This weekend is the start of rugby union’s Six Nations championship. The annual contest between Europe’s six leading rugby nations is one of the most-watched sporting events of the year, with many supporters looking forward to away trips to some of Europe’s most famous capital cities.
Although the quality of rugby and the result are the most important factors in determining the visitor experience, sports fans are becoming increasingly demanding when it comes to connectivity in the stadium.
They want to be able to share pictures and posts on social media, but increasingly they want to be able to watch video clips of incidents they might have missed earlier in the game. In the UK, all matches are shown live on the BBC and ITV, meaning they’re easily available to view.
Six Nations mobile
Of course, to mobile users in general, video is of increasing importance. OpenSignal has created a video experience metric that measures the average time it takes from pressing play to load a video. This figure is dependent on network characteristics such as download and upload speeds, as well as latency. And in a crowded stadium, the experience can also be impacted.
Ireland, the current Six Nations champions, would also be the winners should the tournament be decided on mobile experience. It takes 3.1 seconds to load a video in Dublin, compared to 3.5 seconds in Rome and 3.6 seconds in Edinburgh. Paris is fourth with 3.8 seconds, London fifth on 3.9 seconds and Cardiff last with 4.3 seconds.
However, OpenSignal also tested the capital cities of the 15 other leading European rugby countries and found that Dublin only ranked ninth, with the remaining Six Nations cities making up the bottom five.
While this is hardly an exhaustive sample size, it does demonstrate the varying level of service across Europe.
Mobile sports experience
It’s easy to dismiss the ability to watch video content in a stadium as irrelevant, given that most people want to watch the rugby, but sports organisations increasingly see digital content as a way of engaging and attracting new fans.
Even before the arrival of 4G networks and the wide availability of smartphones, Arsenal offered matchgoing fans the ability to watch highlights on their Sony PSP handheld video games console using a private network.
In 2019, improved Wi-Fi networks and mobile coverage are seen as a priority for venue owners, who also want to be able to generate new revenue streams by better understanding their customers. Examples of this are personalised offers, or location-specific information.
You guarantee this weekend's Superbowl in Atlanta will break connectivity records among spectators.
At the recent Leaders Meet Innovation event in London, some organisations and broadcasters were talking about how new mobile technologies like Augmented Reality (AR) can help achieve these aims.
And the advent of 5G, which offers faster speeds, greater capacity, and lower latency, will make it easier to deliver more consistent experiences to sports fans in the stadium.
Many rugby fans will shrug their shoulders and focus on the game – which is the most important thing after all – but there is one way to win over sceptics. Mobile payments at the bar and the possibility of at-seat ordering in the future means it’s easier and quicker to get a pint in your hand.