Chelsea FC and Ericsson have announced that they are bringing Stamford Bridge kicking and screaming into the 21st Century, with blanket carrier-grade Wi-Fi coverage for the stadium.
Wi-Fi is ubiquitous nowadays, but it still takes a herculean effort to get places such as football stadiums – especially older ones – up to spec. That's why Chelsea have partnered with Ericsson to make sure that fans can connect with each other and their social networks without straining whichever 4G network they are on.
Ericsson has already proved it has the nous to update a stadium with Wi-Fi. It's done a similar thing at PSG's ground, the Parc des Princes, and explained to TechRadar that offering up this type of connectivity has meant that PSG's backroom staff have embraced a more digital setup in their training.
Arun Bansal, SVP of Ericsson, said: "It has helped with the sports management at PSG. The coach and physical therapist can monitor players through digital data [at the ground], see what support they need.
"It is more a platform for them, helping with data storage, enabling live TV streams and so on."
While live streaming isn't part of the package offered by Ericsson at Stamford Bridge, it has designed, built and will operate the Small Cell network the Wi-Fi is on, so fans should expect a smooth experience when you do log on at the Bridge.
The importance of a connected stadium
Chelsea is going to wait until the Wi-Fi setup is installed before it reveals exactly what it will do with its new connective power, but there are a few hints as to what expect, from connecting fans to helping organise things behind the scenes at the club.
"A connected stadium is an important way to deliver a great experience for our customers," said Gary Twelvetree, director of marketing for Chelsea.
"We will develop news apps and services on the platform but we will wait for the technology to be installed.
"But everyday phone behaviour will become the norm in the stadium. It will bring better context to the match and fans can bring their own content live. We can also plan our food orders better, as it can enable us to integrate payment technology more seamlessly.
"It makes the phone a more integral part of the fan experience – we could maybe give offers as they enter the stadium and we will be able to enable group participation in real time at the stadium.
"We can get the fans to share the atmosphere of Stamford Bridge with a global audience."
While the contract for the Wi-Fi lasts just two years – there was no comment on why it is a short contract but it's safe to assume it has something to do with Chelsea's plans for a bigger and better stadium – Bansal was keen to point out the benefits of having Wi-Fi in the stadium and what might happen with 5G comes to fruition sometime in 2019.
"I believe with 5G we will see augmented reality and virtual reality as part of sport going forward – it is where all sports are going. But that's a little bit further ahead of now, the Wi-Fi is the first step," Bansal explained.
"As for the two-year contract, we wanted to start somewhere then we will improve when we can.
"5G is set to come in 2019 and the ambition is to offer it going forward."
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