Satisfying user demand for social media
and smartphone usage is an increasing
challenge for all Operators in sports
stadiums. Design choices are varied and
complex and selecting the right turnkey
supplier is paramount.
Signalling the Future
Executive Summary The growth and demand for cellular services wherever and whenever has steadily increased over the years. The recent rapid growth of smartphone devices has exponentially accelerated this demand. Access to the internet, coupled with the numerous applications available to the user, is putting great demands on the operators for data capacity. The end user experience has never been as important as it is now!
Business owners are seeing the internet as a key advertising channel, not just for their own web presence, but also the use of social media channels. The opportunity to deliver targeted advertising and interacting with their customers, has led to stadium owners putting an increased focus on the cellular coverage within their stadia.
Each stadium is different and presents differing requirements and challenges, both from technical design and stakeholder management. The key abilities required in delivering a stadium design are:
A robust design that is not just a design for today, but for the future. A design that delivers the right solution, using the right products, with the right quality and at the right price.
A stakeholder management capability. There will be many stakeholders who will have a direct investment and interest in the solution. They have to be confident that the solution will deliver their requirements. They have to be kept updated and their questions, as well as request for changes, must be managed.
Flexibility to address changes to requirements. Changes in stakeholder requirements or even changes due to stadium modifications require a dynamic re-design often with a high degree of creativity.
Under pinning the above is a strong project management capability.
More and more stadium owners are becoming aware of the benefits of a strong cellular solution within their stadium. Covering the open areas, the executive rooms, and the administration, stadium owners will have the opportunity to deliver revenue generating or event enhancing services.
Within this paper, Vilicom shares its experience of deploying cellular solutions within a couple of the largest stadia in Europe as well as a medium sized stadium. Large or small, the benefits for the owner and the operators are very positive.
Table of Contents Executive Summary ......................................................................................................... 2
Introduction ...................................................................................................................... 4
Large Stadium: Football club ........................................................................................... 6
Croke Park: Gaelic Athletic Association ......................................................................... 11
Craven Cottage: Fulham FC .......................................................................................... 19
Conclusion ..................................................................................................................... 24
Introduction Smartphones have changed the way we communicate at home, at business
and at play. For mobile operators and stadia owners, the combination of
smartphones, mobile devices, innovative marketing opportunities, and Social
Media offer lucrative revenue-generating opportunities.
However, network operators also face technical issues and financial
challenges as stadia are expensive to kit out and may only be used 15, 30, or
50 days a year.
As a specialist network design firm, Vilicom brings the worlds of Mobile
Operators and Infrastructure owners together to improve their capacity.
Some of these include:
Croke Park, an 80,000 seat stadium in Dublin, Ireland
A large stadium home to a Premier League football club
Craven Cottage, the oldest stadium in London at Fulham FC
Before we look at these projects, lets rewind for a moment to put things in
In 1966, England won the World Cup final in Wembley Stadium. Remember,
at that time, the number of televisions was measured per street, not per
household. More people heard the game than saw it, listening in on the radio.
In 2012, London hosts the Olympics. Few will listen to the opening ceremony
of the radio. Most will watch it on the television, over the Internet and with
For the hosts, this creates wonderful opportunities to share the experience with fans.
For fans, smartphones help them make calls, share photos, send videos, and stream live data.
For the mobile operators, while this creates a unique opportunity, there is one hurdle that needs to be overcome. In a word - capacity.
In this white paper, well examine the technical and practical challenges
involved in designing and rolling out solutions for high capacity stadia.
As a specialist network design firm, Vilicom brings the worlds of Mobile Operators and Infrastructure owners together to improve their capacity.
Large Stadium: Football club This large stadium is home to a football club that has a capacity of around
75,000, making it the second-largest football stadium in England after
Wembley, and the eleventh-largest in Europe.
It underwent several expansions in the 1990s and 2000s, including the
addition of extra tiers to the North, West and East stands. The ground
frequently hosts FA Cup semi-final matches and aside from football-related
uses, has hosted rugby league's Super League Grand Final.
This large stadium, in common with other stadia faced the twin challenges of
coverage and capacity. Also, with consideration to the 2012 Olympics,
operators have began working together in preparation for this prestigious
The main issue for the operators is to be able to offer a high level of capacity
in the stadium to their respective customers. Multi-operator and technology
systems are not new, but it is not normal that such high traffic needs to be
Therefore the most suitable solution is to look at serving the users with
dedicated coverage by implementing many small, well contained cells. Based
on a recent BBC survey to investigate expected 3G traffic demand from
Olympic spectators, 18Mbytes/user/day is expected.
