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Behind the scenes: Connecting fans at Anfield Stadium

Behind the scenes: Connecting fans at Anfield Stadium

Article by: Bob Slorach, CTO of the Wireless Infrastructure Group

I can only imagine the spikes in data usage at the 2018 World Cup as fans take selfies, share Facebook Live game highlights and WhatsApp their friends with minute-by-minute game updates.

Fortunately, fans who recently attended the highly-anticipated international friendly at Anfield Stadium, Brazil versus Croatia, in early June were able to benefit from improved connectivity at Anfield Stadium, home of Liverpool Football Club. These football enthusiasts could keep up to date with the latest news, get sporting results and share images of their time at Anfield while attending the game.

Busy venues like football stadiums need dedicated wireless infrastructure. Liverpool Football Club’s focus on improving connectivity for its fans has been key to the success of the activation of 4G mobile services across Anfield Stadium.

A behind the scenes look at designing and deploying a stadium-wide network

Stadiums are a complex radio environment and present unique challenges in providing reliable wireless connectivity. During a concert or sporting event, tens of thousands of mobile users create a massive surge of demand on the wireless network. Without dedicated connectivity solutions correctly scaled to support the venue capacity, the available data rate per user can be reduced to such an extent that mobile services are unsatisfactory or even unusable.

Wireless Infrastructure Group (WIG) delivers high capacity neutral-host infrastructure in busy and often challenging locations and this is only possible through trusted relationships with the UK’s mobile operators and with venues such as Anfield.

When Liverpool Football Club wanted to improve the matchday experience for its fans, WIG engaged with CommScope to transform Anfield Stadium’s existing network infrastructure into an innovative flexible, world-class solution.

WIG turned to CommScope’s fibre-connected distributed antenna system (DAS) as the ideal solution to meet mobile data capacity needs. This involves the installation of a specialised antenna network connected to remote units throughout the venue. The remote units, which distribute coverage and capacity throughout the stadium are connected by fibre to a master unit which receives signals from dedicated base stations.

Together, we found the ION-M DAS solution could provide the required support for multiple operators delivering multiple frequency bands and technologies via one unified fibre connected platform. The ION-M DAS solution is fully integrated into WIG’s remote monitoring platform to ensure highest levels of service availability to the end-users.

The network was successfully tested during the last few games of the season, enhancing the match day experience for fans, visitors and staff. The DAS solution has been dimensioned to handle multiple terabytes of data over the course of a game. The DAS solution was implemented in just 22 weeks from the start of planning to go-live, including 19 weeks for installation. CommScope installed 215 specialised antennas and deployed over 28 kilometres of copper and fibre optic cables.