of smaller separated antennas scattered throughout a building or specific area to ensure that people do not lose their cell phone connections.

In September, the University of Alabama installed a DAS through AT&T at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The university’s DAS extends outside of the stadium so that students can enjoy faster internet connections, and it’s operated by Verizon Wireless and AT&T. Coverage includes the surrounding streets and walkways outside of the stadium, as well as all corridors, executive offices, locker rooms, and seating inside the stadium.

Indiana University, with 110,000 students, turned to a DAS when campus IT officials realized that cell phones and smart phones were essential to students, and also that wireless capacity at its football stadium and basketball arena was sub-par.

Campus technology staff knew that more and more devices would arrive on campus with students each successive year, and that students would want freedom to communicate and collaborate in real time. The university partnered with Crown Castle on a 10-year plan for the DAS.

In 2011, Auburn University launched a multi-carrier stadium DAS with a guest Wi-Fi solution in its stadium. Fiber is distributed in a way that allows for a campus-wide DAS expansion. Aruba Networks designed the stadium Wi-Fi network.

“Technology has become a significant part of the game-day experience,” said Scott Carr, Auburn’s senior associate director of athletics for external affairs. “Fans are uploading pictures to social networks, checking scores, even watching highlights on their devices. This Wi-Fi network will keep our fans in the stadium connected to Auburn fans across the state and beyond.”

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