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January 28, 2015

ITEXPO Special Keynote Panel Provides Inside Look at Managed Wi-Fi Partner Ecosystem

By Allison Boccamazzo, Managing Content Producer

It’s hard to ignore the exponential growth of the managed Wi-Fi market. Just consider that global cloud-managed infrastructure and managed services revenue will hit $653 million in 2014 and $2.5 billion by 2018, according to IDC (News - Alert). Within the retail sector alone, 82 percent of businesses have Wi-Fi networks up in their stores; 70 percent of these WAN connections are outsourced to a managed service provider, according to a brand new survey commissioned by EarthLink Holdings, IHL Group and AirTight Networks (News - Alert).

But how exactly does this transition to managed Wi-Fi work? What are the potential complexities or challenges of doing so, and how can they be effectively overcome by partnering with the right vendor? This afternoon’s special keynote panel, “Managed Wi-Fi Hits a Home Run,” offered an exclusive look into the managed Wi-Fi ecosystem from implementation to ongoing maintenance by presenting a real-life use case: the Durham Bulls Athletic Park located in Durham, N.C.

Panelists represented the entire managed Wi-Fi ecosystem: Aubrey Wood, Capital Broadcasting for the Durham Bulls (customer); Parker Smith, Director, Business Development and Sales Engineering, Bluesocket Business Group, ADTRAN (News - Alert) (network provider); and Dennis Bloss, VP/GM of Frontier Communications North Carolina (carrier).

The ballpark, about 16 acres in size, can seat a maximum 10,000 people excluding standing room only areas. The location is used for a number of events from concerts to Fourth of July celebrations even to weddings; on a daily basis the stadium houses around 4,000 employees.

From 2013 to 2014 the stadium underwent massive renovations—an initiative its managed Wi-Fi move fit nicely into. Before partnering with Frontier and ADTRAN the stadium had only a couple dozen access points, according to Wood. Today, there are over 120 ADTRAN Bluesocket (News - Alert) access points deployed throughout the stadium—an unbelievable step towards improving the user experience.

The move to managed Wi-Fi was clearly a smart and profitable one as it bolstered the park’s brand and opened it up to innovative new revenue streams; however, there were complexities in making the move. For starters, there was a 28-page request for proposal (RFP) containing coverage and technical requirements, Bloss said. For instance, the RFP contained information for integrating in-stadium replay technology that only those in the stadium could have access to due to MLB (News - Alert) standards and stipulations.

“We had to find ways to narrow down our footprint so that we weren’t interfering, yet we had to produce that seamless, flawless user experience,” Smith said.

Smith then explained how his team had to walk the entire footprint of where access points were or would be located throughout the stadium—a tedious yet necessary task. “You have to think about all of the levels of the stadium; you have to balance how many people are leveraging each access point and yet you must limit radio frequency power to ensure appropriate coverage for each area without bleeding over. There’s a lot that really goes into the initial steps,”

For Smith, conducting a predictive survey was key. Afterwards, the team went back and conducted an active survey to determine what needed to be tweaked or fine-tuned if need be. “There are so many critical factors that go into supporting this kind of stadium that supports 10,000 people,” said Smith.

Meanwhile Wood, who manages a six person IT department, said that making the move to a managed service provider helped him considerably save on time and manpower. “If a user has a problem they connect ADTRAN, not my team, and that has made a world’s difference.”

Edited by Alisen Downey
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