- Metricon Stadium is Australia’s first world-class connected stadium, powered by Huawei’s WiFi technology
- It provides fast connectivity to capacity crowds, with exclusive offers and features to users
- Designed to increase match-day attendance and engagement
On the Gold Coast today, Huawei Australia Chairman John Lord and Gold Coast Suns CEO Andrew Travis launched the final stage of the conversion of Metricon Stadium to a world-class connected stadium, powered by Huawei’s high-density WiFi network technology.
Suns Chief Commercial Officer Paul Pamenter told Ausdroid that the impetus behind the project was to increase match-day satisfaction for fans and patrons attending the stadium, so they could enjoy the same kind of experience they’ve come to expect when watching from home.
At home, Pamenter notes, viewers often have access to fast, home broadband and so can enjoy parallel services alongside the TV broadcast. In recent years, this has been a factor in declining audiences, both at AFL games and those of other codes. Delivering a connected game-day experiences is something the fans want.
The size of the challenge
With a stadium capacity of 27,500, and up to 30,000 visiting fans attending games throughout the AFL season, there’s a lot of people to connect, and this was no small challenge.
This isn’t the first stadium that Huawei has brought into the connected, 21st century.
Huawei’s John Lord told us that while they had the technology to deliver this project (using their Agile Stadium Solution), they partnered with Fujitsu Australia owing to the complexity of the project.
In particular, over 14 kilometres of communications cabling had to be retrofitted to Metricon Stadium, and some 387 Huawei access points had to be installed and commissioned. Like any large-scale project, quality and timeliness were of the essence, and with Huawei and Fujitsu’s joint expertise, the project went from contracts being signed to functional handover within just 90 days.
We toured Amsterdam ArenA last month as part of our Mobile World Congress coverage, and saw there how Huawei’s solution scaled to a maximum audience of over 68,000 for concert events. The solution rolled out at Metricon caters to a little under half, but that doesn’t mean its any less impressive, or enjoyable for the end users.
What this smart stadium offers attendees
Andrew Travis was convinced that fans, visitors and others alike will come to understand the quality of the Suns’ stadium and its connected solution, and that it will drive more people back to the stadium to fill seats on a week to week basis. Indeed, the partner app launched today as part of the package is designed to really add value to the match-day experience.
The Metricon app offers attendees information from before they leave home (such as the weather), team news and more before the match, highlights and special features during the game and at half time, and more. There are added incentives to use it too, says Travis, including exclusive offers and promotions matched to guests’ tastes.
For example, the app offers a number of polls where users can answer questions about their drink or food preferences. Particular vendors may offer promotions to match these tastes; if you indicate that your favourite match-day drink is a glass of Carlton Draught, then you may receive an offer to try a drink at a reduced, promotional price. This, and many other offers, can be delivered in a targeted fashion to users of the stadium’s app and connectivity.
Using demographic information collected from users during sign-up in the app, the stadium can target information and promotions to certain segments of their audience, knowing that some kinds of products may be of more appeal to middle-aged men than younger female fans, for example.
For those who just want to get connected and engage in social media while at the game, the stadium WiFi solution is no slouch; using intelligent technology and a sizeable 1gbps fibre Internet connection, guests can download data at speeds they’ve come to expect at home, and they can share their data with the rest of the world with ease.
Is Metricon’s WiFi up to the challenge?
In a word, yes. Stadium WiFi, like just about all public WiFi, has always been a bit hit or miss in our experience; what sounds like a great idea is often lost in execution, with large crowds often reducing free WiFi to a crawl, and impacting on local mobile towers as a result.
We’ve seen in Amsterdam and now here on the Gold Coast that Huawei understands the task at hand, and has invested in research and development to ensure it can deliver to meet and exceed sports fans’ expectations.
From testing, Huawei and the Suns are confident that the infrastructure they’ve invested in can handle 27,500 guests as easily as it can handle two dozen, and that there’s room for scale in future as well. With the upcoming Commonwealth Games in just over two years, the Metricon Stadium precinct will see a real challenge with over 40,000 people expected to attend the opening and closing ceremonies at the venue, as well as others attending the events within the area.
Behind the scenes, Huawei’s Mark Rook commented to us that there’s ample capacity in both the WiFi access points and in the backhaul connectivity to scale to meet this demand, and beyond.
We hope that Andrew Travis is right; we’d love to see what they’ve got here on the Gold Coast (and indeed, what we saw in Amsterdam) made available in more stadiums in Australia. Free public WiFi at my two favourite Sydney venues (Allianz Stadium and ANZ Stadium / Stadium Australia) just isn’t on the same level as we’ve seen here.
While the match-day experience at those venues remains good, one can only imagine that with improved technology and connectivity, we might see the same effects there too — more bums on seats, and a greater engagement with fans and attendees on the day.
Ausdroid attended the Gold Coast’s Metricon Stadium today thanks to Huawei Australia.