The novelty of free, public Wi-Fi networks is gone – connectivity has become an expectation. Steep competition among leading smartphone manufacturers and improvements in cellular networks have driven the always-on era, fuelled by data-hungry Gen Y and Millennials which are padding adoption figures and expanding the possibilities of brand engagement through devices.
A case in point it the sports industry, where fans have transformed from viewers to broadcasters. It should come as no surprise that a recent study by Spider Marketing conducted in Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States indicated that sports fans who own mobile devices are conducting more online activities than ever before. Today, 89 per cent of fans are taking photos and 71 per cent are posting on social media. Similarly, fans are demanding instant access to replays, athlete information, special offers and food orders in the palms of their hands and so it is now engrained in sports attendance and plays a prominent role in shaping fans’ experiences.
Unfortunately, public Wi-Fi is a promise on which many business and technology leads at sports venues, governing bodies and clubs have under-delivered. The reality is most haven’t yet digitally transformed their wider operations, so while they implement Wi-Fi (and other) technology, most of it is based or running on outdated infrastructures. This is naturally leaving customers quite frustrated.
Think about the number of times you’ve connected to the free Wi-Fi at a stadium only to find it unreliable and slow and, worse yet, is that paid services are often lacklustre at best. So, while there is technology in place, it’s quite often outdated. As a result, the thriving appetite for digital information and social sharing is an opportunity which remains largely untapped in Australia. That’s costing the sports industry on a number of levels.
By failing to accommodate modern customer experiences, venues and clubs are denying themselves free marketing from the masses who engage with sport, consequently limiting the potential audience to which a particular event or game can be presented. All of this hits the bottom line over the short and long term.
The core issue is that the traditional protocols on which many rely upon can’t maintain the high volumes of traffic being generated by today’s users, particularly when that traffic persists for long periods of time or rapidly peaks and troughs.
The good news is that the technology to drive digital transformation exists and has the ability to deliver virtualised networks and simplify networking generally. The challenge is in helping leaders understand that these new models are industry-standardised, easily-supported and highlighting to them the value of these long-term services investment versus the temporary benefit of immediate capital expenditure savings.
Generally speaking, enterprises are more advanced than the wider sports industry. So, whilst it is critical for sport to be run by sports people, it is also important for venues, governing bodies and clubs to adopt practices from enterprises. This is true at both micro and macro levels, whether it’s a national sports competition or a large-scale event – a game of footy or the Olympic Games.
Let’s look at the Olympic Games as an example of a large scale event. The influx of tens of thousands of tourist congregating on one city to join millions of local for two weeks of sport is a major challenge for traditional network technologies. Outdated infrastructure is simply incapable of providing the bandwidth for a consistent peak load. It doesn’t give organisers the capacity to push out high-value services around the clock at high speed, especially when delivering an app that so many people are accessing simultaneously. However, through a virtualised approach based around software-defined architecture, event organisers can very easily spin up and supply bandwidth right across the event, including fringe venues and attractions that aren’t in the main stadiums and arenas, all without compromising performance – that means no dropouts nor lag. Better still, a software-based virtualised network removes maintenance headaches so that any hiccups can be quickly remedied by those organisers.
By transforming the network underpinning the Wi-Fi being provided to all those people – just as venues are uplifted in anticipation for the Games – events operators are in a position to enable the new generation of sports fans which have themselves transformed from viewers to broadcasters, particularly in the 18 to 34-year-old age group which is leading the digital charge. As a result, a venue’s biggest online influencers – connected fans – can continue to engage with brands.
By: Peter Chidiac,
Managing Director Australia and New Zealand, Avaya