PGA European Tour has confirmed plans to roll out high-performance WiFi to all participating golf courses, using Xirrus wireless technology.
PGA confirmed inking the deal with Xirrus after successfully demonstrating the technology at the BMW PGA Championship in May, where it used it to run WiFi over the 2,000-seat grandstand, the PGA Village and hospitality sections of the course.
ICT director of the PGA European Tour Graham Gifford told V3 that, following the test's success, the company plans to use the Xirrus tech at more events, running it across whole golf courses where possible. He said PGA chose Xirrus for its mobility and quick deployment and takedown time features.
"We pitch out to a green field site. We've got very limited time to actually get it up and running and then decommission it. A lot of the vendors we went to talked about needing a large proportion of time to set it up and get it configured and working the way we'd like. The Xirrus equipment shrunk that down to a couple of days," he said.
"It can be rapidly deployed and rapidly removed quite quickly, making it easy for us to get to the next venue. The other thing is the support base. We're not working through multiple distribution channels. So if something's not working exactly right or you want new features they're quite good at listening to you."
He added that the equipment is essential as many countries in the PGA tour have unreliable 3G and 4G networks. "You can appreciate that golf isn't done in any one venue and we went around 52 countries across the world, with different venues every week. We can't really rely on mobile networks to deploy apps and streaming. We needed to look at something we can manage, something we can take control of and to ensure the delivery is first class at every venue," he said.
The PGA network is confirmed to run using the Xirrus Management System (XMS). The system is designed to monitor and manage activity on the WiFi network, letting the PGA track typical visitor movements and use these to tailor its services. Gifford said in the early stages, the PGA expects the WiFi addition to be a boon to advertisers and promoters.
"What we're looking at is how to get that [user data] back to us. This is in its infancy and we're looking at what value we can bring to the people coming on site. We're trying to allow a different medium for sponsors or promoters at the event, to potentially advertise and promote their products, as well as the golf at the venue, to a larger audience, giving them more and better information when they want it," he said.
He added that the WiFi will also act as a new medium for golfing fans to interact with the athletes. "A lot of our pros are quite young and use social media, it's a way of allowing them to interact with the public live at the events. Golf is a four-day event; people and the golfers have a lot of time when they're not playing to interact with one another and to keep up to date with what's going on," he said.
The PGA is one of many professional bodies to roll out WiFi at sporting venues. Liverpool FC launched a similar service with Xirrus in April, to provide WiFi at the Anfield Stadium. The club hopes to use data captured over the network to find new ways to interact with fans.
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