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Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Qualcomm helping MLB with fan experience

By Charles Curtis

Cell Phone
Optimizing your cellphone experience at major sporting events isn't always easy.

You may have been one of the countless frustrated fans on Opening Day earlier this month, spending an inning or three trying to upload that perfect photo of the pregame festivities -- the one with each team standing on the foul lines and the giant American flag in a perfectly manicured center field. When that failed, you tried to check your three fantasy teams. But no dice, taking the “smart” out of your smartphone.

Fear not. Major League Baseball is already aware of your suffering, and along with Qualcomm, they're coming to the rescue.

MLB Advanced Media and the San Diego-based telecommunications company announced earlier this month that they’ve agreed to collaborate, working in all 30 ballparks to review and optimize Wi-Fi, 3G and 4G connections, helping handle the heavy amounts of data needed by tens of thousands of die-hards at each game using their mobile devices.

“You think about downloading a video or statistics. More and more [fans are] uploading video, photos, some sort of content on Instagram or any of the other platforms that have become so popular,” says Dan Novak, Qualcomm’s VP of global marketing. “It’s just not that uncommon to be at a sports venue or dense setting and not be able to do the simple things or the Internet connectivity slow to a crawl. It’s really not the experience you hope or expect to have.”

That’s why MLB reached out to Qualcomm to figure out a solution. But as Novak explains, there isn’t just one catch-all answer to every problem. “It’s more than any single carrier’s challenge, more than a Wi-Fi solution. It’s, ‘How do all these different systems work together?’” he said.

And as any seamhead knows, every stadium has its own dimensions and quirks. That’s why the process, with its analysis and implementation, will take two years.

It’s more than just, say, finding dead spots around the stadium. Novak mentions Qualcomm has worked with carriers like Verizon and China Telecom and has driven on streets “looking for holes.” They’ll study the behaviors and habits at each site. “It’s about what the real-world experience is,” he said. “And you can’t do that without understanding fan dynamics.”

Someday, that could include helping usher in new apps and uses for phones -- not too far off from the era of ordering a hot dog and a soda with a few taps and swipes. Thanks to the improvements in each stadium, buying some peanuts and Cracker Jack won’t require much of a seventh-inning stretch in the future.