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Public 5G Network for UK Stadia Announced but Where Does That Leave Other Sports Venues?

Leading UK sites are set to benefit from a Government-backed funding project offering a £65 million package to trial 5G. While this is fantastic news for the selected sites, we wanted to explore what clubs are missing out on by enabling public networks in their stadium and provide a solution to clubs looking to activate a sustainable future-proofed private network solution without the upfront capital.


A recent announcement from the UK Government shares details of the final 9 projects set to benefit from jointly funded 5G trial projects. Created in a bid to reinvigorate the economy, the aim of the complete £65 million funding package, originally announced in February of 2020, seeks to develop 5G use-cases across a range of sectors and demonstrate the positive impact and sustainability of using technology in business.

A total of 15 projects have been announced since 31st July 2020, including projects in tourism, sport, logistics, transport, creative industries, and construction.

These public 5G network project announcements are an exciting push from the Government to drive 5G connectivity into our nation. It is hoped that by showcasing what can be achieved at a site using connectivity there will be extended interest in the market to implement and benefit from similar activity. But the topic has generated some interesting discussion at Landways. What is the difference between activating a public network from a mobile carrier (like the announced projects) vs activating a private network across a site? And how can other clubs who have not been offered exciting partnerships activate an in-stadium network without the upfront capital barrier?

What do clubs miss out on when enabling a public network in their stadium?

Landways team members shared their thoughts on activating a public 5G network in a sports venue like the announced MK Dons Stadium project vs installing a private network like the one at Gloucester Rugby’s Kingsholm Stadium. Here are some of the key messages brought up as part of that discussion.

Clubs Miss Out On Big Data

Enabling a public 5G network in your stadium means that the data produced from the connectivity is owned by the cellular company. Fans get to enjoy great connectivity, the telecom operators continue to drive their data use for extended revenue as customers use their plans, but there is very little benefit to the stadium and its business operation. Valuable real estate is provided to house the bulky telecoms equipment at the stadium to directly benefit everyone but the club, and the ‘Big Data’ resource, capable of simple and effective monetisation possibilities, is forfeited.

On the flipside, by activating a private network, a club can take control of the ‘Big Data’ resource generated across the network by its users. This can give you a leading edge in commercial and operational strategy decisions by offering historical and real-time data insights to show trends, fan movement and the online behaviour of any connected device. This information can be readily used to influence communications efforts, increase sales and and aid the collection of key metrics data to bolster sponsorship and advertising propositions.

Public Network Solutions Are Designed for Today

A network that is installed and then effectively ‘left’ to run its course (as is likely to be the case for the projects in this funding plan), will soon no longer be fit for purpose. This is due to several factors including hardware development, data consumption growth, and software developments influencing the network use. Often with these “set and forget” projects, no one remains accountable for the solution once it goes live. So, while you might get a great connectivity experience in year one of the project, when year three or four come around and the dynamics have changed, and the solution is no longer capable of meeting the evolving requirements, network performance suffers, PR turns from positive to negative, visitor satisfaction decreases, and new capital is needed for upgrades or a complete system overhaul. And because clubs do not own the hardware, owners have no control over when, or if, the network is upgraded. Meanwhile, savvy commercial and marketing efforts utilising the network for visitor apps or operation tasks are dead in the water as fans connectivity experience becomes redundant.  

Who Gets Connected?

When a public network is activated in your stadium, you may feel you have limited or no ability to influence decisions made as part of the project design and installation. Understanding what is being offered and how you should expect to benefit from it, is important. Is it a single carrier offering 5G connectivity? This will only benefit their customers, inadvertently excluding up to three quarters of your fans from an enhanced experience. Perhaps it is a DAS system that supports all four networks, where coverage is increased for the leading sponsor. Then what about connectivity for non-cellular devices like tablets and laptops? Will you need to consider an alternative connectivity option for targeting business meetings, events and conferences where connecting these devices will be essential?

Private networks enable so much more control for business owners. Decisions can be made to reflect what best suits the needs of the business, their fans and their future by providing equal access and coverage opportunities and strategically aligning solutions to meet stadium requirements.

