HP's Aruba forms 'large public venue' Wi-Fi network-installation team

HP's Aruba Networks launched a new business effort earlier this year targeting Wi-Fi equipment installations in large public venues like college sports stadiums, museums and other large buildings and areas with unique connectivity needs.

Headed by Jeffrey Weaver, practice leader for large public venues (LPV) at Aruba, the company's new team essentially expands Aruba's position in corporate Wi-Fi installations into bigger locations, ones that require expertise in outdoor scenarios and large open spaces. "These are very complex areas," Weaver explained. "We have to do all kinds of creative things to manage the RF energy."

Weaver said Aruba's LPV practice stems from the company's work in Levi's Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49ers. That's where the company helped install a major new Wi-Fi network and a Bluetooth Low Energy (4.0) wireless beacon technology that helps users navigate the venue. The technology allows Levi's to offer a wide range of location-based services, including allowing attendees to order food from their seats for an extra $5, or to purchase directions to a better parking spot.

"That enables Levi's to generate a little extra revenue," Weaver said, noting that other venues are interested in similar beacon-based services.

"That's where we all proved to ourself that we can do it," Weaver said of the Levi's stadium work. He said Aruba created a reference document based on the company's work in Levi's Stadium that it now uses on other large-venue projects.

Weaver said much of Aruba's LPV current work is centered on higher education--college sports stadiums specifically--but also includes locations like museums and other venues. He explained that the nation's first batch of stadium Wi-Fi installations occurred on the professional sports level, but he said those deployments were typically paid for by the vendors that wanted to offer a sponsored connection experience. Now, Weaver said, demand for comprehensive Wi-Fi installations is trickling down into smaller stadiums, like those operated by colleges and other schools, which are now issuing requests for proposals (RFPs) for their network installations. "When we get into the 20,000-seat arenas … that's where the [RF] complexity begins," he said.

Weaver said that large-venue network deployments require careful tuning. He said if one antenna isn't pointed in the correct direction, that can interfere with the venue's entire network. Further, the location of each access point much be carefully calibrated--and must account for the stadium's existing architecture and design. "It's a bit overwhelming to an RF engineer," he said, adding that some venues generate up to 7 Tbps of sustained data traffic.

Weaver said that Aruba typically provides the equipment and the RF expertise for LPV installations. He said the company typically contracts with local installation firms for the actual, physical work and architectural design.

HP announced an agreement in March to acquire Aruba, and the transaction closed a few weeks ago. In initially announcing the deal, HP sought to play up the enterprise angle: "This potent combination will enable enterprises to easily, quickly and securely deploy end-to-end mobile solutions, including the latest multi-gigabit wireless technology, across their campus," HP said.

Weaver said Aruba plans to continue targeting the large-venue space for the foreseeable future.

In the first quarter, Aruba's revenues from Wi-Fi access points and other equipment increased 22.6 percent year-over-year to $32 million. Revenue in the company's support and professional services division rose 13.3 percent year-over-year to $4.6 million.

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