This translates 1 UMTS carrier per 2000 spectators when using 7.2 HSDPA
This large stadium will host nine Football matches during the Olympic Games, including a semi-final in both the men's and women's competitions.
Taking practical cell and antenna arrangements into account, the stadium will
require approximately 22 separate two-carrier sectors to provide the
available capacity for the expected number of users.
Selection Process & Goals
Based on our success with similar projects, the operators and the owners of
this large stadium recognised Vilicom had the necessary skills, expertise and
track record to make the project succeed.
Vilicoms role was to provide a detailed coverage design to all stadium areas,
which involved optimising the solution, minimising waste and cost, and
achieving the specified coverage and capacity targets.
This has now been achieved, resulting in a strong architecture which is
practical and pragmatic to install while reducing the quantities of equipment
and hence saving time and money.
To put this in context, lets look at the technical design. The architecture was
divided into three parts:
1. Stadium Bowl. 34 Antennas positioned around the edge of the bowl
roof, point into the crowd and provide dedicated coverage and service
to blocks of 4,000 spectators (on average). Each antenna is
connected to a dedicated optical remote repeater unit, which is
connected back to a master unit via fibre optic cable. All operators RF
signals are combined on the one systems, and the entire system can
be configured to each operators requirements.
2. Internal Stadium Areas. All areas and floors are covered by a DAS
system with 24 optically fed remote units and 220 antennas.
3. External Stadium Areas. An additional 6 cells around the outside of
the stadium cover the immediate parking and entrance to areas of the
Two dedicated BTS rooms house all operators equipment and connectivity
to the optical master system.
The location of roof mounted antennas and remote units is illustrated above.
Example of internal antenna plan for level 3, the VIP and hospitality suites
To understand how the design works, lets look at the following process:
The BTS operator feeds a reduced RF signal power to an optical
This converts the signal to be distributed over several optical fibres to
remote repeater units (amplifiers).
At the remote unit, the optical signal is converted and amplified back
as an RF signal for conventional distribution of coax cable to the
Optical systems compensate for RF losses associated with long RF Cable
lengths, and simplify installation work. They also have the benefit of remotely
locating a BTS room from the coverage area (for up to 10 kilometers).
Croke Park: Gaelic Athletic Association The spiritual home of the Gaelic Athletic Association, Croke Park has been at
the heart of Irish sporting life for over a hundred years. Boasting a capacity
for 82,300 people, the stadium is the home of Gaelic Games and the
headquarters of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA).
In the 1980's the GAA decided to investigate ways to increase the capacity of
Croke Park. As a result the design for an 80,000 capacity stadium with a
three-tier design was completed in 1991.
The redevelopment of Croke Park allowed for a main concourse, a premium
level incorporating hospitality facilities such as restaurants, bars and
conference areas and finally an upper concourse. The entire redevelopment
of the Stadium cost approximately 260 million.
Located in the heart of Dublin, it provides facilities for sports events,
concerts, conferences and events for the business community. As the third
largest stadium in Europe, after Barcelonas Nou Camp and Wembley in
London, it also faces specific technical challenges.
Remember that ten years ago, few fans had camera-ready phones; five
years ago, few had video options; and less than two years ago, not many
had phone, camera and video bundled on one device.
The advent of smartphones changed this. Today, many visitors come to
matches with powerful internet-ready phones with cameras and videos pre-
installed. The iPhone took things to the next level, offering a richer suite of
applications with Social Media apps that encouraged the sharing,
commenting and interactivity.
The challenges facing the GAA involved meeting customer expectations,
understanding emerging technologies, and making commercial decisions that
would position Croke Park as an industry leader when hosting sports
matches, concerts, and business events.
Likewise, the challenges for the Operators were to:
Design a system that would support the anticipated capacity
Develop a shared capital commercial model, aligned with each partys
Manage the project delivery, coordinate multiple teams, and source
the necessary equipment
Engage with Croke Park and work around other parallel projects
Understand the potential revenue streams, and customer
expectations that justify the investment in the project
However, the priority for the GAA was to ensure that its visitors many of
who are members of local GAA clubs around the country had the best
possible experience when visiting Croke Park. Of course, this also extended
to rugby fans, concert goers, VIPs, and corporate boxes
This meant designing a system that:
Offered network services to 80,000 fans simultaneously
Ensured sufficient RF levels were achieved across all sectors in the
Reduced interference and contained the RF signal within the stadium
Covered corporate areas, team communication, media
communication, seating bowl and access/vendor areas
And, while this applies to capacity crowds at the weekends, coverage is also
required at business seminars and conferences during off peak times.
