Spurs and HPE hope to show how stadium wifi should be done

The long-awaited new Tottenham Hotspur stadium hosts its first Premier League match today and fans might even be able to get on the wifi for once.

Stadium connectivity has long been a signature connectivity challenge, thanks mainly to the exceptionally high density of population. Despite numerous claimed advances in high capacity routers, base stations, etc, user experience in high density environments such as stadia, airports and conference venues etc has generally been rubbish.

In an attempt to address this Spurs teamed up with longtime sponsor HPE to get its Aruba arm involved in taking care of the connectivity in the new stadium. The company has kept pretty quiet since the partnership was announced a couple of years ago, but now that the doors are finally opening UK MD Marc Waters felt moved to blog on the matter.

“The ambition from Tottenham Hotspur could not have been greater,” he wrote. “To build the most technologically advanced stadium in the world with an unrivaled fan experience. Working together with a diverse set of partners they have achieved it. Aside from the lack of queues and incredible bottom filling pints of beer (oh yes), one of the first advances the fans will notice is the quality and availability of the free stadium Wi-Fi.

“Having been at Wembley recently to see Portsmouth win the EFL Trophy, I can confirm it can be challenging to get signal due to the sheer size of the crowd. At the new Spurs stadium we have installed HPE Aruba technology with 1,641 wifi access points to provide 100% wifi coverage. This delivers high density wifi coverage in the Bowl seating area thanks to an innovative “Pico cell” architecture with the wifi Access Points mounted under the seats to enable high performance connectivity to all 62,062 fans.”

That equates to one wifi node per 38 fans in a sold-out stadium, which seems like a decent ratio so long as the supporting infrastructure is up to scratch. It’s notable that Spurs has made very little noise about mobile networks, although all four UK MNOs apparently have connectivity there. If the wifi delivers and the user experience for getting onto it is acceptable (a big if) then why would you need to access your mobile network while you’re there?

That user experience will probably be dictated in part by the new app Spurs developed to accompany the new stadium, which also covers things like electronic ticketing, interactive stadium maps, etc. That will all rely on the wifi network too, so a lot is at stake with this HPE infrastructure. As Waters indicated Spurs wants its new stadium to be somewhere fans might want to hang around in long after the game is over and they won’t do so if they can’t use their phones.