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MLBAM, Qualcomm to boost mobile access at parks

The demand for Major League Baseball -- which has produced the eight most-attended seasons in history over the past eight years -- is exceeded only by the demand for connectivity at its games.

Imagine attendance doubling every year. That is what is happening to digital consumption by fans at ballparks from Opening Day through the World Series, an astounding growth rate.

Two years ago, the primary demand for connectivity by fans at games was for "downstream" data -- checking email, downloading things. This season, it is primarily for "upstream." Fans upload content constantly while they watch games -- tweets, Instagram photos, Vines, Facebook shares, etc. Up blows away down in 2013.

But downstream has not gone down, either. It's up maybe 50 percent year over year. But upstream is up 300 percent year over year. Baseball takes the fan experience seriously, and you are not expected to live in a bubble for nine innings. You want to keep the same habits. Mobile devices are typically a big part of that, especially among younger fans.

If you can relate to this, if you were among those at Comerica Park who combined to destroy social commenting during Game 4 of the last World Series, if you dread the prospect of no signal or a pic you just can't upload while at a ballpark, then give a warm welcome to our friends from Qualcomm.

The ninja tech warriors are on it.

MLB Advanced Media and Qualcomm, the world leader in 3G, 4G and next-generation wireless technologies, have joined together in a multiyear engineering and technology agreement that includes a collaborative effort to survey, plan and optimize mobile network connectivity for fans at supported MLB ballparks. The partnership names Qualcomm as an official technology partner of MLBAM and marks the first time that Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. (QTI), a wholly owned subsidiary, is working directly with a major professional sports league to comprehensively address these connectivity challenges.

Providers push the limits of what is possible in setting up and maintaining the infrastructure you expect at the ballpark you attend. As part of the agreement, an engineering team will provide in-ballpark assessment and planning for wireless access, including WiFi, 3G and 4G. Select ballpark reviews are under way and will continue over the next two years.

QTI engineers were selected as an impartial third party with the technical and connectivity expertise to assess and recommend solutions. They also will conduct extensive tests to ensure connectivity is optimized.

"Partnering with an industry leader like Qualcomm is a critical step in understanding and executing on the engineering challenges to achieve scalable, reliable in-venue connectivity," said MLBAM chief technology officer Joe Inzerillo. "Consumer demand continues its ascension as the majority of MLB.com traffic comes from mobile devices, a line our fans first crossed in July 2010. Qualcomm's experience and expertise will be a valuable resource in this process."

"Mobile data traffic is exploding, particularly in high-traffic areas such as Major League Baseball ballparks," said Qualcomm senior vice president and chief marketing officer Anand Chandrasekher. "Qualcomm has been preparing for an astounding 1000x increase in data demand, and we are leading the charge with MLBAM to provide passionate baseball fans with access to digital content, resulting in unparalleled in-ballpark experiences."

It is one thing to ramp up infrastructure for a jewel event, whether for one day or a fortnight in a host country. It is another thing to address the needs of 82 home games plus a postseason. We're talking about a lazy day in early August as well as this Oct. 23 in someone's Fall Classic. MLB is the first league to address this issue globally at every venue.

In Game 4 of the last World Series, there were 1,202,706 social comments, making it the most talked-about MLB game in history. There were 171,024 comments within five minutes after the final out, making the final out of the World Series the most talked-about moment in baseball since social media records have been kept. The 10,671,781 social media comments for the 2012 postseason were more than double the total from 2011 (up 131 percent). And much of that emanates from the ballpark where it is happening.

Qualcomm Inc. and, more recently, QTI have been providing operators with consulting and network optimization services for dense venues, such as stadiums, convention centers and airports, for more than a decade. These services have been used to help enhance connectivity at premier events like the Super Bowl, Olympics, national conventions and NCAA championship games.

Go to MLB.com/qualcomm for more information.

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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