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How C Spire Will Make the Vaught Seem Like Home for Accessing Social Media

Vaught-Hemingway has been outfitted with 28 miles of cable for its wi-fi upgrade.

When you reach for your mobile device this Saturday while the Rebels beat up on Louisiana Lafayette at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, it won’t look like your living room.
But Ole Miss and C Spire officials partnering to bring state-of-the-art wi-fi coverage here say you’ll be able to communicate with friends and family within the stadium and outside as easily as if you were sitting in your recliner in front of the TV.
Some of the fiber optic cable installed in the stadium.

Michael Thompson, Ole Miss’ senior assistant athletic director for communication and marketing, explains, for the first time, 60,000 Ole Miss and Louisiana Lafayette fans assembled in one place for a massive experience will be able to share it with others in the stadium and at home in real time. “On-line attendees can be the eyes and ears of what’s going on at the Vaught with all the color, pageantry and action that makes Rebel football so special,” Thompson said.
Thompson says the wi-fi upgrade that kicks off Saturday courtesy of C Spire, is not only standard-setting for the SEC, but the most cutting-edge on-site digital support technology installed anywhere in the country.
“Less than half of SEC schools have wi-fi in their stadiums at all,” Thompson added. “Everything we’ve researched tells us Ole Miss will have the most robust and technologically advanced stadium digital communication capability in the country.”
The Vaught will have the most advanced fiber optic cable technology in the football world.

Wade Smith, C Spire vice president for operations and development, details the hardware that enables this kind of connectivity: “820 access points, 28 miles of cable and 6 miles of conduit have been positioned for this project,” Smith said. “This is a different type of technology than is active for any team in the country. Historically, providing on-line access to a large condensed crowd has been a major obstacle for providers. Our approach at the Vaught, is to leverage a large amount of access points while we radiate the signal through the concrete in the stadium.”
The Louisiana-Lafayette and Memphis home games will serve as test runs for what promises to be one of the biggest media events on the sports calendar, the Alabama game at the Vaught Oct. 4.
“We have absolute confidence that we can accommodate a record-breaking crowd at the stadium for the Alabama game,” Smith said. The veteran technology professional adds that the C Spire team will be able to monitor band-width performance through computers at the stadium and control levels to meet demand.
“We will deliver a living-room quality experience at the game,” Smith said. “Our expectations is to offer the best of both worlds in terms of viewing the game live and having access to video and on-line data through your mobile device.”
Why bother, you say. You just want to watch the game. Well, research shows that 82 percent of people will use their IPAD at a game if it’s within arm’s reach, and 72 percent of those users will multitask with their mobile device.
When asked about fears of failure in front of 60,000 screaming fanatics, Smith is undaunted. “When you try something that no one else has attempted, sure you feel some anxiety. But we’ve tested this technology extensively and, to us, it’s not a risk,” he said.
So what do you, as a customer, get out of this blend of Rebel football and wireless technology? Imagine watching a re-play on ESPN of a great play you’ve just witnessed — or a spectacular highlight from another game. You could I-Message your friend on the other side of the field or tweet your latest epiphany about Ole Miss’ chances for a national championship.
“In the future, we’ll provide additional camera angles and concierge service to seats is on the horizon,” Smith added.
Thompson says that another benefit of the wi-fi project is that phone service should improve. “It’ll be easier to make phone calls because there won’t be a massive rush of phone traffic to the nearest tower,” Thompson said, conceding that in the past, phone service and social networking of any kind was a “hit-and-miss” proposition at the Vaught, depending on your carrier. Voice traffic is not on this local wi-fi system, but the added capacity of messaging and social media access should take the pressure off voice access. In this case, wi-fi is the highway out of the stadium.
C Spire and Ole Miss will use the school’s first two home football games to test and optimize the network. Connectivity will be provided at no cost to any fan choosing to access the network during the Rebels’ games vs. Louisiana-Lafayette and Memphis.
Beginning with Ole Miss’ Southeastern Conference home opener against Alabama, C Spire will provide free network access for its customers who attend the game. Fans with service from other wireless providers will also be able to access the network for $4.99 per game.
Fiber optics make the upgrade possible.

“As a leading telecommunications and technology services provider, we know firsthand how important these devices are to an entire generation of consumers,” said Hu Meena, president and CEO of C Spire. “That’s why we’ve partnered with Ole Miss to identify and implement an infrastructure solution that over time will deliver a world-class in-game experience for fans.”
Ole Miss athletics director Ross Bjork said the network will provide additional capacity this season and position the school and C Spire to deliver an unmatched gameday experience using technology in future years.
“For years, Ole Miss has been known as a ‘bucket list’ gameday destination, and it is our responsibility to improve the ultimate fan experience for our customers year-in and year-out,” Bjork said. “We welcome feedback on everything we do and our extensive fan research has helped us identify a current and future need and there is no better partner than C Spire to deliver this connectivity to our fans.”
The stadium network uses a state-of-the-art engineering design, Meena said. The design will provide more bandwidth, faster speeds and higher quality to help support the school’s digital engagement initiatives in the coming years.
Bjork said school officials understand that as technology improves, fans expect to have more memorable and immersive gameday experiences using connected devices.
“We want to keep the game-day experience new and fresh – so finding partners like C Spire who are committed to continuous improvement is crucial to the success of our innovation efforts,” Bjork said.
While some SEC schools have taken recent steps to improve cell phone service for fans, others, like Ole Miss, have added additional Wi-Fi communications networking to provide more robust in-stadium Internet access before, during and after games.
Andy Knef is editor of HottyToddy.com. Andy can be contacted about this story at Andy.Knef@HottyToddy.com.

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