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Bobcats, Mobilitie partner on wireless upgrade

Bobcats, Mobilitie partner on wireless upgrade

By Don Muret, Staff Writer

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The Charlotte Bobcats, resolving a wireless issue facing every sports facility in North America, have signed a 10-year deal with Mobilitie to upgrade their arena with mobile technology.

Mobilitie, a firm based in Southern California, will install a distributed antenna system at Time Warner Cable Arena to make it easier for NBA fans to operate their smartphones, whether they are making a phone call or accessing the Bobcats’ mobile app.

Separately, the Bobcats signed a three-year sponsorship with Mobilitie valued at more than $500,000 annually. Mobilitie is the new presenting sponsor of the team’s website and receives permanent signs on the arena concourses.

The deal, which includes a three-year sponsorship, will improve mobile technology at Time Warner Cable Arena in time for the venue to host the Democratic National Convention.
Photo by: Getty Images
The deal, Mobilitie’s first contract with an NBA club, calls for the company to cover the seven-figure cost to install a new antenna system that will include 350 signal points throughout the 780,000-square-foot arena.

Mobilitie also pays for maintenance and improvements over the next 10 years, said Pete Guelli, the Bobcats’ executive vice president and chief sales and marketing officer.

In addition to Mobilitie’s installation, Time Warner Cable, naming-rights holder for the Bobcats’ arena, made an investment to improve Wi-Fi accessibility as part of a massive infrastructure upgrade, Guelli said.

Both systems will be in place by April, well in advance of the Democratic National Convention, taking place in Charlotte from Sept. 3-6. The DNC played a key role for “fast-tracking” the project, according to Fred Whitfield, the Bobcats’ president and chief operating officer.

DNC officials informed the Bobcats that they must be prepared for thousands of people inside the arena during the convention, all trying to communicate with their devices, including Secret Service and other security and law enforcement officials.

“One of the promises we made [to get the convention] was to find the best possible partner,” Whitfield said. “Wireless is obviously important to them and our arena was not at the point where it should be for that technology.”

The Bobcats negotiated the Mobilitie deal on their own after consulting with the NBA. Guelli, a former Buffalo Bills executive, also spoke with his friend Mark Donovan, president of the Kansas City Chiefs, about the new Mobilitie DAS system at Arrowhead Stadium.

Those are just two clubs upgrading their facilities to meet the challenge of providing enough bandwidth on game days with thousands of fans uploading content and sharing data. With 40 percent of Americans now using smartphones, every arena and stadium in North America is playing catch-up to improve mobile coverage.

In Charlotte, Mobilitie will install a universal system and is responsible on the back end for signing deals with Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and other cell carriers. Mobilitie does not share that revenue with the Bobcats.

That’s fine with the Bobcats, considering Mobilitie stepped up with a sponsorship in a category Guelli described as “emerging technology.” The Bobcats do not have a wireless partner and are actively pursuing a deal on that end, he said.

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