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20 October 2020

Cisco takes its DNA Spaces to the arena market with Verizon

Cisco and Verizon have adopted Covid -19 as their marketing genie for a 5G package aimed at events, arenas and stadia built around the former’s DNA Spaces location analytics platform. The two companies argue such a package can help sports and entertainment arenas open up as lockdown and social distancing measures are relaxed by assisting with crowd management, finding seats and ensuring contactless physical access.

The Covid-laden marketing spiel is a bit of a stretch because in reality the package will do no more than oil the wheels of any return to normal sporting life as fans return to large scale events generally. But it is easy to see why Verizon is so enthused and wants to make a splash as part of its greater strategy to distinguish itself clearly from its two main US MNO competitors, AT&T and T-Mobile.

Those two have focused on establishing large footprints for what might be called low-grade 5G operating in the bottom of the three designated spectrum ranges, around 600 MHz and 700 MHz. Such services are little if any better than those operators’ 4G offerings for bit-rate but achieve impressive numbers of cells and subscribers covered.

Verizon, by contrast, has set out its stall by offering services over a far smaller footprint but with far higher performance in the 28 GHz millimeter wave band. This can support those appealing transformative use cases like Extended Reality, that few users are yet actually utilizing.

However, this stadium package allows Verizon to show off the merits of its 5G network under a highly popular cause of getting consumers back into large events. It has leant heavily on Cisco towards this endeavor by integrating its 5G network with several of the latter’s components, including its DNA Spaces for secure location analytics, switching and data center technology and connected venue analytics.

DNA Spaces was originally designed to track assets and people as they move via apps connecting over WiFi, but clearly this can be adapted for 5G. This, the two companies say, will allow monitoring of wait times at entry points through Cisco’s network analytics portfolio and combining that with digital signage to guide patrons to positions in the arena with the shortest lines. It will also generate messages relayed to relevant staff in the arenas to identify issues as they arise, such as areas where crowds are denser than elsewhere.

The companies do not make much of the possibility to enforce social distancing, perhaps because the accuracy is not high enough. Nonetheless Verizon in particular is talking up the package’s Covid credentials.

“While all sports and entertainment fans are looking forward to the day they can get back to their favorite venues, many are understandably nervous about their safety in large crowds,” said Aamir Hussain, SVP and chief product officer for Verizon Business. “This solution will help put minds at ease so fans can re-enter venues with the knowledge that strong steps are being taken to safeguard their wellbeing.”