Ruckus Smart Wi-Fi is a Clean Winner at Annual BNP Paribas Open Tennis Tournament in Indian Wells
Indian Wells Tennis Garden Provides “Flawless” Wireless Coverage, Including Live Streaming Video on New BNP Paribas Open Mobile App to As Many As 9,000 Concurrent Users Daily Over Two-Week Tournament
Stadium Tech Report: Indian Wells Tennis Garden serves up an ace with Ruckus Wi-Fi for BNP Paribas Open
In tennis, a player gets two chances to serve the ball in. Mark McComas, lead project manager for the public Wi-Fi installation at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in southern California, knew he’d have just one shot to get it all to work properly.
McComas, VP for systems integrator West Coast Networking of Palm Desert, Calif., began working on a wireless system to handle IWTG’s administrative and corporate offices as well as handle box-office scanning in July 2013. But then a smartphone app for the famed BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament with schedules, results, player bios and live streaming video got added to the mix, and IWTG’s public Wi-Fi network wasn’t so much born as mushroomed into being.
At this year’s tournament, where play in the women’s main draw started today, the 400,000-plus fans who attend over the two weeks of play will be able to once again use the app to enhance their on-site visit, with features like live video from different courts, updated stats and play-by-play audio coverage. It all runs on the free Wi-Fi service available at the venue, a project McComas and West Coast Networking helped deploy in time for last year’s event.
– Figuring out how to stream video from the four stadiums, and whether they should produce their own video locally; pick up feeds from the Association of Tennis Players and the Women’s Tennis Association; or work with a third-party. (They went with the ATP/WTA feed.)
In addition to staff and thousands of spectators to satisfy, there was also the man who owns IWTG and the BNP Paribas tournament: Oracle billionaire Larry Ellison, who’s not exactly known for initiating group hugs. According to McComas, the tournament staff was great to work with and very technology-fluent. “They gave us the tools and expected us to perform and do it right the first time,” he added.
McComas also credits all the vendors involved for their input and cooperation. As a result, the network easily handled the demands from densely packed users and the steep pitch of each stadium. Predictably, that’s where the toughest engineering problems emerged. “The biggest problem was density and co-channel interference at 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz,” McComas said. “We used directional antennas and a corkscrew pattern in the upper and lower levels of Stadium 1 and Stadium 2, with directional antennas pointing at banks of seats.”
In addition, if a user connects at 2.4 GHz, if their device can support it IWTG pushes them to 5 GHz, which McComas said was critical since the overlap on the 2.4 GHz part of the spectrum is only three channels.
Another critical piece in the network was the platform from RG Nets, which in addition to rate-limiting, also handles clustering, failover and load balancing. McComas said the box acts as a “captive portal,” so that once the user connects there and agrees to the terms and conditions, they get Internet access based on a group policy that throttles their connection. “Public Wi-Fi needs rate-limiting,” he said. “You could make the best wireless network out there, but if you’re not throttling the connection on a per-user basis, you’re going to fail.”
Video streaming, video encoding and app hosting are all handled off-premises; that reserves bandwidth and processing power for onsite users, rather than hosting those functions for the entire world, McComas said.
In 2014, McComas said IWTG had as many as 9,000 concurrent users on the tournament app, accounting for nearly 3 TB of data per day from the public Wi-Fi network alone. “It was insane how may people downloaded the app and were using it,” McComas laughed. In addition, IWTG had 4 Gbps of fiber in 2014 dedicated to the public Wi-Fi network; McComas said they’ll bump that up to 5.5 Gbps this year. They’re also adding about 20 additional APs around the venue to relieve potential congestion points.
“It was very clear that the Indian Wells organization wanted to do it once and do it right the first time, and also accommodate their growth over the next 10 years,” he added. “We engineered the network for growth.”
A new mobile app is "one of various technological improvements" at this year's BNP Paribas Open, along with "public Wi-Fi, charging stations and an expanded hawk-eye system for all matches," according to Xochitl Pena of the Palm Springs DESERT SUN. The tournament is "expected to attract about 420,000 people" to the Indian Wells Tennis Garden this year. The app, with "more than 42,000 downloads" thus far, "also made it necessary to have a public Wi-Fi system that could handle its usage." Palm Desert-based West Coast Networking "installed" the system. The stadium "now has the capacity to accommodate 25,000 concurrent users, but so far is averaging between 6,000 and 9,000 Wi-Fi log ins daily." Tournament Dir Steve Simon "reports no complaints over the new system so far," and said that the staff has "only experienced one glitch when their 'UPS power supply' went out once, but only for about 5 to 10 minutes." Each of the new charging stations "has 24 nooks for people to hook in" their devices. The tournament also "brought a vendor on site -- PlusBlue Solutions -- to provide battery packs for purchase and rent." Specators can rent the battery packs for "$10 to $15 a day" or purchase them "for anywhere from $50 to $100." PlusBlue Founder & Managing Partner Mike Bagby on Monday said that they "had about 2,000 transactions which includes rentals and purchases" (Palm Springs DESERT SUN, 3/14).
Rukus Wireless made sure fans located throughout the Tennis Garden, and on the massive 16,000 seat Stadium 1, as well as the brand new 8,000 seat Stadium 2 could get free Wi-Fi for the duration of the tournament.
"We were tasked with the responsibility of deploying a wireless network for the entire site—an internal system for verifying tournament participants' credentials, facilitating box office functions, and other internal infrastructure needs, in addition to a massive, public Wi-Fi system," offers up Mark McComas, vice president of West Coast Networking. "The driving force behind this deployment was providing public Wi-Fi access that would enable patrons to easily access the BNP Paribas Open Mobile Application."
A comprehensive Ruckus Smart Wi-Fi network was installed and it actually is managed year-round to provide Wi-Fi access for all of the other events held at the Garden by West Coast Networking of Palm Desert, CA. They are a managed service provider (MSP) and a Ruckus Big Dog channel partner.
"The biggest thing the BNP Paribas Open App provided was the live video coverage," continued McComas. "Within the App, there were four different BNP Paribas Open live video feeds that users could choose from—stadiums one, two, three and four—so for everyone within the Tennis Garden, they could watch any of the matches on these four courts streamed live via the BNP Paribas Open live video feeds, which was a first for any ATP World Tour/WTA event, so it was quite a milestone for the tennis world."