No Network Onboarding and Access Control

A public network like the ones being proposed in these 5G projects offers unrestricted access to connected devices. Anyone can consume any data through any app or website without restriction, but what do stadium owners miss out on by doing this?

By controlling your own private network and influencing the way devices connect (using a splash page or app) the club is missing out on:

  1. Communication Opportunities. A splash page or app creates a new channel to share information and directly influence or inform your connected fans. Tell them about a limited time promotion at the bar, your next match or an upcoming event when they connect to a private network.  
  2. Database Growth. Collection of permitted personal data increased account creation is simple and streamlined when you can influence the onboarding strategy.  
  3. Commercialisation. There are so many opportunities to activate new and exciting revenue streams to drive more returns for the business through sponsorship, advertising, and learning about your fans.
  4. Brand awareness. An increased channel of communication offers more ways to raise the club profile and branding with connected fans.

Accessibility

Not only does a 5G public network limit access for non-cellular devices and potentially those not covered by the sponsoring carrier it also is not ‘free’ access. Users are required to maintain a contract with a carrier and use data from their cellular plans. As not everyone has limitless data, free superfast Wi-Fi on a private network could be an attractive part of the in-stadium fan experience.

5G is also a new technology and market adoption of compatible handsets is in its infancy. Currently the 5G connectivity feature is limited to specified smartphone handsets only. Analyst company Gartner predicted in January 2020 that only 12% of phone sales in 2020 would be 5G compatible so it will take time before the benefits of 5G connectivity are accessible for the majority of your fans as phones often have longer replacement cycles. And while this will continue to shift as the nation upgrades their handsets, it will be 4-7 years before the majority of the nation has a 5G compatible device.

The Elephant in the Room

The Government-backed funding package has been welcomed by selected project sites, incentivising local economy with jobs and an enhanced experience at destination sites following the severe impacts of COVID. With an aim to increase productivity and business sustainability, the funds offer a unique chance to test technology and propel connectivity into the limelight. It’s exciting stuff.

But, thinking about the points discussed above, who is this 5G connectivity really lucrative for? Absolutely, they offer case studies to encourage connectivity projects around the nation. The team at Landways will be excited to see the benefits achieved at these lucky sites. But there have been clear examples of world-class venues documenting their successes of digital engagement for nearly ten years. Digitally engaged nations like the US offer several case studies with a spotlight on productivity and sustainability using incredible connectivity as its foundation. These case studies have often used high-profile partnerships, significant initial and continued capital spend and some of the best minds to activate commercial and user enhancement strategies to create sustainability. So how can this be achieved by the Gloucester Rugby’s of our nation. For those that do not have the same appeal to initiate these kinds of projects we ask, what about everyone else?

How can clubs activate a world-class fan digital fan experience and communicate, commercialise and streamline their operations using their own private network without the significant capital injection?

Landways’ Infrastructure as a Service Solution Offers a World-Class Private Network Solution Without the Upfront Costs

Here at Landways, we have created a way to achieve a world-class digital stadium experience, without any upfront capital required. Using our Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) offer, we design and build a future-proofed private network solution using our pioneering digital and power infrastructure, customised and aligned to club requirements. Partnering with key personnel across your team we offer guidance to activate new commercial opportunities and operational benefits while continuing to maintain and operate the solution in return for a simple monthly fee.

With our multi-use solution, technology systems across the stadium can grow and adapt with changing club and technology developments while maintaining continued performance standards for the complete contract term. Your fans can stay connected to a enjoy high-performance network no matter how many cheers echo around them. Using our pioneering infrastructure architecture, we deploy technology using a future-proofed installation method, ready to insert new technologies as they become widely available to the market (like Wi-Fi 6, privatised 5G radios and antennas) with minimal disruption. We have already deployed our high-performance Wi-Fi for Gloucester Rugby with rave reviews and are now installing at Wycombe Wanderers. Now is the perfect time to re-think your connected future, so contact our Commercial Managers today on info@landways.com to find out how your stadium can connect into a bright digital future.

Landways. Joining the Dots.