Largest ever outdoor WiFi 6 deployed in Daytona 500 event
The NASCAR season launched over the weekend, and the iconic Daytona 500, Extreme Networks, a leader in cloud networking, announced that – together with Verizon Business – it completed WiFi 6 deployments at five locations, including Darlington Raceway, Daytona International Speedway, Martinsville Speedway, Richmond Raceway and Talladega Superspeedway.
The Daytona 500 is the iconic 500-mile NASCAR Cup Series season-opener held annually at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. Considered the most prestigious and important race in the sport, the Daytona 500 has opened the NASCAR season every February since 1982. Known as the ‘Great American Race’, around 150,000 fans attended this year’s sold-out event.
High-capacity WiFi connectivity to boost the fan experience
NASCAR’s US racetracks are some of the largest sports venues based on fan capacity. Daytona International Speedway is a venue that encompasses a 2.5-mile racetrack and required nearly 2,100 access points, making it one of the largest venues with outdoor WiFi in the United States.
In addition to mobile concessions and social media activity, fans use their mobile devices to access real-time, live-streamed video and audio feeds from drivers and race officials – an essential part of the race day experience. However, that live video traffic can create a massive strain on the network. With the new WiFi 6 network from Extreme, these racetracks can now offer fans the high bandwidth, high-performing WiFi necessary to ensure fans can seamlessly stream content as desired without missing key moments.
Beyond WiFi for fans, NASCAR is also improving fan experiences with digital amenities, including mobile payments, digital ticketing and updated contactless point-of-sales systems. These are also supported by the new WiFi 6 network from Extreme, ensuring enough bandwidth for both operations and high-quality audio and video broadcast systems in addition to fan access.
“At a venue with 125,000 fans, there is no room for error,” comments Norman Rice, Chief Operations Officer, Extreme Networks. “The WiFi has to be able to support everything happening simultaneously and without interruption.
"The network is the central nervous system to power these next-generation services and the insights that NASCAR and our other customers can gain from our network analytics will enable them to make better decisions when it comes to improving the consumer experience and streamlining operations.
“Our experience deploying these large-scale networks provides Extreme with a significant advantage across other industries that require connectivity in high-density settings, including healthcare, manufacturing and smart cities.”
Enabling data-driven operations
In addition to boosting the fan experience, Extreme’s WiFi 6 network will also enable network insights for data-driven operations. With ExtremeAnalytics™ and ExtremeCloud™ IQ, IT teams at each NASCAR track will have full visibility into network activity and performance, giving them access to insights that will help venue officials make data-driven decisions to improve operational efficiencies. This includes identifying bottlenecks in venue foot traffic at the venue, when it’s necessary to open new concessions due to crowds and detecting the usage of popular apps that could lead to commercial or marketing partnerships.
“With Extreme, we are changing the way fans experience the race,” explains John Martin, VP of Media & Event Technology, NASCAR. “These five racetracks now have a network that can support adding more amenities for fans like in-seat concessions ordering, and our venue IT teams have confidence that they can easily monitor everything happening over the network, so we can make real-time adjustments and ensure a seamless experience for everyone using a WiFi device.
“Bringing technologies that enable connectivity, including 5G and high-performance WiFi, to our racetracks is the type of investment that will help us keep growing and modernise experiences for the next generation of fans.”