On a more granular level, stadium events present capacity demands for
Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) such as:
User Demands. Croke Park holds 82,500 people, many of whom
want to photo, record and discuss the match with mobile devices.
Physical Limitations. As the stadium is concentrated into a relatively
small area, its hard to implement so many cells without diminishing
quality of service.
Spikes in Usage. Visitors tend to use their phones at specific times,
for instance, before the game, at half time, when goals are scored,
and after the final whistle, all of which create intense demands on the
Volume. In addition to making calls, they also upload photos and
videos to Social Media sites, watch video replays, make video calls
and send text messages.
Grazing. During quiet periods, visitors tend to use their phones to
graze, i.e. surf the web to pass the time, placing more demands on
Background Data. As smartphones are configured to automatically
update, download, and get information in the background, they use
up more capacity on the network.
Social Media. The popularity of Facebook, Twitter, and other social
media sites means photos and videos are shared online instantly.
Business Case. Providing a DAS shared between operators has
many benefits, such as sharing the systems cost. This reduces the
burden on a single operator to provide the investment, allowing them
to channel these funds into other aspects of the project.
Expectations. Users expect mobile services, especially in high
Quality of Service. Prolonged degraded or unavailable service
results in poor customer experience, particularly at a sporting or
Brand Perception. As many mobile operators sponsor sports teams
and events, its crucial that their service is available when their brand
is on the pitch.
Customer Experience. Event managers are also aware of the
importance of mobile data services to the overall experience of
attending event. For instance, this includes the desire to share the
experience in real-time by video calling.
Event organisers realise that mobile data is a critical service that needs to be
available to make their event and venue state of the art and reflect positively
on their brand values.
In many respects, both Croke Park and the network operator shared
common goals. Particularly two over-arching goals:
1. Immediately provide capacity to meet current users needs
2. Develop a roadmap for capacity growth
In addition, corporate and hospitality areas which previously lacked sufficient
coverage needed to be improved.
One of the dilemmas for the design team was to estimate the projected
network demands. As mobile data usage increases, especially at stadia and
live events, it becomes more challenging to define the current capacity
demand that needs to be serviced.
For network operators, this means creating realistic projects and allowing
contingencies for emerging technologies and their associated network
demands, thereby ensuring there is a sensible upgrade path if and when the
client needs to change the network configuration.
Following consultation with our strategic partners, Vilicom designed a
solution that allows Croke Park to capitalize on the existing network
infrastructure and also provides sufficient flexibility to expand when
Sectorisation. Multi-sector systems are developed to cover all areas
for GSM1800 and UMTS2100 though allowing the flexibility for
operators to feed in only the number of cells they initially require.
This design allows for further division of cells as traffic growth occurs.
In addition, as a strategic partner, Vilicom will continually work
alongside operators and stadium owners to monitor the traffic growth
and optimise/upgrade the system in parallel as traffic growth
Antennas. The choice of antennas to cover the seating area is critical
to ensure the optimal coverage footprint with minimal overlap (in
order to reduce interference and control soft handover areas).
Croke Park Stadium Design
Due to the excessively long distances (and RF losses) between the base
station equipment and the antennas for some sectors, RF-to-optical
conversion was used to connect to remote repeater units. The selected
repeater provided for a multi-operator, dual band GSM1800 and UMTS2100
system in one repeater unit, and so simplified the remote units installation
Vilicoms Strategic Value
On this project, Vilicom facilitated and chaired the complex business of
coordinating the requirements of infrastructure owners, lead operator and
joining operators. Vilicom provided the technical design, setup the contracts,
lead the implementation and testing, and thereby project managed the entire
end-to end process, including management of suppliers.
Multi-operator stadium systems have the highest demand for technical ability,
solution innovation, and pragmatism when dealing with complex evolving
requirements, areas where Vilicom has a proven track record after
successfully delivering multiple large projects.
Multi-operator stadium systems have the highest demand for technical ability, solution innovation, and pragmatism.
Vilicom also has experience of bringing together the many parties involved in
such systems: operators, stadium owners and management team, and
suppliers; co-ordinating varying requirements and interests of the different
parties, in order to insure a mutually optimal project outcome.
