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    On the Hot Seat

    Wi-Fi brings connectivity to Gillette Stadium

    Chris Crowell, chief executive, Enterasys Networks
    Josh Reynolds for the Boston Globe
    Chris Crowell, chief executive, Enterasys Networks

    The New England Patriots will feature several new additions on the field this season: free agent defensive signings, rookie receivers and, of course, back-up quarterback Tim Tebow. The team also is launching a new way to watch those players from the stands, thanks to a high-capacity Wi-Fi network installed at Gillette Stadium by Enterasys Networks Inc. of Salem, N.H. Chief executive Chris Crowell spoke with Globe reporter Callum Borchers about how the Enterasys network will change the gameday experience for Patriots ticket holders.

    I heard Patriots president Jonathan Kraft talk early this year about needing your network to enhance the in-stadium experience because the home-viewing experience is getting so good. I must admit, the seats are warmer, the beer is cheaper, and there’s no line for the bathroom at my house.

    There’s a whole different level of excitement in going to the game. Anybody who says the comfort of home is as exciting as being there is fooling themselves. Certainly, the Patriots gameday application and Wi-Fi access is not going to improve the cost of beer, but there are things we can provide in the stadium that you’re not going to get while you’re on your couch.

    Such as?

    The gameday app that the Patriots provide gives you some exciting capabilities that start even before you go to Gillette. Here’s a funny one: On gameday, there’s an alarm clock that you can get that has voices of the players and coaches telling you to wake up and get ready for gameday. You also get camera footage of the night before the game with the coaches and the players.


    Once you’re there, you get camera angles that you wouldn’t get on television and aren’t going to get on the big board. You’re going to get access to live statistics that you normally wouldn’t get inside the stadium. So, if you’re a fantasy football fan, you can follow your players as the day goes on. And there’s Red Zone [cable channel] footage, so you can see other games and replays throughout the day and kill any dead time you might have during timeouts.

    That’s cool, but I still hate missing the action when I go to the restroom or concession stand.

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    They’re even improving that! You can order while you’re sitting in your seat, and you’ll get a notification when your food is ready, telling you where to go pick it up. And if you’re concerned about bathroom wait times, the app can also point you to the nearest bathroom with the shortest wait time. If you get up and have to go to the concession stand, and you hear the crowd roar and say, “Oh, what play did I just miss?” there’s video replay in the gameday app.

    I’m picturing a stadium full of fans looking down at their smartphones, instead of at the field. Can’t people just enjoy being at a live game?

    There’s an expectation that you have the same mobile connectivity that you would get anywhere in your everyday life and have that available to you during a game. And it’s not just the Patriots application. If you’re a social media fan, and you want to stay connected to friends and family with pictures or Vine videos, you can do that in real time, too.

    How big a challenge is running this network for Enterasys? I know you started testing stadium Wi-Fi in luxury boxes a few years ago and expanded last season, but this year’s hard launch is another level. You’re talking about up to 68,000 people in a relatively small space, flooding the network all at once.

    The engineering feat is large. A stadium is a worst-case scenario of bringing together so many users in such tight quarters. But this is something we believe will be commonplace in public places. High-density Wi-Fi is something that we specialize in, and we’ve been working on that for some time. The Gillette solution brings it all together.

    Callum Borchers can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @callumborchers.