"The ability to watch video content on smartphones will give fans the opportunity to enjoy the vibe of being at a big game while at the same time enjoying the benefits that come from watching at home."

Barend van Graan, CEO of the Blue Bulls Company

Rugby is a technical sport and recently we've seen increasing demand from spectators to use our 3G and 4G networks to access photos and video of incidents on the pitch so they can analyse them instantly using their smartphones. However, when over 51,000 people are all trying to do it at the same time, as well as sharing selfies and social network updates, it can create congestion on the network.

To solve the problem, Vodacom has deployed a new technology called EAP-SIM at the Loftus Versfeld stadium in Centurion, which allows devices to seamlessly switch between radio bearers (4G, 3G, 2G and Wi-Fi). This means that a smartphone or tablet can connect to whichever bearer offers the best connection, ensuring the fastest possible data access. EAP-SIM also allows users to receive voice calls while accessing data using Wi-Fi.

Hundreds of access points

The network, which was built in partnership with Cisco, is made up of hundreds of Wi-Fi access points. By increasing the number of access points and using Wi-Fi spectrum, the data carrying capacity within the stadium has been dramatically increased. This ultimately means faster downloads and uploads, and less congestion. The system is flexible and Vodacom has plans to increase the number of access points to 700 in the future.

The Blue Bulls are always exploring new ways to bring the ultimate gaming experience to their fans. More than just a solution to congestion, Barend van Graan, CEO of the Blue Bulls Company sees the solution as the first step to creating a next generation smart stadium that can enrich fan experience:

“In some cases people would rather stay at home to watch the game on TV where they can easily view replays, see different camera angles or even catch games being played at other stadiums. Our new Wi-Fi network will change that. The ability to watch video content on their smartphones will give fans the opportunity to enjoy the vibe of being at a big game while at the same time enjoying the benefits that come from watching at home."