This post is by Andrew Burrell from the Networks business of Nokia.
Hot dog and soda? Check. Hometown team reaches the finals for the first time in decades? Check. Lousy or non-existent mobile broadband service inside the stadium? Check!
Sports events provide a fantastic opportunity for operators to engage with their subscribers, to enhance their brand through targeted promotions and partnerships, and of course, to generate additional revenues. And spectators want to use their phones to watch replays and update friends and family via social media.
So why is the mobile broadband service that spectators receive inside sporting stadiums often so poor?
The problem is caused by the incredible concentration of subscribers. For example, in a stadium with 50,000 spectators, there could be the equivalent to 1 million subscribers per square kilometer. The telecom network needs to have a similar density to provide the required capacity, and 50-100 times more cells may be needed compared to an equivalent sized urban area.
The way in which subscribers use their mobile devices is also a challenge: According to AT&T, more than 1.8 million posts were made this year to Social Media at the huge football game that took place on the first Sunday in February in the US, resulting in 60% of network traffic being ‘uplink’ (from the mobile device to base station). This can create an enormous level of interference. Just imagine you are in a small room having a private conversation with your partner, and then another 100 people squeeze into the room and start talking at the same time! In a telecom network, the mobile devices are forced to ‘shout’ to the surrounding base stations and compete for their attention. The result is that network capacity effectively shrinks because it is impacted by this noise and interference.
What can be done about this? There are a number of different technical solutions available, and Nokia works with operators to find the best one for the situation they are facing. These may include, for example, Centralized RAN and our LTE Stadium Optimization service. The latter uses a powerful computing platform to simulate and optimize LTE performance inside stadiums and can reduce interference by up to 60%, with corresponding gains in network quality and data speeds.
How we do it? We first create a very detailed map of the stadium in 3 dimensions. From that, we then accurately model how radio signals travel inside the stadium and estimate the strength of the signal when it reaches the paying spectators in the seats. The computing platform then helps us simulate multiple ‘what if’ scenarios to find the best solution. This means that we can test and optimize antenna locations and tilting angles, power levels, and many other factors. In just 1 week we can simulate and test more than 100 such scenarios, something that would take months with conventional manual methods.
This service has already helped a major tier 1 operator optimize LTE performance inside a number of iconic stadium venues in the US, and Nokia has a long history of helping operators prepare for and deliver the best performing mobile networks during major sporting events that capture the world’s attention. Operators can trust us to protect their reputations and assure the best end user experience.
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