English football club spurs Wi-Fi adoption

English football club Tottenham Hotspur may not be at the top of the league but it has beaten competitors in the race to be wireless.

One of England's top football clubs has embraced Wi-Fi, in a move that could increase public awareness of the benefits of wireless networking.

Tottenham Hotspur announced on Wednesday that they have unwired their stadium in a partnership with local technology providers.

This makes White Hart Lane the first Premiership ground to be Wi-Fi enabled, and comes a few months after a similar plan involving England's lower league clubs was announced.

Tottenham Hotspur, who in 1961 became the first team to achieve the league and FA Cup double in the 20th century, hope that the high-speed wireless networks will be popular with supporters, club employees, the media and visitors to its conference facilities.

A Tottenham Hotspur spokesman explained that fans could use the service to follow the action at other grounds, while journalists would be able to send pictures and match reports straight back to their office from their seats.

"In theory, the chairman could even check the share price as the goals go in," joked the Tottenham Hotspur spokesman.

Although football matches rarely take place at times when the London stock exchange is trading, this illustrates the range of opportunities available to anyone with a Wi-Fi enabled laptop or PDA. But given Spurs' recent rollercoaster performances on the pitch--they recently lost 4-3 to Manchester City having been three goals up--it's doubtful that even Tottenham Hotspur chairman Daniel Levy needs the extra excitement of watching the stock market during a game.

A demonstration held at the ground on Wednesday morning showed that pretty much every part of White Hart Lane is covered by the Wi-Fi network, including the pitch, the stands and the conference facilities. Eight antennas have been installed around the stadium, creating a "massive broadband cloud", according to Pravinder Samra, marketing director of Canova Wireless, which designed the network and installed the equipment.

The network is connected to the Internet using a dedicated two megabits per second (Mbps) SDSL line provided by network services firm Bulldog.

As White Hart Lane can accommodate more than thirty-six thousand fans, the 2Mbps of bandwidth could have trouble coping if even a small proportion of the fans start producing Wi-Fi devices and attempting to upload pictures or download reports from other matches.

Richard Greco, chief executive of Bulldog Communications, claims that 2Mbps will be sufficient, as the "bursty" nature of Web access means that each user makes only occasional demands on the network. However, if the service becomes very popular, he said, it would be easy to upgrade this backhaul link.

Tottenham Hotspur's Wi-Fi network will be officially unveiled this coming Sunday, at the club's home fixture against Leicester City. Access will be free on launch day, but in future it will cost £1.50 (US$2.84) for 30 minutes' access and £10 (US$18.91) for 24 hours' access.

A monthly subscription will also be available for £50. This doesn't appear to be great value, as Premiership teams typically only play two home games per month, and Spurs have no further interest in cup games this year, nor in European competitions.

The next Premiership ground to embrace Wi-Fi is likely to be Chelsea's Stamford Bridge, and more clubs are planning to follow suit.

"Hats off to Spurs for seeing what other clubs will soon see," said Greco.

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