The Victoria Racing Club has spent $1.4 million installing a free, stadium-wide wifi network so that people’s smartphones won’t just be “dead weight” at the Emirates Melbourne Cup Carnival this November.
To date, Melbourne Cup-goers have relied on 3G and 4G networks to stay online during the races, which clogs up the networks so badly that text messages and phone calls fail.
“Last year, it took 4 hours to get a text message to someone else in the stadium,” VRC Executive General Manager Corporate, Finance and Strategic Initiatives Simon Love told Business Insider this week.
“When you get to race day, your phone is essentially dead weight in your pocket.”
The VRC and technology partners Cisco and IBM have spent the past 12 months rolling out the new, high-density network in the Flemington racecourse’s Hill Stand, Members’ grandstand, betting ring and undercroft.
Love said those areas could accommodate up to 40,000 people. The Melbourne Cup typically attracts more than 100,000 attendees.
Flemington’s high-density network will initially support up to 15,000 devices at once, and will be expanded in later years.
Love said the VRC would look to commercialise the network in future, but essentially viewed it as a “defensive investment” to address demands of 18-35 year-old patrons.
“The experience at sporting events has changed in the past few years with smartphones,” he said, explaining that Australians now now demanded uninterrupted access to social networks and online information sources
“If we don’t provide those types of facilities, we’re at risk of them [sporting fans] not coming.”
The VRC will also be collecting information about the types of devices that people use at this year’s Melbourne Cup to inform later stages of the project.
In 2014, it hopes to introduce a new smartphone application that will let people buy food and drinks, access race statistics and watch racing videos from different camera angles.
Love said the project’s 2013 priority was to operate a stable wifi network, which also features Ironport security software to block certain network traffic including torrents and pornography.