A modern stadium is much more than just a place for organizing sports events – in many cases, renting out conference rooms and exhibition spaces for different types of events is one of the most important revenue streams. To address the growing wireless connectivity issues impacting the experience of guests and employees, Sammy Ofer Stadium in Haifa, Israel decided to modernize its network infrastructure with the next-generation Wi-Fi 6 solution from Extreme Networks.
To maintain a high level of attractiveness and diversify the sources of income, sports venues and arenas utilize a number of different spaces, besides the actual stands during the match day. Their common denominator that supports the organization’s business goals? A fast and secure wireless connectivity that allows valuable user experiences and enables key stadium operations.
The Sammy Ofer multi-purpose stadium is no exception in that regard. Classified as a Category 4 (the highest) by the UEFA’s standards, it is the second-largest sports arena (30,858 seats) and the most advanced venue in its class in Israel. However, the original wireless infrastructure installed on the stadium’s opening in 2014, eventually became outdated.
“The expiration of the maintenance contract and the subsequent lack of means to replace the broken equipment led to some tangible issues with the Wi-Fi coverage. That meant the need for a new solution”, says Eli Kendel, Territory Manager Israel, Romania, Greece, Cyprus & Malta at Extreme Networks.
A Wi-Fi worthy of the Champions League
To ensure high-class connectivity and enable new and advanced digital services for the hospitality sections, including conference rooms, VIP lounges, banquet halls, press auditorium, skyboxes, as well as the staff offices and dressing rooms, the IT team at the Sammy Ofer stadium decided to seek out a modern, effective, and reliable solution that would last for years to come and also enable monitoring and identifying user connections.
Due to the good experience with Avaya technology in the past, the choice was made to go with Extreme. As part of the modernization project that was concluded in March 2022, several dozens of the new AP410C access points were installed throughout the stadium. The local IT team didn’t have to wait long to see the benefits of the new solution.
“The system was installed approximately one year ago, and since then we haven’t experienced any malfunctions. The solutions is dependable and provides excellent Wi-Fi coverage for all indoor areas of the stadium, including guest rooms, halls, operations area, and press conference floors”, says Shai Pesachov, IT Manager at the Sammy Ofer Stadium. “Last autumn we hosted three Champions League games, and hundreds of users connected to the guest Wi-Fi simultaneously. We went as far as to connect the stadium's ticketing system (Fortress) in the VIP areas via Wi-Fi. Everything functioned perfectly!”.
Next-generation Wi-Fi 6 for the next-level experiences
To bring the stadium’s wireless connectivity to the next level, not only in terms of good coverage but also performance, extra capabilities, and cost-efficiency, Shai Pesachov and his colleagues from the IT team decided to utilize the new Wi-Fi standard called IEEE 802.11ax or, more simply, Wi-Fi 6.
Suffice to say that each new access point from Extreme replaced four older networking devices. But that’s not all. Unlike the access points from other vendors, which perform scans only part of the time since they use the same radio, the dedicated sensor of the AP410C scans for malicious attacks and vulnerabilities continuously and does not harm the performance of the radio resources.
“With the implementation of our Wi-Fi 6 access points, we were able to provide data rates of up to 4.8 Gbps in the 5 GHz and 2.4 GHz bands simultaneously, meaning a great user experience even in such a dense environment”, says Eyal Cohen-Or, Senior System Engineer Israel, Romania, Greece, Cyprus & Malta at Extreme Networks. “The installed access points combined excellent bandwidth, advanced security, and ML/AI management capabilities together into an enterprise-class solution, allowing the Sammy Ofer Stadium to deploy a high speed and highly secure Wi-Fi”.
What’s also very important, along with the new Wi-Fi infrastructure, Sammy Ofer Stadium gained an advanced cloud management solution called ExtremeCloud IQ – Site Engine, together with an integrated set of applications that provide analytics, reporting and customized dashboards, granting the visibility of both wired and wireless part of the network.
“We now have the capability of monitoring and identifying user connections – features which we did not possess previously. The Extreme solution enables us to monitor the network and identify congested areas and interruptions in the Wi-Fi network more effectively. With these capabilities, we can address issues even before they impact network performance”, Shai Pesachov explains. “The technical features that are crucial to us are the ease of managing the units, defining new access points for the system, the ability to create policies such as SSID distribution or cancellation for APs, monitoring the units, identifying connected users and the network usage they have”.
The game’s still on
If the modernization of the Sammy Ofer Stadium’s legacy wireless network were to be compared to a football match, we could say that it’s the half time and the home team is leading 1-0. What remains to be done is to expand this new level of connectivity to the other areas of the venue.
“We are planning to replace the older access point units in the outdoor areas, including the pitch and the stands as well, to cover the IoT sensors, cameras recording the games and of course the 30,000 seats that are populated by connected fans”, says Shai Pesachov. “We want to expand our Wi-Fi coverage as far as to the entrance gates, providing high quality connectivity for the visitors the very moment they enter our venue grounds and tie it all together with a fully cloud managed network solution”, the IT Manager at the Sammy Ofer Stadium concludes.