How do you swing a golf course into the 21st century? How do you caddy the thousands of fans attending championships games into in the action all day long?
The PGA European Tour has the answer, bringing Wi-Fi onto the course for on-demand video, interactive content and location based services.
Xirrus, the wireless networks, has partnered with the PGA European Tour - operator of the leading professional men's golf tour - to provide spectators with high-performance Wi-Fi at its golfing events.
The first phase of the rollout comprised deployment of Xirrus Wireless Arrays at its Wentworth Club headquarters for the BMW PGA Championship in May. This covered the 2,000 seat grandstand as well as the PGA Village and hospitality sections of the course, providing fans with access to a raft of services such as on-demand video and digital content to improve their event day experience.
Graham Gifford, ICT Director at PGA European Tour, said: "Wireless is playing a fundamental role in helping us entice fans away from watching golf on their TV screens at home, to get out and enjoy the live event itself. The delivery of high-performance Wi-Fi from Xirrus allows us to provide spectators with a home entertainment type experience on the golf course, enabling them to enjoy video and interactive content, visit online communities and share their experiences with friends on social media."
Gifford adds: "Our service includes live streaming of tournament highlights to user's devices and we even have a player tracker app so visitors can navigate the course and follow their favourite players throughout the day. We can also capture users' preferences, redirect them to chosen content and tailor other promotional services to provide them with a more personal view of the tournament."
On choosing Xirrus, Gifford explains: "The European Tour environment has very specific requirements, with multiple temporary structures that need to be rapidly constructed and deconstructed week-on-week. We needed a Wi-Fi provider that could quickly deploy the network, offer high quality coverage and then relocate the network equipment in a very tight time frame. Other vendors quoted up to six weeks for this process, whereas Xirrus had our Wi-Fi up and running in just a few days.
"From a technology perspective, Xirrus was the clear leader and this was the easiest, most risk-free deployment we've had in a long time. Xirrus capabilities like Application Control allow us to deliver a really compelling, consistent experience for the fans," says Gifford. "Other vendors have failed in the past and we've experienced multiple 'dead zones' and poor application performance. With Xirrus we have complete coverage - the capability to handle huge capacity and bandwidth demands with no dropouts on video delivery. Feedback from users at the BMW Wentworth Championship was that they couldn't believe they were getting ubiquitous coverage and on demand video without any connection issues. At peak times we had more than 3500 devices connected to the network, with 90% of these being smartphones, and there was never a drop in quality. The network was delivering sustained throughput of more than 15Mbps for most of the latter days of the Tournament and was capable of delivering over 4000 individual video streams to users."
Xirrus worked closely with channel partner, AJP Solutions, a specialist network analysis solutions supplier on the deployment. The strong working relationship between AJP, Xirrus and the European Tour was instrumental in delivering a successful launch at the BMW Wentworth Championship.
The European Tour used the Xirrus Management System (XMS) to provide full monitoring and management of the network, which provided a wealth of rich user data, such as identifying which areas experienced higher user density and tracking typical visitor movements. This will enable the organisers to learn from this user behaviour and structure the next event accordingly.
Sean Larner, VP International at Xirrus, comments: "The use of Wi-Fi on the PGA European Tour is a clear demonstration of the flexibility of Xirrus' wireless offering and the speed at which we can get these powerful networks up and running for our customers in demanding environments. We're seeing more sporting venues tap into Wi-Fi as a way to provide fans with tailored digital content and value-add services, while also providing the venue itself with new revenue streams for them and their partners."
Due to the success of the BMW PGA event, the next phase of the rollout will see the Wi-Fi network expanded across the entire 18-hole course to further improve the spectator experience. The European Tour will also be deploying a similar Xirrus Wi-Fi network at Future golfing events throughout the year.