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Old Trafford marks start of Verizon’s drive to bring US stadium tech to Europe and Asia

Partnership with Extreme Networks to bring private 5G and high-density Wi-Fi to venues.

6 May 2022 Steve McCaskill
Old Trafford marks start of Verizon’s drive to bring US stadium tech to Europe and Asia

Getty Images

  • Verizon works with NFL, NBA, and NHL in the US
  • Manchester United’s famous home to get mobile ticketing and touchless payment upgrades

US telecommunications giant Verizon Business wants to bring the in-stadium technology and network capabilities common in US sports leagues to venues in Europe and the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region.

The technology firm has partnerships with the National Football League (NFL), National Basketball Association (NBA), and National Hockey League (NHL) among others, providing infrastructure to support fan applications, public safety systems and crowd management analytics.

Most recently, it has started deploying ultra-wide band 5G connectivity at venues, delivering huge advances in speed, capacity, and reliability, complementing this coverage with private networks.

However, arenas and stadiums outside the US have traditionally been slower to adopt these technologies. Newer venues, such as Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, have been able to include network infrastructure during the construction phase however older, and even some newer stadiums will have to be retrofitted.

Verizon believes its expertise in North America, coupled with its global footprint mean it is well equipped to take advantage of a growing appetite among venue owner and operators to modernise their facilities as sport becomes more digitised.

“We have worked very, very closely with [US Sports leagues] and [during the pandemic] we have  covered venues with very dense ultra-wideband 5G,” Tami Erwin, Verizon Business chief executive, said at an event in London. “That enables almost unlimited capacity and we’ve complemented that [coverage] with private networks when we’ve needed to.

“We understand the potential of these technologies; from deploying innovative fan experiences, shortening queue times, using analytics for fan safety or streamlining matchday operations.

“We have the experience, and now, an international ecosystem of partners aligned with our organisation who are just as committed to living up to the passion of fans who build memories at these venues.”

Although Verizon does not have mobile networks outside the US, it does have backbone infrastructure and local support teams that serve multinational organisations such as banks and retailers across the world. It plans to use these assets to support customers in the sports industry, building private 5G networks that use unlicensed spectrum and working with Extreme Networks to deliver advanced Wi-Fi capabilities.

“As leagues continue to evolve, the network will permeate every aspect of the in-stadium experience from biometrics, mobile sports betting, and mobile concessions,” said Norman Rice, chief operating officer at Extreme Networks. “Additionally, the ability to unlock network analytics to better optimize fan experiences will be a game changer.”

The first fruits of that partnership will be seen at Old Trafford, the home of Premier League soccer team Manchester United, where the two companies will build a high-density Wi-Fi network that will support a range of applications including mobile ticketing and touchless transactions.

As the club looks to modernise its famous old ground, technology will play a key part in enhancing the fan experience and encouraging supporters to stay longer. This will have a knock-on effect on revenues and engagement.

“The challenge with a high-density venue is that there are a lot of people in a small space. Then you think of a venue like Old Trafford and there is additional complexity,” added Rice at an event in London. “There’s nothing, no power, no cables, no infrastructure. So we’re starting from scratch and together we’re going to build a state of the art system that will connect fans throughout their entire experience. We’re starting with a soft launch throughout the season and then work [from there] on everything Manchester United want to do about extending and creating commerce and creating fan engagement.”

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