Unlike other projects, where the network design is closely tied into revenue-
generation opportunities, the Croke Park design was intended to future proof
the stadium to accommodate anticipated technical demands and also allow
the opportunity to embrace commercial opportunities where they arise.
For example, the design now allows the network operators and Croke Park to
Better quality of service
Access to mobile networks
Reflects well on the GAA as a brand
Superior conference facilities
Develop products and services with partners
Positive PR and press coverage
Higher customer satisfaction
In addition to this:
Vilicoms ability to design and manage multi-operator systems
resulted in significant cost savings per operator.
Vilicoms partnership approach ensured all requirements were
captured and an optimal system was designed to give the best value
With the demand for digital devices increasing every year, it has
become critical for stadia owners to measure performance more
intensively in order to retain customer loyalty and maintain a
competitive edge. Improving network experiences reinforce their
brands value, leading to satisfied customers and positive media
Evolving Capacity Requirements
From the initial to the final design, the system capacity has been doubled,
twice! This reflects the growing data usage and uptake in smartphones. The
design was developed in close co-operation with the mobile operators who
were constantly revising upwards their capacity demand forecasts due to the
success of the smartphone.
Of particular note, the systems flexibility and upgradability was of critical
importance to the operators, and this was taken as a design factor from the
Building on our contributions to the design phase, Vilicom has been retained
to provide additional services monitoring the traffic and capacity demands.
Croke Park strives to provide a greater fan experience to all its visitors. In todays wirelessly
connected world, our customers want to be able to use their devices not only for voice calls, but
also for internet browsing and accessing an increasing number of real time applications.
Vilicom were contracted to ensure the delivery of one of the largest and technically leading edge
DAS networks in Ireland. Vilicom implemented all the infrastructure requirements to enable
enhanced mobile connectivity at Croke Park. Vilicoms experience in delivering full Managed
Services, for what was an extremely challenging and complex project, was invaluable. Vilicom
was instrumental in the management of all stakeholder requirements, which included continuous
communication throughout the project with all stakeholders.
The result has greatly enhanced our visitors experience and made Croke Park a fantastic venue
Alan Gallagher Head of Stadium Operations, Croke Park
Craven Cottage: Fulham FC Craven Cottage has been the home of Fulham F.C. since 1896. After major
refurbishment work was carried out in 2004, the ground's capacity has
increased from 22,000 to its current capacity of 25,700.
As part of our services to the client, we were asked to evaluate the current
coverage in, and around the stadium.
Vilicom were asked to provide a detailed design and plan to build a dedicated
system in the stadium to improve coverage and help with the local capacity
congestions. Before we look at the proposed design, lets examine the
underlying issues that faced the management team at Fulham F.C.
The primary issue facing Craven Cottage is that mobile networks struggle to
maintain good coverage and access to voice and data services in or around
the stadium during a match due to ever increasing capacity demands.
Smartphones. This capacity issue has progressively increased with
the introduction of smartphones. This is not restricted to Fulhams
stadium, but is also an issue for many other high capacity stadia.
Team Usage. A further system demand is that the team uses the
mobile network for its own communication between staff and
especially when the owner arrives to a match.
Suburban Restrictions. This means there are coverage and
capacity issues not only at the stadium but also in the immediate
surrounding area, coupled with this, stadium neighbours are sensitive
to any solutions which require installations at roof area.
Customer Experience. On match day, cell sites cannot cope with the
capacity demand and users experince areas and periods without
access to mobile service. In addition the local users who live in this
area suffer from lack of service.
Negative PR. The club wants to improve facilities to corporate
spectators who sometimes had issues using their smartphones on the
corporate networks. Its eager to have a reliable communications
system in place during match day and needs an immediate solution.
Vilicom was asked to look at a dedicated solution for the stadium to absorb
the traffic for all operators. This will help relieve the external network and
provide improved service to spectators and staff on match days.
The technical architecture is divided into two parts:
1. Bowl. Provides dedicated coverage to each of the 4 stands. Only 4
antenna locations for 3 main stands, and 8 antennas for the Johnny
Haynes Stand, the protected monument stand.
2. Internal: Provides enhanced seamless coverage to two stands with
internal areas and suites as well as dedicated coverage to the main
cottage which houses the staff and players rooms and lounges.
There is also a dedicated BTS space to house a minimum of two operators
equipment and connectivity to the optical master system.
