FedEx Field, home of the NFL’s Washington, D.C. franchise, is getting Wi-Fi service in its 330 suites from Chinese telecommunications gear provider Huawei, according to an announcement from the team and the company.
Rob Verkon, senior solution sales and marketing manager for Huawei Enterprise USA, said in a recent phone interview that the Wi-Fi network is currently being installed with a goal of making it available “for the final games [of the season] in December.” Washington hosts the St. Louis Rams on Dec. 7, and then has two more scheduled December regular-season home games, Dec. 20 vs. the Philadelphia Eagles and Dec. 28 against the Dallas Cowboys.
The deal is the first major stadium Wi-Fi win in the U.S. for Huawei, which claims to also have “networking and infrastructure” deployments in major stadiums in Europe. A major competitor to large U.S. networking firms like Cisco, Huawei has been at the center of controversy in recent years, including being tabbed as a security threat by U.S. government officials, and later as a reported target for N.S.A. surveillance.
According to the press release, Huawei has entered into a multi-year sponsorship deal as the “official technology partner” for the Washington team. Though Verkon would not reveal the specifics of the network deployment costs, he did confirm that the company will receive some payment in the form of advertising, signage and other sponsorship identification.
Verkon said Huawei will be deploying 170 802.11ac access points to cover the 330 suites in the 85,000-seat FedEx Field. Though there is no mention of further deployment arrangements in the press release, Verkon said that “the eventual project” will include bringing Wi-Fi to the full seating bowl for next season.
Currently, the Wi-Fi situation at FedEx is a bit of a black hole; according to Verkon there is some existing Wi-Fi service in the stadium, and the team’s home page even lists Wi-Fi in its stadium guide (with the message “Fans in the seating bowl may access the free wireless network. Please see signs around the stadium for for login information.”). But in our research for NFL Wi-Fi services for our most recent Stadium Tech Report, MSR could not confirm that Wi-Fi services were available for the entire seating area.