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Smart Stadiums: What 5G Means for the Future of Sports

We explain what smart stadiums are, their benefits for fans and owners, and the impact of 5G wireless connectivity on the latest generation of use cases.

What Are Smart Stadiums?

Smart stadiums use 5G and IoT technology to provide a better experience to fans, improve physical security within the venue and enable new services that benefit the venue owner.

Today fans expect the same quality of connection in a stadium that they have in their living room. Fans want to share their experience on social media in real time and interact with their favorite team digitally. Venue owners can streamline maintenance, improve profitability, and provide premium fan services all on the same smart stadium platform.

Smart stadiums are a fairly new concept but are becoming more popular and accessible thanks to the improving wireless connectivity capabilities enabled by increasing public 5G availability and also via the availability of new private 5G solutions. Before we dive into the capabilities of smart stadiums, let’s first explain how they’re different from traditional venues.

What’s the Difference Between a Smart Stadium and a Traditional Stadium?

The difference between a smart stadium and a traditional stadium is that smart stadiums use private cellular technology to enable the latest generation of digital services (e.g., pervasive stadium-wide coverage) that provide value to both fans and stadium owners.

For example, IoT sensors can help fans find free parking spaces, make contactless payments from vendors, etc. These same sensors can be used to reduce maintenance costs by automating heating and cooling, orchestrating lights based on occupancy, and sending proactive alerts when HVAC units experience problems.

Traditional stadiums typically have isolated Wi-Fi networks designed to serve administrative offices - reserved away from fan and visitor connectivity within the venue. This approach can leave fans struggling to obtain an effective internet connection when on guest Wi-Fi and fails to take advantage of the full Wi-Fi spectrum for guest connectivity at times of increasing number of fans in the venue.

Advantages of Smart Stadiums

With the basics out of the way, let’s touch on some of the key advantages smart stadiums benefit from.


Smart stadiums can improve fan services while reducing operating costs at the same time. Smart stadium services such as food and beverage delivery can get fans to spend more without the hassle of missing the event.

Many smart stadiums have a rewards program that fans can use to get discounts by attending more events and spending more on merchandise. Smart analytics can suggest new products based on a customer’s purchase history and geolocation within the stadium. These small changes can dramatically improve the total revenue per customer during each event.

Operational expenses can slowly sap any profits throughout the year if not managed correctly. Smart stadiums leverage cellular technology paired with IoT sensors to control lights, HVAC, and security. These sensors can automatically adjust thermostats and lights to maximize efficiency without human intervention.

Competitive Fan Services

Technology powered by smart stadiums can bring fans together and closer to the action. Cellular technology opens up the opportunity to broadcast public 5G service that anyone can use to get better reception anywhere across the property.

Mobile apps can give fans access to exclusive content, help them navigate the stadium, and even open a new marketing channel to bolster future sales and cross-sells. This improves sales while catering to fans to create a truly memorable experience.

Examples of Smart Stadium Technology

While smart stadiums are still gaining popularity, there are a few services that have already shown immense promise. Below are a few examples of popular technologies across smart stadiums in use today.

Visitor Screening

Keeping fans safe is the first priority of any event, yet this process can be logistically challenging, especially for larger stadiums. Smart stadium security networks can improve the accuracy and speed of visitor screening by powering sensors to detect explosives, weapons, and contraband.

Security staff can monitor live CCTV over 5G with the assistance of artificial intelligence to spot suspicious behavior. For example, facial recognition can alert security officers to individuals banned from the property. Similar technology can also spot suspicious behavior and detect if off-limits areas are breached.

Infrastructure Monitoring and Orchestration

At full capacity, a stadium isn’t too different from a small city. Guests need access to vendors, electricity, restrooms, and food all while staying comfortable and connected. IoT sensors can play a big role in ensuring these systems stay operational, cost-effective, and available to customers.

For example, room capacity sensors can automatically let queuing fans know when they may enter a merchandise shop. These same sensors can help fans pick the best route to the nearest restroom, food stand, or information kiosk, and they can even estimate current wait times for these services.

Electrical systems, water pumps, and HVAC units can automatically create maintenance requests based on their condition. For instance, if water pump pressure falls below a certain threshold, an alert and maintenance request can be automatically sent to staff. Hundreds of different environmental conditions can trigger these events and in some cases automatically apply fixes to help cut down on labor costs.

How Smart Stadiums Work

Smart stadiums typically rely on private cellular networks to adequately cover the vast amount of indoor and outdoor space required to serve a fully booked event - given the fact that Wi-Fi should be reserved for fan and visitor access, especially during highly attended events and games.

Today, a few 5G outdoor access points can provide ample coverage, capacity, and speed to smart stadium services as part of a private cellular network. Smart stadiums work by providing high-speed internet access while also transforming data into insights.

For example, an IoT sensor on an HVAC machine determines there may be a short in one of the fans. This is detected by monitoring the fan speed and electric conductivity of the unit. This alert can be sent via the private 5G smart stadium network to a server either on-premises or in the cloud.

The server would be where data is processed, where administrators create workflows, automation, and where rules for certain eventstake place. In this example, the collected details can be automatically entered into a work order and that work order is sent to the maintenance department. Staff can be alerted on their mobile app and already have an understanding of the problem and where the unit is located.

What makes smart stadiums truly smart is their ability to collect environmental data in real time and apply corrective actions automatically without human intervention.

How Private 5G Makes Smart Stadiums Smarter

Private 5G gives stadiums the power to own and control their cellular networks, similar to how organizations own their own Wi-Fi networks. This shift away from big-name cellular carriers gives property owners more control over their budget, cellular resources, and service levels.

For example, many commercial carrier contracts include overage fees or data throttling, which could grind network resources to a halt during a sold-out show. Private 5G puts the control of private / secure connectivity of back office and staff applications back into the hands of organizations that are trying to improve services in a smart stadium.

With a private cellular network, administrators can create multiple service-level objectives across multiple applications and device types to ensure security and other crucial services remain online even when managing a sold-out stadium.

From a performance perspective, private 5G networks can support deterministic latency and throughput for critical use cases and easily provide pervasive wireless coverage across smart stadiums.

Smart Stadium Solutions With Celona

Within a Celona 5G LAN, cellular wireless access points can be quickly deployed throughout the stadium as plug-n-play, managed centrally via cloud based operations, and ensure service level objectives on critical applications, such as throughput and latency requirements, are consistently met. Celona’s industry-first approach enables venue operators and stadium IT teams to build their own private 4G LTE and 5G networks as a seamless turnkey solution.

With a Celona 5G LAN, out of the box experience is drastically simplified, operations across a large network can be performed at scale, and onboarding can be done alongside existing wireless and IT infrastructure, without interrupting business operations.

To get started, check out a live demo of Celona’s solution by visiting us at celona.io/journey where you can also sign-up for a free trial of a Celona 5G LAN.

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