HPE deploys groundbreaking private network at Ryder Cup
Hewlett Packard Enterprise has deployed an integrated private 5G and Wi-Fi network at the 2023 Ryder Cup, showcasing what it believes to be the future of wireless connectivity. By combining the private 5G technology of Athonet (a Hewlett Packard Enterprise acquisition) and HPE Aruba Networking’s Wi-Fi technology, the company says it has been able to deliver ultra-secure capabilities, expanded coverage, and enhanced fan and staff experiences at one of the world’s most prestigious sporting events.
The global golf event, held at Marco Simone Golf & Country Club in Rome from 25 September–1 October, presented unique connectivity challenges to the organisers. The golf course, which covers almost 150 hectares of countryside, was transformed into one of the world’s largest temporary sports stadiums, hosting 250,000 spectators during the event. With fans and event staff requiring ubiquitous high-bandwidth connectivity at all times throughout the venue, the vision to deliver an innovative, state-of-the-art wireless network was paramount for organisers.
To meet the critical connectivity requirements of the Ryder Cup, HPE designed a groundbreaking integrated Wi-Fi and private 5G network. Wi-Fi predominantly provides the high-capacity connectivity required for thousands of fans congregating in popular areas like the clubhouse and hospitality and retail venues, as well as spectator grandstands; devices like laptops and tablets often cannot connect to cellular networks, and roaming agreements between public and private cellular networks are in their infancy. Private 5G meanwhile provides wide-area coverage to more remote parts of the golf course, as well as a secure private network dedicated to critical operations staff. A network design like this is an early realisation of HPE’s vision from when it acquired Athonet in June 2023.
“When we announced our acquisition of Athonet earlier this year, our goal was to become the global leader in private 5G solutions — and the Ryder Cup is a perfect opportunity to showcase how our Wi-Fi and private 5G innovations work together to achieve that goal,” said Phil Mottram, Executive Vice President and General Manager, HPE Aruba Networking. “This is a perfect showcase for the integration of private 5G and Wi-Fi in a challenging environment, with private 5G providing extended range and reliability for operations staff, while Wi-Fi 6E provides high-capacity connectivity to thousands of fans concentrated in core areas.”
“Each Ryder Cup gives us an opportunity to push the boundaries of technological innovation to maximise the fan experience, so it is really exciting to be breaking genuinely new ground with the combination of world-class Wi-Fi and private 5G technology,” added Michael Cole, Chief Technology Officer of the European Tour group and Ryder Cup Europe.
“Private 5G brings huge operational benefits in particular, providing us with a fully private network that will be unaffected by the crowd’s high demand for high-bandwidth applications. It gives us full course coverage for cellular devices providing critical services like security, stewarding, ticketing and scoring that might have otherwise relied on the under-pressure local telecoms networks.”
The network leveraged the latest Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E technologies, delivering twice as much capacity as Paris 2018 via more than 800 Wi-Fi access points. The backbone of the network was built on 200 HPE Aruba Networking CX switches with AI-powered HPE Aruba Networking Central for network management providing a single point of visibility and control across the entire network. The dashboard within HPE Aruba Networking Central also provided AI-powered insights into what was happening across the entire environment from a network troubleshooting, optimisation and security perspective. HPE Aruba Networking ClearPass provided secure, efficient access control and onboarding for improved spectator experience across the Wi-Fi infrastructure.
Powered by insights from the network, spectators were able to virtually navigate the golf course, jump the queues for merchandise and food, and track player locations — no matter where they were on the course. Similarly, operations staff could monitor fan behaviour, assign more staff during peak periods, and provide fan activations on the fly. Running the network and compute environment from the HPE GreenLake edge-to-cloud platform meant less equipment was required onsite and it was more cost-effective and quicker to deploy and manage.
The private 5G network covered the golf course with one radio mast located in a central location powered by the Athonet Tactical Cube, a compact and mobile private cellular solution for mission-critical applications. Private 5G provided backhaul connectivity to solar-powered Wi-Fi access points in more remote parts of the golf course, extending the coverage of the Wi-Fi network without the need for cabling. This was important as, due to archaeological reasons, cables could not be buried in certain parts of the site. Private 5G also provided a secure, segmented network for delay and capacity sensitive critical operations that need guaranteed bandwidth, such as security, stewarding and transport.
Italy has allocated all 5G spectrum to mobile service providers, so spectrum is not normally available direct to enterprises, but the Italian Government made an exception for the Ryder Cup. The Ministry of Communications gave access to the 3.8 GHz band, which is ideal for 5G because it can carry plenty of data while travelling significant distances. HPE suggests that governments can help to realise the potential of private 5G around the world by making spectrum available to enterprises, telcos and technology vendors for innovative use cases such as at the Ryder Cup.
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