Top tips to address the challenges of providing stadia coverage

This year sees yet another high-profile sporting event take the spotlight, with the long awaited Brazil World Cup about to commence next month. But with such prestigious sporting events, come many challenges – not least, how to ensure that the thousands of fans inside the stadia that are playing host to the activities stay connected so they are able to share the experience online via social media with their friends and family.

An environment like no other
A stadium environment is unique and like no other when it comes to designing and installing in-building coverage. There are several reasons for this…

High density of users
Fans in a stadium mean there is a very high density of users all in the same place at the same time. For example, the largest stadium helping to play host to the Brazil World Cup is the Marcanã which can seat just over 70,000 people. If the majority of those people decide at half time to go online and check the scores of the other games going on at other venues, that is a huge burst in mobile traffic that the in-building network would have to cope with.

Exceptionally high traffic per user
The nature of what goes on in a stadium environment, such as music concerts, sporting events etc, means that the fans in the audience are likely to want to capture the action in some form. Be that video, photos, or simply going online to write about their experience. This type of activity generates an unusually high amount of traffic per user, compared to other in-building environments such as shopping malls for example.

People don’t move much!
As well as the previous two points, the high number of users all generating a lot of traffic also don’t move around much. They are confined to their seat within the stadium for a large chunk of the time they are there. With other indoor environments, users tend to roam between coverage cells, but within a stadium, each cell must be able to cope with peak traffic all the time.

A large open area
A stadium typically has no walls or other ‘clutter’ to divide up the users and create any form of cell isolation. This is something that is usually found in other in-building environments such as offices or apartments, and makes cell division more straightforward. However, in the case of a stadium, special antennas are required to isolate the cells instead.

Some general tips for stadia success
It is staggering to think that a stadium with around 90,000 visitors can actually generate peak mobile traffic similar to a city with a population of over half a million! As a result, often in excess of 40 sectors for a large stadium is not uncommon with a rule of thumb of 2,000 spectators per cell.

Due to the absence of ‘clutter ‘ making cell isolation trickier, narrow beam width antennas are often used in this environment. The key target is to avoid interference by precisely defined, small cells with high isolation. Quite often locations such as near the loudspeakers within a stadium can qualify as a good antenna position.

By using a DAS (distributed antenna system) to provide coverage as we did during the London 2012 Olympic Games, optical remotes have a much smaller form factor than individual base stations. This makes them far more suitable for this kind of environment where space is at a premium. The same DAS should offer multi-operator and multi-band coverage keeping equipment to a minimum.

If you are interested to find out more, our latest webinar run by the GSMA, involved Lead Operator on the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games – EE – sharing their views on the importance of in-building coverage and how it shaped the first ever truly digital games. You can watch the full recording of the session here.

Moti Shalev Moti Shalev
Product Marketing Director, Cobham Wireless

Moti Shalev joined Cobham Wireless in 2009 as Product Marketing Manager with the responsibility for defining the product management strategy. Moti has a B.S.C EE in Electrical Engineering and over 20 years of worldwide experience in the telecommunications industry.
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