The following diagram shows the location of roof mounted antennas and
This diagram illustrates the consideration of antenna mounting for Johnny
Haynes the old protected stand.
The Johnny Haynes stand at Craven Cottage, is a Grade II listed building named after one of Fulham's greatest players Johnny Haynes. One of British footballs outstanding inside-forwards, Johnny Haynes was capped for England on 56 occasions, 22 as captain.
The basic concept of the network design is as follows:
The operators base station equipment is connected to an optical
master unit. This converts the signal to be distributed over several
fibres to remote repeater units.
At each remote unit the optical signal is converted back to an RF
signal and amplified for conventional distribution over a coax cable
system to the antennas..
While optical distribution systems are primarily used when RF losses on
coaxial cable would be excessive, they also simplify many aspects of the
system design and installaion. Optical systems also provide the technology
to remotely locate a BTS room from the coverage area (for up to 10
Project Management Challenges
At the design stage of the project, options had to be checked with the club in
order to confirm:
Design aesthetics cable routes
Future club construction plans to help ease the planning permissions
with the local authorities with respect to the installation of equipment
in the protected stand of Johnny Haynes
The installation planning must work around the clubs world of matches and
events. Therefore all project work needs to be coordinated around quickly
changing schedules. Further, the River stand is to be totally renovated and
as such the system must cope with the upgrade in the near future.
We also have to take into consideration that there is a very limited amount of
electrical power available on match days that can be used for a solution; a
further complication is that one of the stands is a protected building.
Craven Cottage stadium is an old building and is considered an historic
landmark with local residents who are very sensitive to any changes
proposed to the grounds, stands, or local area.
At Craven Cottage we suffered for a long time with poor cellular coverage, either 2G or 3G. In
recent times, with so many people using smartphones and the necessity of mobile
communications on match days, it became essential to address this. Thanks to Vilicoms excellent
work in designing and deploying the stadium solution, we now have great coverage when
making calls or using web based services.
The way Vilicom coordinated the project was excellent, we were kept updated on the progress
and had full confidence in Vilicom to deliver . We are now looking into leveraging the solution
with new services that benefit the supporters who come to the stadium
Sean O Loughlin, Fulham FC Financial Director
Good Coverage and Capacity in Stadia provide benefits for all the
The stadium owner benefits from the opportunity to be able to
generate revenues, for example, via targeted advertising or coverage
in their conference suites.
Network Operators increase their customer satisfaction and have the
opportunity to generate additional revenues.
Subscribers have a more satisfying, consistent and positive
experience, in being able to access all the services, that they now
take for granted and expect to be available wherever they are.
The explosive growth in data puts a significant strain on the network. In
particular, video sharing and the popularity of social media, places extreme
demands on the networks as this type of usage becomes the norm, not the
exception. As the number of smartphones increase exponentially, the
stadium solution has to consider a design that will support this growth and
A number of key points have to be considered in high capacity stadia
To be able to design a stadium solution that is sufficiently robust
to accommodate the demands and opportunities.
To be able to coordinate and work with ALL the stakeholders to
ensure the right design.
To be able to Project Manage a complex solution deployment
To have the flexibility and creativity to dynamically address
changes in stakeholder requirements.
On large, complex projects of this nature there will always be revisions to the
original design. New specifications, technical requirements and constraints
emerge as the project evolves. Each of these changes have to be factored
into the design.
One common thread that runs through these projects has been the power of collaboration. For each of the above case studies, all parties had interesting
potential and ambitious goalsbut the essential element in actualising the vision is collaboration.
Whether its Rent, Capital Contribution, Access, Advertising Rights, Network
Capacity, Satisfaction for your network user, presentation of your brand,
each stakeholders ambition can be realised, and a greater goal achieved
through working together.
If youd like to learn more about how Vilicom delivered these projects and
what how Vilicom can deliver your projects, please contact our sales team at
For further information contact:
Vilicom is an expert provider of consultancy services with over ten years of experience in the analysis, design, test and implementation of wireless networks. Vilicoms strengths lie in technology strategy consulting, the planning of cellular networks, transmission network design, implementation of specialised in-building coverage systems and network benchmarking and testing. Vilicom has delivered its services in over 20 countries for network operators, network equipment vendors, industry regulators and investors. Vilicom delivers value for its customers by adopting a flexible, customer-focused approach, retaining cutting-edge expertise and maintaining its independence.
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