San Francisco 49ers Building Biggest Stadium Wi-Fi Network Ever

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The San Francisco 49ers NFL team is planning to build the biggest, baddest Wi-Fi network of all time.

The defending NFC Champions are halfway through building a new stadium, which is set to open at the start of the 2014 season, and when it does, all 68,500 fans expected to be in attendance will be able to access the facility’s wireless network simultaneously.

\"Wi-Fi\"It’s no surprise that more fans are bringing their smart devices into stadiums to supplement the live viewing of a game with additional content on their smartphones; ranging from updating a Twitter feed to using a dedicated instant replay app like the one the New England Patriots offers to fans.

With this increase in mobile activity during games, teams have to integrate Wi-Fi networks into their stadiums to support the broadband needs of the fans. The Patriots installed a full-stadium Wi-Fi network for the 2012 season, and the New Orleans Superdome installed a Wi-Fi network that allowed 30,000 fans to access it at once during the Superbowl. But the San Francisco 49ers are taking stadium Wi-Fi networks to a whole other level.

Led by former IT gurus from Facebook, a team of fewer than 10 IT specialists are building the entire Wi-Fi network for Santa Clara Stadium from the ground up. Senior IT Director Dan Williams and 49ers CTO Kunai Malik spent five years building the network Facebook runs on, before moving on and eventually taking on roles with the 49ers.

The stadium will have anywhere from zero to 1,500 wireless access points, Williams told Ars Technica, saying he wouldn\’t give away the stadium’s design, but confirmed users will not be limited on bandwidth. The network will allow access to both the 2.4GHz and 5GHZ wireless bands, and by the time the stadium opens in 2014, the teams expects more devices, like the iPhone 5, to support connection to the 5GHZ band, which would open up space for the most possible users to connect to the network at once, without slowing it down.

According to the Ars Technica report, the stadium will have one terabit of capacity within itself, which 68,500 fans connected at once would not be able to penetrate. The idea is that users would saturate their devices before being able to saturate the network.

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The 49ers goal is to provide users on the Wi-Fi network the same experience they would get on an LTE network, meaning download speeds between 20 to 40 megabits per second.

Currently the team is running tests in labs and at the 49ers current stadium to see how the network will stand up to various obstacles that can occur during a game in an open-air stadium such as rain, wind, and fans jumping up and down in their seats.

As it’s planned now, the Wi-Fi network will be available to all ticket holders, no matter what section they are in, and will be accessible throughout the entire stadium; this includes the walkways, suites, and concession areas. The team has not decided if the Wi-Fi network will also be available in outdoor areas such as the parking lots and concourses.

The 49ers team will use management tools to monitor the network usage throughout games and will also put security protections in place that will encrypt business systems and will not allow peer-to-peer connections to help protect the fans as well.

Source: Ars Technica

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